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The Fishes’ Guarantee

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Editor:

Hank Sims’ excellent article on the current state of the Klamath Settlement negotiations was well informed, though not correct on every detail (“The Klamath Settlement,” Oct. 8). Nor was the recent letter by Greg King (Oct. 15). As the commercial fishing industry’s lead negotiator, perhaps I can shed some light.

In particular, the frequent assertion that the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) “guarantees water for farmers but not for fish” is simply incorrect. Under Oregon law, for more than 93 years, the Bureau of Reclamation’s access to upper basin water has been guaranteed — fish getting only what is left over.

The KBRA changes that by “capping” this unlimited Bureau water right, reducing by up to 100,000 acre-feet the water the Bureau’s farmers get each year, and developing an additional 130,000 acre-feet of storage. Putting up to 230,000 additional acre-feet of water back into the river is no small benefit. And the fish get this water first, not last.

Second, Greg King’s fears that somehow the KBRA “subverts the Endangered Species Act” are also groundless. No mere contract can amend or override an act of Congress. ESA-mandated minimum flows will still be required.

In the end, it is better to try a new future direction than to do nothing and perpetuate water conflicts that hurt tribes, fish, farmers or coastal communities nearly every year.

Glen Spain, Eugene, Ore.

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