Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Derrik Jensen interviews KlamBlog writer/editor Felice Pace on Resistence Radio

On Sunday August 7th at 3 PM Pacific Time the Resistance Radio Network will broadcast an interview of KlamBlog's editor and principle writer, Felice Pace. The pre-recorded interview was conducted by author Derrick Jensen Jensen has been called the poet-philosopher of the ecological movement.

Derrick Jensen interviewed Felice about the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon. About 24 hours later, the interview will be available in Resistance Radio's audio archives.

When do we have a red alert?

The interview airs at an important time for the Klamath River. Even in this year of average precipitation, government, tribal and university scientists, working together as the Klamath Fish Health Assessment Team (KFHAT), are finding high incidence of two salmon diseases among juvenile salmon migrating down the Klamath, Scott and Shasta Rivers. These are natural diseases that scientists say have become epidemic in the Klamath River as a result of very poor water quality, especially exceedingly high water temperature, and inadequate spring-time river flows. 

Diseased juvenile salmon collected from the Klamath River
Sentinel fish studies indicate that up to 90% of juvenile Coho and Chinook Salmon, which must migrating down the Klamath, are dying before they can reach the Pacific Ocean. High juvenile salmon mortality is a major reason fish managers predict the second lowest number of salmon since the mid-1990s will return to the Klamath River this fall.

Already this year, up to 100% of juvenile salmon sampled in the Klamath River between where the Salmon and the Trinity enter the main Klamath have been infected with one of two salmon diseases which are epidemic in the Klamath River. Many juvenile salmon are infected with both Ceratonova shasta and Parvicapsula minibicornis. Nevertheless, the fish kill alert level is "yellow" rather than "red", indicating that no massive fish kill is immanent. California Fish & Wildlife officials stress the economic importance of sport fishing and tend to downplay the Klamath's disease epidemic because they don't want to close down sport fishing for Klamath Chinook Salmon.    

Challenging low springtime river flows

Meanwhile the Hoopa Valley Tribe has filed a lawsuit challenging the 2013 Biological Opinion on operation of the Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Irrigation Project. The 2013 "Bi-Op" allows Reclamation to starve the Klamath River of the high springtime flows scientists say are needed to flush disease organisms from river gravel. 

By studying rivers around the globe, scientists have learned that the health of a river is tied to its natural hydrograph. In other words, in order to be healthy a river needs the full range of flows under which the river's ecosystem evolved. High flows, including floods, are just as important to a river's health as are adequate minimum flows. 

Most river studies have found that, in order to remain healthy, a river needs about 50% of its natural flow, distributed to mirror the natural hydrograph, to remain in stream. In the American West today, 70 to 90 percent of natural baseflows are diverted from streams to irrigated agriculture. The amount of water currently diverted from western rivers is incompatible with river health. 

As KlamBlog has pointed out previously, rather than reallocate water from irrigated agriculture to in-stream use, the feds want to substitute funding for "restoration" projects for the amount of water a river needs. Because many western tribes and river organizations have become dependent on federal restoration funding, they have tended to go along with the feds. The failure of society to reallocate water from irrigated agriculture in order to restore healthy rivers is driving the ongoing loss of native western fish and fisheries. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Better late than never: Water deal supporters may finally sue to aid Klamath Coho

The Earthjustice press release stated it precisely: "Commercial Fishing & Conservation Groups Join Native American Tribes’ Legal Action to Protect Klamath Salmon and Fishing Communities." After nearly three years of urging by scientists, activists, Native youth and KlamBlog, the Klamath River tribes and fishing organizations which have long claimed leadership in defending and restoring Klamath Salmon have finally taken action to challenge federal policies which starve the Klamath of water flows and which, in recent years, killed most juvenile salmon before they could reach the Pacific Ocean. 

It has been something like the breaching of a dam: first the Hoopa Tribe, then the Karuk and Yurok Tribes, and finally the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens' Associations (PCFFA) and Klamath Riverkeeper have declared their intention to legally challenge the 2013 Biological Opinion which allowed the US Bureau of Reclamation to starve the Klamath River of flushing spring flows so essential to the health of the River and Klamath Salmon.

While we question why it took them this long, KlamBlog hopes that tribes and fishing groups, which had grown bleary eyed and docile through sitting in the back rooms for too long with too many white lawyers, have finally regained clear vision and courage. But before we get too hopeful, let's look more closely at the crisis which prompted the notice that a legal challenge may be coming.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Secret Klamath Water Negotiations set to resume

KlamBlog has it from a reliable source that Klamath water settlement negotiations are starting up again with the Interior Department's John Bezdek inviting "settlement parties" to an "exploratory" meeting in Medford on July 7th. Bezdek says the meeting is covered by prior "confidentiality agreements".

Since we are now talking about a public river (the Klamath) and not privately held dams, all those who have a stake in the Klamath River should questions why negotiations over the fate of our River should be entirely confidential. Why not have "public witnesses" present who don't talk but record the proceedings for posterity? At minimum, those who are sponsoring and driving this settlement, the US Interior Department, ought to issue substantive public reports to citizens each time a negotiation session takes place and when major proposals are laid on the table.

The fate of the Klamath River and a lot more is riding on negotiations set to begin July 7th
in Medford Oregon. For example, could this recovering riverfront land near 
Happy Camp become part of a Karuk Reservation via such a deal?

