WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States Senate passed an energy bill that includes a provision sponsored by Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden to provide tools to better manage water, and to encourage water and power conservation, to benefit agriculture and wildlife in the Klamath Basin. The bill passed with bipartisan support on a 85-12 vote.
“The Klamath basin community put together a visionary plan to remove dams, restore a major river system, and help ensure that Klamath agriculture is a sustainable foundation of the local economy,” said Merkley. “With last week’s agreement on dam removal, and this week’s action to move forward water and power conservation tools to help farmers and wildlife, things are looking up for the Klamath Basin.”
“The tribes, ranchers, farmers and irrigators in the Klamath Basin made history by coming together in an unprecedented way to agree on a workable solution that would provide certainty over water supplies for the whole basin,” said Wyden. “I was disappointed Congress could not set aside its differences and allow their groundbreaking collaboration to go through at the end of last year, but I’m encouraged by this step forward today. Make no mistake that Senator Merkley and I are going to stay at this until all the issues so important to the Klamath Basin are fully resolved.”
The provisions included in the bill for Klamath include tools developed as part of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. Recently, the U.S. Department of the Interior signed an agreement with PacifiCorp and the states of Oregon and California to proceed towards dam removal, one of the crucial elements of the locally-negotiated agreement between ranchers and farmers, Tribes, conservationists and irrigators in the Klamath Basin. The Merkley-Wyden provision helps ensure that other pieces of the comprehensive agreement that benefit both the agriculture community and fish and wildlife keep moving forward as dam removal proceeds.
Specifically, the Merkley-Wyden provision authorizes the federal Bureau of Reclamation to work with Klamath farming and ranching communities to develop and implement strategies to reduce water use to match available water supplies and to develop a plan to provide reduced-cost power for irrigation, with a preference for energy efficiency, conservation, and local renewable energy projects. The provision also enables the Bureau of Reclamation to assist in several critical improvements to the infrastructure of the Klamath Project that benefit both agriculture and wildlife.