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Klamath Basin gets $72 million for restoration projects

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(The Center Square) – The Klamath Basin is getting $72 million in federal taxpayer dollars for ecosystem restoration projects and agricultural infrastructure modernization from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Interior announced an agreement with the Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, and Klamath Water Users Association, committing them to work together to address the Klamath Basin’s long-term water challenges.

U.S. Sen Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, helped secure $162 million over five years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law specifically for restoring ecosystems and improving drought resiliency in the Klamath Basin, according to a press release.

This marks the third straight year of investment in the basin; this comes after the basin got $26 million in 2022 and $15 million in 2023 from the law.

“Drought has severe impacts on the Klamath Basin – affecting fish and wildlife, agriculture, families, and Tribal communities,” Merkley said. “Continuing to direct federal investments in ecosystem restoration and water supply infrastructure will make this unique region’s water go further for the farmers, households, and ecosystems that rely on it. … 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.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, expressed a similar sentiment.

“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.”

The newly signed Memorandum of Understanding between the Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, and KWUA commits to the parties to work together on projects that further their shared Klamath Basin restoration goals. These include, “improving water and irrigation stability and reliability; strengthening ecosystem resilience; protecting fish populations; and advancing drought resilience,” the release said.

The MOU also committed Interior to working across bureaus and with states to secure funding and approval for projects that advance these shared goals.

The Klamath Basin co-development process will get $25 million of the newly allocated federal funding.

“Funds will be made available for the development of restoration projects in the Klamath Basin that will help resolve ongoing water-related challenges,” the release said. “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.”

It also provided $20 million to complete the Klamath Falls National Fish Hatchery.

“The Klamath Falls National Fish Hatchery investment will increase rearing capacity and help prevent the extinction of two federally listed species found only in the Klamath Basin, the Lost River and shortnose suckers (C’waam and Koptu),” the release said.

Additionally, $6 million will go to the collaborative restoration of the Sprague River.

“This project will 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 release said.

Plus, the Upper Williamson River restoration effort will get $2 million.

“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,” the release said. “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.”

Also, the Klamath Basin Fisheries Collaborative will get $1.15 million for its passive integrated transponder tag monitoring and database project.

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