Commentary by, Don Gentry, Chairman of the Klamath Tribes
The Klamath Tribes acknowledge the efforts, facilitated by the Department of Interior, to provide opportunity to develop solutions to the Klamath Basin’s ongoing water and fisheries battles.
It is our understanding that recent discussions have been focused on basin-wide resource issues including fisheries, water quality, agriculture, and recreation by identifying actions that the local communities are able to implement and maintain.
Principles identified for these discussions include: provide for self-sustaining fish populations that will lead to delisting of ESA listed species, harvestable levels for Tribes, support commercial, subsistence, and sport fisheries; provide for sustainable agriculture and other uses to reduce crisis management; and provide a sustainable economy.
The Klamath Tribes support the overall principles of these discussions.
Protecting and providing for our Treaty fisheries and other natural resources has driven the Klamath Tribes’ actions. Past actions and ongoing efforts by the Tribes have included cooperative efforts with state and federal agencies, tribes, private landowners and non-governmental organizations, litigation, and settlement agreements.
Unfortunately, the status of our endangered fisheries and the political environment has changed significantly which limits opportunities for a comprehensive solution to the problems facing our Treaty resources and the Klamath Basin.
It is clear by our actions the Klamath Tribes have been and are very interested in continuing to coordinate with tribes, federal, state, and private entities to address water quality and other problems affecting our Treaty resources.
We have been proactive and are engaged in recent collaborative efforts to address natural resource issues in the Upper Klamath Basin.
The Tribes worked closely with Senator Jeff Merkley and his staff to convene the Sucker Recovery Summit held at OIT in November. The purpose of the summit was to provide participants current science on the endangered suckers and identify short-term actions and pilot projects to help sustain and recover the species. Several viable recommendations emerged from the summit and are now being considered for funding and implementation.
The Tribes have also been collaborating with state agencies, landowners, tribes, and other partners during the last year to identify and implement measures to reduce nutrient loading from major human-caused sources around Upper Klamath Lake.
Some landowners have been very cooperative and supportive of implementing best management practices identified including treatment wetlands.
Just this week, another cooperative effort was initiated to address a major source of nutrient loading in the Wood River Valley. A short-term strategy was identified that can be implemented within a year and a longer term holistic solution within five years.
We have been participating in an irrigation and energy efficiency and aquatic habitat restoration planning effort for the Modoc Point Irrigation District.
The Tribes funded a preliminary irrigation efficiency and modernization assessment that was completed this spring and has met with the District and other partners since then to move forward with actions.
Current Department of Interior discussions have been focused on fisheries and resource management issues. We believe it is evident that the process is hoped to eventually culminate in water settlement similar to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA).
Both of these settlements were developed and supported by the Klamath Tribes and a majority of affected stakeholders but were not supported by Congressman Walden, Congressman LaMalfa, and key local entities which resulted in their eventual termination. At this point we have serious doubts and do not see the benefits of engaging in what appears to be a similar time intensive and costly process that would result in a failed agreement.
The Klamath Tribes have made it clear that we are not interested in engaging in water settlement discussions. However, we are very interested in discussions that will protect and enhance our treaty resources.
In addition to the reasons communicated above, due to the seriously declining populations and projected dire status of the endangered C’waam and Koptu in Klamath Lake, it is necessary that we continue to be focused on improving water quality and providing needed tributary flows and Upper Klamath Lake water levels.
Maintaining and advancing the Tribes’ standing in the Klamath Basin Adjudication is a priority that will also protect and provide for our fisheries and other Treaty resources.
Apparently, the Klamath Tribes, the senior water rights holder in the Klamath Basin, is the only party given pre-conditions in order to be able to participate in the current discussions of the “Coalition of the Willing.” The Klamath Tribes is not invited according to Alan Mikkelsen. He confirmed this on February 3rd in an article in the Herald and News.
Klamath Tribes is being held to a different standard than the other participants. Why?
The Department of Interior-led discussions appear to be another opportunity to address Klamath Basin resource problems. The Klamath Tribes are willing to participate if there is opportunity for development of constructive activities that actually result in substantive improvements for our priceless resources.
Commentaries, are professionally written pieces of approximately 1000 words, which present an argument and use research to support the stated opinion. Writers are sharing their own personal opinion and not the staff of Klamath Falls News. To submit an editorial click here.
The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints, and official policies of Klamath Falls News.