Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Debunking One (or two) Klamath Myth

There is a common misunderstanding about the Klamath River Dams that is repeated regularly in press accounts. The dams - and there owner PacifiCorp - do not divert any Klamath River water other than for the powerhouses - a non-consumptive use; the 4 dams many of us want decommissioned have no role in agriculture, their only public benefit is power generation.

Agriculture consumes over 80% of Klamath River base flows (base flow = dry season flow). Here's how it breaks out:
  • Klamath Project irrigators: subsidized water supplied by the US Bureau of Reclamation. This is approximately 40% of total Klamath River Basin irrigation.
  • Other/non-federal Upper Basin irrigators (above the dams; most in Oregon). This is about 35% of total ag water use.
  • Shasta and Scott River irrigators: These represent about 35% of ag consumptive water use. It does not include extensive groundwater pumping for irrigation which is widely believed to have an impact on surface flows.
The confidential negotiations that are going on involve the first two uses only; the Klamath Project Irrigators have publicly declared what they want from these negotiations:
1. A guaranteed allocation of water which they would have first priority to use as they see fit, i.e. for irrigation, to sell back to the feds to meet in stream flows, to sell to someone else.
2. A power subsidy: they had one under a contract with PacifiCorp that ran out; they lost claims before the Oregon and California PUCs that asked for a continuation of the subsidy. A phase out of the subsidy is in process.
3. Protection from any new Endangered Species Act-related regulation. Another common Klamath myth is that it was tribal rights and tribal legal action that reallocated Klamath River Water for in-stream flows. In reality, it was the ESA and a fisherman-environmental group lawsuit to force ESA compliance that reallocated Klamath water from irrigators to in-stream use.

No comments: