The Klamath River flows 253 miles from Southern Oregon to the California coast, draining a basin of more than 15,000 square miles. The watershed and its fisheries have been the subject of negotiation since the 1860s negotiations that have intensified and continue to this day.
The river has provided irrigation to ag lands since the late 19th century. Agricultural development drained vast areas of wetlands on the periphery of Upper Klamath Lake and in upstream watersheds. Some of this drained acreage has been restored and is now managed primarily for wetland benefits.
The watershed is divided geographically into two basins, upper and lower, divided by Iron Gate Dam, the lower most dam on the river. The Upper Basin is dry, with annual precipitation of about 13 inches at the river’s origin near Klamath Falls, Ore. Downstream, the climate grows wetter.
Native Americans have a significant presence in the Klamath Basin. Four major tribes have been influential in water negotiations: the Klamath Tribes, the Karuk Tribe, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Yurok Tribe.
Alan Mikkelsen likens the Klamath Basin water negotiations to climbing Mount Everest. “We’ve just left Base Camp and have a long way to go,” the veteran water negotiator for the Department of Interior told the Herald and News in a sit-down interview Wednesday morning.
On a warm September Saturday in 2002, Amy Cordalis stood in a Yurok Tribal Fisheries Department boat on the Klamath River, in response to reports from fishermen that something was amiss on the river. On this stretch of the Yurok Reservation, the river was wide and deep, having wound its way from its headwaters at the Upper Klamath Lake, through arid south-central Oregon to the California coast.
Mired in drought, expectations are high that new storage funded by Prop. 1 will be constructed to help California weather the adverse conditions and keep water flowing to homes and farms.
At the same time, there are some dams in the state eyed for removal because they are obsolete – choked by accumulated sediment, seismically vulnerable and out of compliance with federal regulations that require environmental balance.
20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues related to complex water management disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances Fisher.
For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and California border has faced complex water management disputes. As relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp, farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists – all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water. After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the documentary here.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The map text explains the many issues facing this vast, 15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration; agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement, and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and manmade reservoirs and aqueducts - including federally, state and locally funded projects - the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.
On the Klamath River, the Upper Klamath Basin’s aquatic ecosystems are naturally very productive due to its phosphorus-rich geology.
However, this high productivity makes the Basin’s lakes vulnerable to water quality problems.
Nutrient loads in the Upper Klamath Basin are a primary driver of water quality problems along the length of the Klamath River, including algal blooms in the Klamath Hydroelectric Project reservoirs. Municipal and industrial discharges of wastewater in the Klamath Falls area add to the nutrient load.
This issue of Western Water examines the challenges facing state, federal and tribal officials and other stakeholders as they work to manage terminal lakes. It includes background information on the formation of these lakes, and overviews of the water quality, habitat and political issues surrounding these distinctive bodies of water. Much of the information in this article originated at the September 2004 StateManagement Issues at Terminal Water Bodies/Closed Basins conference.
The story of the Klamath River is the story of two basins.
In the upper basin, farming has long been the way of life. Even before passage of the 1902 Reclamation Act, settlers had begun the arduous process of reclaiming vast tracts of wetlands and transforming them into rich farmland.