Klamath River dam-removal project will be world's biggest
Wednesday's agreement to tear down four Klamath River dams took years to reach. But it’s a costly project, and there may be more conflicts ahead.
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“California budget cuts have caused drastic cutbacks in public safety, health, education, and environmental programs. It doesn’t seem possible that the state will have the money any time soon to help implement the restoration project,” said Steven Evans of the California group Friends of the River in a statement.Skip to next paragraph
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“It’s going to take a lot more work and effort by all parties to ensure that the dams are actually removed and the Klamath River salmon are restored in our lifetime,” Mr. Evans said.
Complications over a water deal?
At least one group, Oregon Wild, questions what connection the dam removal might have to the broader water deal in the region negotiated by the Bush administration.
“Even more controversial is the linkage between the [dam agreement] and ... a nearly $1 billion water deal drafted over the last six years and heavily influenced by former Bush administration officials. [These] negotiations have proceeded in secret since a draft document was released to the public in January of 2008. The settlement scheme would guarantee water for commercial agriculture in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Irrigation Project without providing a similar guarantee to threatened fish species,” the groups said.
“The dam deal announced today isn’t perfect, but the true test is still to come,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director with Oregon Wild. “When the water deal gets packaged with this dam deal, are river advocates going to be able to live with the fish and wildlife sacrifices made in the final settlement? We all want dam removal, but we shouldn’t have to trade salmon and bald eagles for broken concrete.”
A step forward
While the agreement still has many hurdles to clear, most heralded it as an important step forward for the environmentalist cause.
“This Agreement represents a major step toward restoring the health of the Klamath River. We look forward to working with all Tribal, agricultural, and fishing communities in the Klamath Basin on implementing these solutions,” said Troy Fletcher, negotiator and Yurok tribal member.
The Obama administration also weighed in.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said: "This agreement marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Klamath River and for the communities whose health and way of life depend on it. Hats off to all the stakeholders who have worked so hard to find common ground on one of the most challenging water issues of our time."
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