People of the Klamath, let's demand that they - Interior - do it the right way this time. I hope someone at that Medford meeting questions the need for strict "confidentiality" in these negotiations on behalf of the people.

It would be great to have an adequate and therefore durable settlement of the waters; a settlement that also protected the integrity of fish and wildlife laws we have seen abused since the KBRA Water Deal was signed. That sort of agreement will be more likely if a more open process is followed where river and all communities are informed and somewhat involved. In particular, those individuals and organizations who have invested their time in restoration and protection of our river should, by right of their sweat, have a voice in deciding the fate of the River. Ideally, our tribes and our Fish & Wildlife Departments in Oregon and California will involve both communities and our community organizations.

At minimum, this time I hope the People of the Klamath will demand that River leaders come back to the communities for consultation when key settlement proposals are on the table and for a thorough vetting once we have a proposed settlement to discuss.

What say you?

(KlamBlog is written by me, Felice Pace: unofelice@gmail.com)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hoopa Tribe Sues Federal Government over Inadequate Protections for Juvenile Salmon

Below is the Hoopa Valley Tribe's Press Release announcing that they have formally notified agencies of the federal government of their intent to sue them to enforce provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The notice is required to give federal agencies 60-days to remedy or settle potential ESA lawsuits. The Tribe says it will sue the US Bureau of Reclamation and the National Marine Fisheries Service over the failure of those agencies to protect ESA-listed Klamath Coho Salmon.

As a member of the environmental community, I find it embarrassing that the Hoopa Tribe had to file this notice alone. In the "old days" (before the Water Deals) the environmental community and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association (PCFFA) filed the lawsuits on behalf of Klamath Salmon. The tribes intervened and their biologists served as expert witnesses.  That saved the tribes and the environmental plaintiffs a lot of money. We all worked together for the River and Klamath Salmon. But ever since they signed on to the KBRA Water Deal, PCFFA has blocked Earthjustice lawyers from suing on behalf of Klamath Coho.

I know this is a true fact because I was instrumental in organizing the earlier Coho lawsuits and because I asked Earthjustice to challenge the 2008 Biological Opinion on my behalf as a Klamath River resident. Earthjustice declined and told me that was because the lead plaintiff on those earlier lawsuits, PCFFA, would not allow them to take on a challenge to federal management of Klamath River Coho salmon.

And what about the other Klamath River Basin Tribes? Would it not be right and proper for the leaders of tribes whose people depend on the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon to join the Hoopa Valley Tribe in challenging Coho management that is killing most of the juvenile Coho, and the juvenile Chinook as well, before they can reach the ocean? I'll bet my boots members of those tribes want their tribal governments to get more water for the River and the Coho.

KlamBlog encourages Yurok Chairman Tommy O'Rourke, Karuk Chairman Buster Attebery, and Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry to lead their tribes to a decision. Please join with the Hoopa Valley Tribe in demanding that federal agencies obey the law and provide adequately for Klamath Salmon.

This blog offers all tribes of the Klamath River Basin the opportunity to use space here to explain their tribal positions to all the people of the Klamath River Basin. Open exchange will lead to understanding; understanding will result in unity; and unity will best serve the River we all love and want to restore.  

                                                                     Felice Pace, KlamBlog editor



Hoopa Valley Tribe

17 May 2016


Chairman Ryan Jackson (530.249.8653)

Mike Orcutt (707.499.6143)

Tom Schlosser (206.386.5200)

Hoopa Tribe Sues Federal Government over Inadequate Protections for Juvenile Salmon

The Hoopa Valley Tribe has filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and NOAA Fisheries for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Failure by these federal agencies to reinitiate consultation on the flawed 2013 Klamath Project Biological Opinion (BiOp) will simply add to the millions of sick and dead juvenile salmon already lost due to the Klamath Irrigation Project.  High infection prevalence of the deadly salmon parasite Ceratomyxa nova has been directly linked to the Project and its effect upon natural flows in the river.

“The juvenile fish kills in 2014 and 2015, while not as noticeable to the naked eye as dead adults on the banks, are as devastating to Hupa people as the 2002 adult fish kill” said Ryan Jackson, Chairman, Hoopa Valley Tribe.  

The BiOp limited the number of fish that could be harmed or killed by the Project.  This threshold was knowingly violated in 2014 and 2015, with nearly 100% infection rates of juvenile salmon in those years.  "Tribal and non-tribal fisheries will be substantially depressed as adult salmon which out-migrated in 2014 return in record low numbers this year and next" said Mike Orcutt, Hoopa Fisheries Director.  BOR and NMFS have refused to take appropriate actions to make sure this does not happen again and have clearly violated the ESA by not reinitiating consultation.  Continued catastrophic losses of salmon can be expected in the Klamath Basin given this inaction by the agencies.  “Despite numerous attempts to make this right with the agencies, their lack of action has required us to take legal action to protect our fishery and way of life" said Jackson.

The Hoopa Valley Tribe inhabits the largest reservation in California and is one of only two tribes in the state with federally reserved fishing rights, entitling the tribes to 50% of the allowable harvest of Klamath River fish.   "Since time immemorial, Klamath Basin has been the lifeblood of the Hupa people.  We will continue to stand up for the fish of the Klamath Basin” concluded Jackson.