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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Klamath Basin Settlement Agreements: Issues in Brief

Charles V. Stern
Specialist 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, supported by the federal government and signed by the two states and 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 numerous other related actions. The latter agreement also lays out a process potentially leading to the removal of four privately owned dams. The removal of these dams would be one of the largest and most complex projects of its kind ever undertaken.

Some parts of the Klamath Agreements are already being carried out under existing authorities. However, in order to be fully implemented, the agreements require authorization by Congress. Legislation currently before Congress (H.R. 3398 and S. 1851) would authorize the agreements, including approximately $800 million in federal actions (as outlined in the KBRA) and authorization for the Secretary of the Interior to complete an ongoing study process with a “final” dam removal recommendation (as required under the KHSA). Congressional consideration of the Klamath Agreements could include whether the federal government is obligated to act beyond its current activities in the Klamath Basin and, the extent and cost of these strategies, and the potential for actions in the Klamath to serve as precedent for similar conflicts in other parts of the country.

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

Date of Report: June 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R42158
Price: $29.95

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