Klamath Basin to receive $26M from federal infrastructure package

August 24, 2022
Klamath Basin to receive $26M from federal infrastructure package

Millions of dollars in federal funding is beginning to flow into the drought-stricken Klamath Basin that will be used for a variety of projects to improve water quality, irrigation efficiency and stabilize populations of endangered fish.

The U.S. Department of the Interior previously earmarked $162 million over five years for the basin. It comes from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed in 2021.

Officials announced the rollout of $26 million on Tuesday, calling it an “historic” investment for the region that has endured decades of conflict over water management for farms, ranches and several species of endangered fish.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the watershed straddling the Oregon-California border has long sustained tribal communities, productive agriculture and abundant fish and wildlife thanks to clean water, healthy forests and fertile land.

However, Haaland said recent water scarcity has put a tremendous strain on the area’s fishing, farming and environment.

“With millions of dollars being invested in water and habitat resilience from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, help is on the way to restore this once abundant ecosystem for the benefit of all its inhabitants, human or otherwise,” Haaland said in a statement.

A breakdown of the funding shows $10 million will go toward expanding the Klamath Falls National Fish Hatchery to increase rearing capacity for two species of critically endangered sucker fish found only in Upper Klamath Lake.

The species, known as C’waam and Koptu, are central to the Klamath Tribes’ history and culture. At least one population of C’waam has plummeted to just a few thousand surviving individuals, according to tribal estimates.

When completed, the hatchery expansion will boost rearing capacity to 60,000 fish in an effort to stabilize rapidly dwindling populations. Another $16 million will go toward other restoration projects — including more than $2.6 million for improving wetland habitat and irrigation efficiency at the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake national wildlife refuges, key stops for migratory birds and waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway.

The Klamath Tribes will also receive $913,786 for their salmon reintroduction program, and $875,061 to expand their own sucker-rearing effort.

Finally, the Bureau of Reclamation will collaborate with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund 10 grants totaling $2.2 million to improve fish and wildlife habitat as part of two programs — the Klamath River Coho Restoration Grant Program and the Trinity River Restoration Program.

Both programs aim to enhance coho recovery in the basin by removing fish-passage barriers and providing cold, clean water for salmon to thrive.

Lawmakers from Oregon and California are hailing the package. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., called funding for the basin a “game-changer for water supply and fishery health.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the investment comes as welcome news amid extreme drought.

With no rain in immediate sight this summer, there’s obviously much more work to be done during this brutally tough water year,” Wyden said. “But I’m gratified the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has generated these federal resources for species recovery and habitat restoration to make sure every precious drop of water goes as far as possible in the basin.”

-George Plaven

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