To protect endangered fish during 2001's drought, federal officials shut off irrigation water in Oregon and California's Klamath Basin, costing agriculture millions. The next year, farmers got their water – along with a massive salmon die-off that infuriated Klamath tribes. Tribal members and farmers remained at odds until 2004, when federal rulings prompted dam-owner PacifiCorp to begin negotiating dam removal and water redistribution ("Peace on the Klamath," HCN, 6/23/08). In 2010, two agreements were signed, but lawmakers wanted more inclusive, less expensive solutions.
At last, a majority of farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and tribes have reached a compromise. The tribes now hold senior water rights, and under the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement signed this spring, they'll conserve water for downstream irrigators in exchange for economic development and habitat restoration. PacifiCorp has agreed to put a small utility surcharge toward demolishing its four salmon-blocking dams by 2020, but implementation depends on congressional approval. The Senate is considering a $250 million Klamath bill, but passage seems unlikely.
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