Pacts Signed to Restore Klamath River, Recover Salmon

Yesterday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed agreements for the nation's largest-ever dam-removal project. In an effort to recover endangered salmon populations, the agreements will remove four dams on the Klamath River and revise how water is shared in the basin in southern Oregon and Northern California.

Channeling his former movie star persona, Gov. Schwarzenegger addressed the crowd who gathered to watch the historic agreement take place.

From the Salem Statesman Journal: "It was 15 months ago that we were all promising each other we are going to do everything we can to get through our differences and finalize an agreement to tear down those dams — to say 'hasta la vista' to the dams and restore the majesty of the Klamath River," he said… "I can see the salmon fishery screaming, 'I'll be back.' "

In all seriousness, he did say California would do its part to raise the $250 million to carry out its share of the agreement. The expected cost of dam removal and basin restoration is about $1.5 billion. Oregon has already committed about $200 million; the federal government will contribute the other $1 billion.
Thursday's agreement is a critical step, but it's been a long battle, and it's far from over.
From the New York Times: "The dams, which have provided hydroelectric power and water for farm irrigation for decades, have caused severe depletions in salmon populations in the 250-mile river, hurting Indian tribes in the area and helping force shutdowns of some West Coast commercial fishing. 

"In 2001, farmers were angered when irrigation was cut off to provide more water for salmon migrating up the river to spawn. The next year, irrigation was restored, only to have tens of thousands of fish die. The roller coaster increased tension but eventually led to talks. The basic outlines of the agreements became final in November 2008 under the Bush administration.

"The agreements would remove the four dams by 2020 if a series of federal studies and Congressional approval and appropriations follow suit; the interior secretary is to make a final decision on removal by March 2012.

Gov. Kulongoski added: "The two agreements we are signing do not completely put to rest this decades-old conflict. Everyone who has been involved with the agreements knows that there is much work still to be done."
The Conservation Alliance has twice funded California Trout for its work on restoring the Klamath River and recovering salmon. Chuck Bonham, CA Director for Trout Unlimited added, “We all recognize that we must work as partners with the agricultural community and private landowners to make fisheries recovery possible.  We want the fish welcomed home.”