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Peace on the river? Social-ecological restoration and large dam removal in the Klamath basin, USA

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Author(s): Hannah Gosnell | Erin Clover Kelly

Journal: Water Alternatives
ISSN 1965-0175

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 362;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Dam re-licensing | indigenous sovereignty | irrigated agriculture | collaboration | dam decommissioning | Pacific Northwest

ABSTRACT
This paper aims to explain the multiple factors that contributed to a 2010 agreement to remove four large dams along the Klamath river in California and Oregon and initiate a comprehensive social-ecological restoration effort that will benefit Indian tribes, the endangered fish on which they depend, irrigated agriculture, and local economies in the river basin. We suggest that the legal framework, including the tribal trust responsibility, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Power Act, combined with an innovative approach to negotiation that allowed for collaboration and compromise, created a space for divergent interests to come together and forge a legally and politically viable solution to a suite of social and environmental problems. Improved social relations between formerly antagonistic Indian tribes and non-tribal farmers and ranchers, which came about due to a number of local collaborative processes during the early 2000s, were critical to the success of this effort. Overall, we suggest that recent events in the Klamath basin are indicative of a significant power shift taking place between tribal and non-tribal interests as tribes gain access to decision-making processes regarding tribal trust resources and develop capacity to participate in the development of complex restoration strategies.
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