Sustainable Northwest applauds critical step toward ending the West’s fiercest water dispute

Posted by Renee Magyar on December 3, 2013

Local leaders pushed past a perfect storm of water-related challenges to put the basin back on a path to recovery.



December 3, 2013


Renee Magyar, 503-221-6911 x116 

Sustainable Northwest applauds critical step toward ending the West's fiercest water dispute

Portland, Oregon - Sustainable Northwest commends fellow members of the Klamath Basin Task Force, the Klamath Tribes and "Off-Project" irrigators, for yesterday's signing of an Agreement in Principle that represents an important breakthrough in the century's old water conflict in the Klamath River Basin. 

The agreement outlines a balanced and comprehensive framework for sharing water resources, protecting important fisheries, empowering economic stability, and resolving years of clashes over water among the agricultural and tribal communities in the basin's headwaters in Oregon. 

A perfect storm of drought, enforcement of newly-minted senior water rights that cut water to hundreds of irrigators outside the Federal irrigation project, fish sacred to the tribes nearing extinction, bone dry national wildlife refuges, and rapidly escalated water pumping costs brought matters to a head in the Upper Basin in summer of 2013. 

The Klamath Basin Task Force released its final report at a meeting in Klamath Falls today. The panel was formed in July 2013 by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Representative Greg Walden, and Governor John Kitzhaber, to prevent a repeat of this year's turmoil. The panel found consensus on a suite of issues that had confounded unanimity around the Klamath Basin Settlement Agreements signed in 2010. In addition to the Agreement in Principle, the task force reported that new federal costs of the Klamath Basin Settlement Agreements were cut nearly 40% and a path to lower-cost power is in place for irrigators and wildlife refuges. Hopes are high for a Final Agreement early next year, and legislation to enact this now comprehensive package of solutions. 

Sustainable Northwest President, John Audley is delighted with the signing of the Agreement in Principle. "We commend the Oregon delegation for convening the task force and our colleagues in the basin who took the hard road that leads to results for both wildlife and people. While there is surely more work to do, against all odds, at years-end the Klamath is back on the road to recovery."

Klamath Program Director, Mike Gerel, who represented Sustainable Northwest on the task force, reflected on the dedication of the Upper Basin community this year. "The last twelve months in the Klamath revealed the power of collaboration and compromise. It showed what can happen when we are courageous enough to put aside our own ideology and vision of the perfect result, and instead place the needs of our neighbors alongside our own," says Gerel. 

Sustainable Northwest brings people, ideas, and innovation together so that nature, local economies, and rural communities can thrive. They have been nurturing recovery of important ecosystems and natural resource-dependent communities in the Klamath Basin since 2001. For more information visit