Based on recent revelations about the central component – the proposed Klamath Water Deal - the decision for environmental and fishing groups should be easy. Here are the critical facts:
- As revealed by the Sacramento Bee, an unreleased scientific review of the proposed Klamath Water Deal commissioned by the
and paid for in part by the Sierra Club found that the Deal would likely not lead to salmon recovery. Furthermore, the team of specialists noted that beneficial flows for fish specified in the Deal would only materialize in the future and only if Congress grants close to a billion dollars to irrigators and the Bureau of Reclamation for “conservation” and “new storage”. Northcoast Environmental Center
- The proposed Klamath Water Deal will have a negative impact on Native American water rights. The treaty rights of the Klamath Tribes and the reserved rights of the Yurok Tribe are likely to be compromised if not extinguished should the Deal become law.
- The proposed Klamath Water Deal would give a small, select group of
irrigators, the Klamath Irrigation Elite, unrestricted control of and first priority to a large amount of the Klamath River Basin Klamath River’s spring and summer flows. The Irrigation Elite, who control roughly 40% of irrigated lands in the Klamath River Basin through a web of corporate and family ownerships and leases of public and private farmland, would be free to use that water for irrigation or to sell it (through complex exchanges with Trinity River Water) to corporate agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. If tribes, state or federal agencies or fishermen wanted any of this water for fish, they would have to come with dollars in hand to lease that water from the Irrigation Elite. Furthermore, rental payments would have to continue on an annual basis in competition with other buyers, including corporate farms. San Joaquin River Basin
Given this list of likely negative consequences, the decision on whether or not to endorse the Klamath Water Deal would appear to be a no brainer.
But that is not the case. KlamBlog has learned that the Boards of Directors of environmental, restoration and fishing organizations are having intense debates about whether or not to accept a Water Deal which experts say will not lead to salmon recovery. Word on the street is that at least one lead negotiator for a group that represents commercial salmon fishers is urging his organization to endorse the Deal.
Readers may wonder why organizations which have been staunch advocates for Pacific Salmon would consider a Deal that will not lead to Salmon Recovery. There are three major reason; two are substantive and the third is psychological.1. Many of those involved in the negotiations from the environmental and fishing communities believe they must accept this Water Deal in order to get the four PacifiCorp dams removed.
The necessary connection between a Water Deal and dam removal is an assumption that has been promoted heavily by the propaganda machine operated by Doctor Craig Tucker under the watchful eyes of Troy Fletcher and Leaf Hillman – the men who call the shots on things Klamath for the Yurok and Karuk Tribes respectively. Doctor Tucker has orchestrated numerous protests, press events and videos designed with special attention to promoting the IDEA that removal of the dams and a rapprochement with the Klamath Irrigation Elite are inextricably linked. That IDEA is now accepted as an article of faith by many rank and file Klamath River Basin Native Americans, environmentalists, restorationists and salmon advocates.
Not withstanding the fact that many well intentioned people BELIEVE dam removal requires accepting a bad Water Deal, is this “necessity” in fact true? Here is KlamBlog’s take on that question:
Many months ago when Mr. Fletcher still spoke to us, he told KlamBlog that officials at the Bush Administration’s Interior Department had stated emphatically that unless the Tribes cut a water deal with Klamath Project Irrigators and got the fishermen and enviros to go along, Interior would oppose dam removal. At the time the Bush Administration was still strong, the Republicans controlled Congress and Bush appointees at Interior had not yet been forced to resign under fear of indictment for lawbreaking. Mr. Fletcher was convinced that a deal with the Irrigation Elite was the only way to get the dams out.
Still there were those among the long-strong coalition of tribes, enviros and fishermen who did not share this perspective. The minority argued that the Achilles’ heal of the dams was not salmon but rather water quality; that there was no way PacifiCorp’s dams could be certified by the State of California as complying with long-established and legally unassailable water quality standards designed to protect all the beneficial uses of the Klamath River.
Legal experts on dam relicensing issues involved on the Klamath have affirmed that PacifiCorp can not get around the fact that the dams must be certified by the states of
A Water Deal which requires costly new spending at a time of massive federal debt, which is opposed by environmental groups with power and influence in DC, which excludes certain Klamath River Basin tribes, counties and irrigators from generous “benefits programs” (i.e. the cold cash which will be collected by four of the Basin’s tribes, counties and irrigators if the Deal becomes law ) - such a Deal is likely to stall out in Congressional committees where it will languish far beyond the delays normal in election years.
The highly promoted BELIEF that dam removal requires a Klamath Water Deal that will not lead to salmon recovery has been further weakened by several additional developments.
