Collaboration being tested in the Klamath Basin

Posted by Renee Magyar on March 19, 2013

For people in the Klamath Basin, access to water means everything.


After a long 38-year wait, the way water is distributed in the Klamath Basin has changed. The State of Oregon recently issued an order stating that the Klamath Tribes have enforceable senior water rights in Klamath Lake and some tributaries in the upper Basin.

What does this mean for Sustainable Northwest and our partners in the Klamath Basin?

On its own, this would be a relatively minor issue in the region because many of those affected have already come together with a solution. The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement offers a path for water sharing between the Klamath tribes, farmers, and other parties while promoting restoration, renewable energy, and jobs within the region. Unfortunately some of the terms of the KBRA require congressional action. This is something that only our elected officials in Washington, D.C. can move forward, and so far have failed to do. There are also those who oppose the KBRA. 

The newly elected Klamath County Commissioners recently voted to remove the county from the KBRA agreement and walk away from the collaborative process. Yet, they have offered no other solution beyond stepping back into the courtroom. While this is a disappointment for the twenty-nine groups who signed onto the agreement, it certainly doesn't mean the collaborative process is over or no longer relevant. In fact, it is needed even more now. 

"Adjudication doesn't really solve the basin's problems. It creates some winners and losers, but if we want long term stability and predictability in the basin, an agreement like the KBRA really needs to move forward," - Jeff Mitchell, a Klamath Tribal leader (from OPB)

Sustainable Northwest and our local partners are committed to bringing the best solutions forward to resolve this and other important issues facing the Klamath Basin and other rural communities in the West. We will continue to listen, learn, and help wherever we can because we believe that is the best way to attain a sustainable, lasting future for all those who live, work, and play in the region.

No agreement is perfect. Collaboration means there are always opportunities to adapt, change grow, and welcome new ideas. Together it is possible to do many things, apart there will only be more crisis, lost jobs, and wasted time and money.