Merkley, Wyden: $72 Million Coming to the Klamath Basin to Boost Ecosystem Restoration and Support Collaboration that Drives Water Reliability Solutions 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced that $72 million in new federal funding is headed to the Klamath Basin for critical ecosystem restoration projects and agricultural infrastructure modernization. Additionally, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a historic agreement with the Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, and Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) that cements their commitment to working together to drive long-term solutions to the Klamath Basin’s water challenges. This includes collective efforts to restore the region’s ecosystem and improve water supply and reliability for the Klamath Project. 

As Chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Merkley secured a historic total of $162 million over five years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that is specifically dedicated to restoring ecosystems and boosting drought resiliency in the Klamath Basin. Today’s funding announcement marks the third year of investments from this landmark law, as it follows $26 million provided in 2022 and $15 million in 2023. In 2018, Merkley convened the “Sucker Summit,” which brought people from across the Basin together and helped lay the groundwork for these significant investments.   

“Drought has severe impacts on the Klamath Basin – effecting fish and wildlife, agriculture, families, and Tribal communities,” said Merkley. “Continuing to direct federal investments in ecosystem restoration and water supply infrastructure will make this unique region’s water go farther for the farmers, households, and ecosystems that rely on it. I want to commend the Tribes and stakeholders for commitment to work together to identify, develop, and implement projects. I hoped that the $162 million I secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the Klamath Basin would energize efforts to find path forward for the Basin and all who depend on it, and am pleased to see people coming together to make the best use of these funds. I will continue to support efforts by the Basin and all of Oregon to prepare and respond to the more frequent and severe droughts caused by climate chaos.” 

“This monumental investment in the Klamath Basin is proof that when we all work together, we can achieve great things,” Wyden said. “These efforts will result in positive impacts that are critical for Oregon’s ecosystem, agriculture industry and communities to thrive. I will continue to fight for rural Oregon and make sure everyone’s voice is heard.”

New Memorandum of Understanding to Advance Collaborative Conservation  

A newly signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe and KWUA commits the parties to working together to identify, recommend and support projects that advance shared Klamath Basin restoration goals, including improving water and irrigation stability and reliability; strengthening ecosystem resilience; protecting fish populations; and advancing drought resilience.   

The MOU also commits DOI to working across its bureaus, other federal departments and agencies, the states of Oregon and California, and non-governmental partners to help secure funding and approval for projects and actions that advance these shared goals, including new investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.   

Additionally, the agreement formally recognizes the significant value of Indigenous Knowledge and commits the parties to incorporate it into its restoration efforts throughout the basin.   

Investing in America Investments to Restore Klamath Basin Ecosystems  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will dedicate a total of $64 million for work to restore the regional ecosystem and repair local economies in the coming years. Highlights of the funding announced today for Oregon include:  

  • Klamath Basin Co-Development Process, $25,000,000 – Funds will be made available for the development of restoration projects in the Klamath Basin that will help resolve on-going water-related challenges. Projects will be required to have broad support throughout the Klamath Basin and be linked to the Service’s top priorities for the Klamath Basin. Project proposals that are developed through this process will be reviewed by the Service and Department of the Interior officials who help oversee Klamath Basin restoration initiatives. 
  • Completion of Klamath Falls National Fish Hatchery, $20,000,000 – The Klamath Falls National Fish Hatchery investment will increase rearing capacity and help prevent extinction of two federally listed species found only in the Klamath Basin, the Lost River and shortnose suckers (C’waam and Koptu).  
  • Sprague River Collaborative Restoration (Phase 1), $6,000,000 –This projectwill provide instream and floodplain restoration along 26 miles of headwater streams in the Sprague River Watershed, develop cost-level design plans and baseline monitoring for instream and floodplain restoration of the mainstem Sprague River, and develop a landowner incentive program to encourage landowner participation in restoration programs and retain economic viability for family farms and ranches. The Sprague River Collaborative Restoration Project emphasizes a commitment to voluntary, incentive-based approaches and identifies the critical role of Tribal and working lands to ecosystem restoration.  This project also stresses the importance of supporting Indigenous knowledge and sovereignty and landowners’ interests and rights, with the support of federal, state, and local conservation programs.  Partners – Upper Klamath Basin Agriculture Collaborative, The Klamath Tribes, Sustainable Northwest, Klamath Watershed Partnership, Trout Unlimited, Soil and Water Conservation District, Intermountain West Joint Venture, Oregon Agricultural Trust, and Resource Environmental Solutions (RES). 
  • Upper Williamson River Restoration, $2,000,000 – Funding will be used for restoring the historical hydrology within the Klamath Marsh through the removal of TPC, Middle, and House bridges and restoration of roughened channels. Additionally, the Cholo Diversion will be demolished and replaced with a horizontal flat plate screen and headgate structure. These restorative efforts will improve habitat for resident fish, wildlife and migratory species, and remove barriers to fish passage. Partner – Klamath Tribes 
  • Klamath Basin Fisheries Collaborative: Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) Tag Monitoring and Database Project, $1,146,218 – The PIT Tag coalition is a collaborative effort to develop a basin-wide fish tracking infrastructure to monitor the success of restoration efforts in the Klamath Basin. A comprehensive PIT infrastructure and integrated upper and lower basin database have been identified as a basin-wide priority. This project integrates scientifically rigorous localized research to create a data network capable of addressing questions at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Data collection will focus on spring and fall Chinook Salmon, and endangered suckers, but may include nearly all migratory fishes in the Klamath Basin. This data will be critical for analysis used to inform potential future downlisting or delisting of ESA-listed species. Data will provide the ability to track the relationship between juveniles and returning spawners.  Partners – Pacific States Marine Fisheries, Karuk Tribe, Klamath Tribes, and the Yurok Tribe 
  • Climate Change Resiliency Stream Restoration within Bootleg Fire Area, $922,459 – Funding will be used for stream habitat restoration within the Bootleg Fire Area. An assessment of stream conditions and identification of necessary restoration throughout the Klamath Tribes Treaty Boundary area will commence with an emphasis on the ability to address entire watersheds and focus on the most impaired based on deviations from the Tribes’ determined claims. Approximately 300 in-stream structures and five miles of riparian fencing will be installed.  Partner – Klamath Tribes 

The full project list may be found on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.  

Additionally, the USFWS will provide $4 million to support the 14,000-acre Agency-Barnes wetland restoration project at Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge; $1.8 million to support a feasibility analysis of modifications to water supply infrastructure in Klamath Drainage District for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and farms; and $250,000 to develop a conservation and restoration project database and interactive map.

The USFWS will also engage Klamath Basin conservation partners in the coming year to develop a conservation and restoration project database and interactive map. This tool will track and describe conservation work in the Klamath Basin for the public and help to coordinate restoration efforts among partners in the Basin. It will also house and provide access to important data sets that can help drive long-term restoration success and support science and research efforts.  

With resources provided by President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Bureau of Reclamation is also establishing a robust drought resilience program for basins experiencing long-term drought and the impacts of climate change – including throughout the Klamath Basin. In the coming months, Reclamation will announce significant additional funding throughout the region to facilitate multi-year planning and alignment of water supply and demand as well as to address critical infrastructure needs. Additionally, Reclamation is funding $2.9 million to the Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe and Modoc Nation for projects that restore watersheds and revitalize water infrastructure.