Tribes and ranchers say they have reached a major breakthrough in negotiations over sharing water in Oregon’s arid Klamath Basin.
They have the outline of a deal that could end 38 years of lawsuits and pave the way for removing four dams.
The conflict came to a head this summer when the Klamath Tribes used their senior rights to protect fish by shutting off the water to nearby ranches.
Those shutoffs sparked new negotiations. Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, says the two sides have reached an agreement in principle.
“This is really definitely a landmark step,” Gentry said. “This is really positive but we have a lot of work to do as we move forward to negotiating a final agreement.”
Under the draft agreement, ranchers would cut their water use by 30,000 acre feet. And help restore streambanks to reduce nutrient pollution.
In exchange the tribes would limit their power to call on junior water users to turn off their irrigation. And all sides agree they won’t oppose a plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River. They hope to finalize the deal by January.