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Independent Science Review Faults Klamath Settlement Agreement

Scientists say $1 billion plan unlikely to work; does not go far enough to restore wetlands, reduce water demand

Science review spurs Oregon Wild to continue call for improvements in settlement deals to help water quality and quantity in Klamath Basin.

Independent Science Review Faults Klamath Settlement Agreement

A dewatered and developed Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge highlights the natural water storage and poor water quality issues highlighted by the KBRA science review. (Photo by Brett Cole)

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Portland, Ore Jun 28, 2011

For five years, local and state-based conservation groups, along with the Hoopa Valley Tribe, have raised doubts over the controversial Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). Now, an independent scientific review panel, commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Interior, has found that the settlement deal does not provide enough clean, cold water for salmon to thrive even if four Klamath River dams are removed. In addition, the independent scientists concluded that any restoration effort would need to address water quality and quantity impacts created by excessive water diversions for agribusiness, destruction of wetlands, and the overuse of pesticides.

"The science review confirms that dam removal alone isn’t enough. You have to restore wetlands and wildlife refuges, and reduce the amount of water being drained by agribusiness." said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director with Oregon Wild. "Unfortunately, Congress is being asked to provide $1 billion in federal tax dollars for a scheme that isn’t going to work."

The science review comes at an important time. The KBRA, and its partner deal the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA), need Congressional authorization to move forward. Settlement backers have claimed that legislation could be introduced in the coming months, but with a $1 billion price tag it is unclear if the deals have any momentum in a budget-conscious Congress.

The findings of the independent science panel should splash cold water on any Congressional support the settlement package did have. Billed as a comprehensive solution to the ongoing Klamath Basin water woes, the settlement deals fall short in the critical areas of salmon recovery, wetlands restoration, and reduction in the demand for water.

The science panel specifically highlighted issues related to water quality in the Upper Klamath Basin where pollution from agribusiness operations causes massive algal blooms that starve the river of oxygen and prove lethal to fish and toxic to people. Compounding the problem, over 22,000 acres inside two National Wildlife Refuges are leased for commercial agriculture, limiting the ability of area wetlands to filter and store clean water.

"The American taxpayer is being asked to pay a billion dollars for a program that doles out a lot of money to a lot of special interests, but is unlikely to actually restore salmon or improve conditions for other fish and wildlife," added Pedery.

Read the science review.

Find our more about Oregon Wild’s plan to restore balance to the Klamath Basin.


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