Saturday, November 15, 2008

A new chapter in the Klamath water war

The New York Times reported yesterday on new plan to remove four dams from the Klamath River by 2020. Here are some excerpts from Felicity Barringer's story:
The agreement, which would open more than 300 miles of the Klamath, is not binding but nonetheless provides a formal framework to defuse deeply emotional arguments that have echoed through the region. For decades, warring interests have argued over who should benefit from the water flowing through the riverbanks and whether the need for electric power and agricultural irrigation should trump the needs of salmon.

* * *

All the parties had coped with worst-case situations in the past decade. In 2001, irrigators had their water shut off, crippling agricultural production. In the dry year of 2002, the Interior Department ordered water distributed to irrigators and tens of thousands of salmon in the Klamath died; in 2007, low salmon populations in the Klamath led to sharply curtailed commercial fishing.
The tentative agreement presumptively ends a long-standing struggle "among conservationists, Indian tribes and fishermen in the Klamath basin on one side and farmers and local communities on the other."

My UC Davis colleague Holly Doremus, along with A. Dan Tarlock, have written extensively on the Klamath water wars, including a 2008 book, Water War in the Klamath Basin: Macho Law, Combat Biology and Dirty Politics (Island Press).

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