Date: Friday, February 11, 2022
WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior concluded a series of engagement sessions this week focused on addressing the drought crisis in the Klamath Basin. The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $162 million to restoring the Klamath Basin ecosystem and identifies significant additional opportunities to support water resilience and infrastructure, all of which will make great strides in delivering on the Department’s commitment for sustained, inclusive engagement that helps minimize the impacts of the drought and develops a long-term plan to facilitate conservation and economic growth.
Over the past 20 years, the Klamath Basin has met unprecedented challenges due to ongoing drought conditions, limited water supply and diverse needs. The Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have diligently sought collaborative solutions for water availability with partners and those intimately connected to land and water conditions. Through this recent series of engagement sessions, the Department demonstrated its commitment to transparency and ongoing review of best practices as we continue to address climate change and work towards long term solutions in the Klamath Basin for current and future generations.
“The transformative investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, collaboration with states, Tribes, and local governments, and the input from every impacted community will help us innovate in the face of adversity and restore balance to this river system,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Together, we must work to respect Tribal treaty rights and trust resources, ensure predictable and sustainable water supplies, and restore this once abundant ecosystem for the benefit of all its inhabitants.”
Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service), Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs have critical roles to play in the management of resources in the Klamath region and the implementation of the transformational investments from the Infrastructure Law.
Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 4, the Service held virtual nation-to-nation consultations with six Tribes within the basin: the Yurok Tribe, Resighini Rancheria, Klamath Tribes, Karuk Tribe, Quartz Valley Tribe and Hoopa Valley Tribe. The consultations are part of Interior’s broader coordination with Tribes on restoration activities established by the Infrastructure Law.
On Feb. 1 and Feb. 10, the Department hosted interactive meetings with federal and state officials, Tribes and local stakeholders of the Klamath Basin. Representatives from the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Janet Coit and USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Gloria Montaño Greene, also participated. The sessions included focused discussions on critical path issues for the basin, including dam removal, Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement implementation, hydrology issues, and project and National Wildlife Refuge water supply. The discussions also focused on an overview and alignment regarding funding of aquatic habitat and water quality priorities, and water supply reliability in the Klamath Basin.
On Feb. 10, Secretary Haaland, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown delivered remarks to federal, state and Tribal leaders and stakeholders, and called for enhanced coordination and more efficient decision making on water management, Tribal, fisheries, and related natural resources issues, particularly in times of sustained drought. Secretary Haaland emphasized the Department’s commitment to engaging with affected communities as part of our whole-of-government approach to address the climate crisis and improve water security.
Congressional leaders, including U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Representatives Cliff Bentz, Jared Huffman, and Doug LaMalfa voiced their commitment to find economically and environmentally sustainable solutions for the basin and articulated a clear picture of the federal and state resources available to help develop these solutions.
The Infrastructure Law investments will work to reinforce the efforts of the Interagency Drought Relief Working Group co-chaired by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The Working Group is actively working to identify and disburse immediate financial and technical assistance for impacted irrigators and Tribes. It is also developing longer-term measures to respond to climate change and build climate resiliency.