Environment | Opinion

Danielle Masten: Water settlement threatens tribal rights

The Klamath River in northern California. Photo from U.S. Fish & WIldlife Service, Klamath Basin Ecoregion Collection

Danielle Vigil Masten, the chairwoman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe in northern California, explains opposition to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement:
The Hoopa Valley Tribe is one of only two Indian tribes (both in California) who legally own the Indian allocation right to 50 percent of the Klamath/Trinity fishery, resources that are protected by federal law. The KBRA, by guaranteeing an oversized right to divert Upper Klamath Lake water into the Klamath Irrigation Project, is a death sentence to the fishery resources of the Klamath, whether or not PacifiCorp’s dams are removed.

In 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation rejected pleas of the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes that additional water be released from Trinity Reservoir in order to augment the insufficient flows in the mainstem Klamath River (caused by the irrigation diversions in Oregon). Instead, Reclamation hesitated, then when the deadly ich pathogen started killing fish, Reclamation released emergency slugs of water that proved to be too late and too little.

California’s biggest irrigation district, Westlands Water District, also sued Reclamation and won a ruling this month saying that Reclamation had no authority to supplement Klamath water flows with additional water from the Trinity. That Band Aid won’t stick; the court believes Trinity Reservoir serves California’s Central Valley Project.

Our fisheries scientists warn that the water diversion amounts of the KBRA reflect a political choice, not the science of what’s surplus to fish needs. Unlike others, we believe that the federal dollars that are supposed to restore the Basin don’t exist. Until the Basin comes together on a solution, Congress should not touch this.

Get the Story:
Danielle Vigil Masten: Calif. Tribes’ sovereign rights at risk (The Fall River Herald and News 11/20)

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