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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Klamath Basin Settlement Agreements: Issues in Brief

Charles V. Stern
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Cynthia Brougher
Legislative Attorney

The Klamath River Basin on the California-Oregon border is a focal point for local and national discussions on water allocation and species protection. Previously, water and species management issues have exacerbated competition and generated conflict among several interests—farmers, Indian tribes, commercial and sport fishermen, federal wildlife refuge managers, environmental groups, and state, local, and tribal governments.

In 2010, the Secretary of the Interior and the governors of Oregon and California, along with multiple interest groups, announced the result of these negotiations: two interrelated agreements (the Klamath agreements), supported by the federal government and signed by numerous other parties. These agreements, known as the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), together aim to provide for water deliveries to irrigators and wildlife refuges, fish habitat restoration, and related actions. The latter agreement lays out a process for removal of four privately owned dams that could eventually result in the largest dam removal project ever undertaken.

Some parts of the Klamath agreements are being carried out under existing authorities. However, in order to be fully implemented, the agreements would require authorization by Congress. Legislation currently before Congress (H.R. 3398 and S. 1851) would authorize the agreements, including authorization of approximately $800 million for federal actions under the KBRA and authorization for the Secretary of the Interior to make a final recommendation related to dam removal that is called for under the KHSA. Congressional consideration of the Klamath agreements could include the advisability of these strategies, whether the federal government is obligated to act beyond current activities in the Klamath Basin, and, if so, the extent and cost of these actions.

This report is intended to provide an abbreviated summary of issues under consideration for Congress. For more detailed information about the Klamath, including a more detailed summary of the Klamath Agreements and related issues, see the companion CRS Report R42157, Klamath River Basin: Background and Issues, coordinated by Charles V. Stern.

Date of Report: January
20, 2012
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R4
Price: $29.95

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