First, the Democrats took over Congress. They quickly reinstituted pay-as-you-go budget rules which require that legislation which proposes new or increased spending must also specify where cuts will be made to fully offset the new spending. Where do the promoters of this Water Deal think those cuts should come? Have they even thought about that key issue? Shall we fund this Deal by closing down the USFWS offices in the Basin, the NMFS office in Arcata? Where else will the necessary budget “offset” be found? Furthermore, a very expensive San Joaquin water deal has already been introduced into Congress. Because enviros hold a court decree over that deal, however, it will continue to be a much higher priority than the proposed Klamath Water Deal.
With a Californian as leader of the House of Representatives, the increased power of Northcoast Congressman Mike Thompson and California’s two Democratic Senators, KlamBlog believes that a revived and revised Klamath Basin Coalition – made up of tribes, environmentalists, fishing groups, restorationists and progressive farmers – could do much better than pushing an expensive Water Deal which will not lead to Salmon Recovery and which reinforces rather than eliminates the inequities in our communities. So much could be accomplished if and when our leaders wake up and get out of those back rooms!
If our leaders had vision and boldness we could write and pass legislation that would make the
A new and permanent Klamath Basin Commission charged with restoring our River, coordinating water management with respect for all rights and all interests and strengthening our communities through socially just and equitable policies would not need to depend on taxpayers to solve our water management problems. We would not need to stake the future of Klamath River Salmon on development of mythical “new water”.
Second, the National Academy of Sciences came out with a new report on Klamath flow and water supply modeling that strengthens the calls of fish advocates for increased Klamath flows. Like the Biological Opinion before it, the new NAS study indicates that, in order for salmon to recover, the Klamath needs more water than could eventually be provided under the proposed Klamath Water Deal.
Third, the Bush Administration in general and Bush’s Interior Department in particular have been weakened by scandal; the lame duck Bush Administration is not in a position to pressure Congress to get the proposed Klamath Water Deal passed, nor is it one of the Administration’s top priorities.
Fourth, a new, soon to be published, peer-reviewed study of
To sum up then:
Orchestrated propaganda not withstanding, the proposed Klamath Water Deal is not needed to get the dams out. Even the assumption that a deal gets the dams out sooner dries up when one considers the multi-billion dollar price tag on the deal and the virtual impossibility that these dams could be certified as complying with water quality standards.
2. The dominant promoters of the Water Deal want certain “benefit programs” that address desires which have little or nothing to do with restoring the
While the details remain protected by a “Confidentially Agreement” (which increasingly looks like it was designed to prevent the People of the Klamath River Basin from learning the details of the Deal until after their leaders agree to it) KlamBlog and others who know what is going on can affirm that the Deal includes several additional costly “goodies” (inside the confidential negotiations these “goodies’ are referred to as “Christmas Ornaments”) including a Tribal Benefits Program and payoffs for counties. These benefit programs are designed to secure taxpayer funds to underwrite tribal and county government bureaucracies – including the tribes’ fisheries departments.
Thus, when one strips away the propaganda hype, the proposed Klamath Water Deal looks a lot less like something needed to get the dams out than an attempt to use the dam issue to pursue other agendas which have little to nothing to do with Salmon Recovery and Klamath Restoration. Salmon may well be the “only thing” for the Indigenous Natives of the
3. The basic psychology of humans creates a nearly irresistible urge to conform to the group mind and the group agenda. For those who have invested so much personal time and effort, the compulsion to go along with “The Group” (no matter what rational self-interest and fidelity to the interest one serves indicates to the contrary) can be overwhelming.
Given that the proposed Klamath Water Deal will not lead to salmon recovery, will not institute a just and equitable approach to whole basin water management, is not necessary to get the dams out; and is unlikely to get the dams out quicker than staying focused on PacifiCorp and the relicensing process…. Why are so many good enviros and salmon advocates willing to sign on?
The answer lies in the basic psyche of our species.
Unlike most of the enviro, agency, county and tribal participants in the Settlement Negotiations, KlamBlog’s principle writer has been in this sort of situation before. In the late 1980s, the Klamath Forest Alliance had the Forest Service and timber interests over a barrel. We had a good lawsuit that would block salvage logging on the entire
Again during the Forest Wars, KlamBlog’s principal writer helped negotiated a deal with the Clinton Administration to release a few timber sales from the Northern Spotted Owl no-logging injunction we held with other forest groups from throughout the Northwest. Tagged “The Deal of Shame” we were attacked for allowing Old Growth logging. Those of us who made the deal point to the Aquatic Conservation Strategy and other Northwest Forest Plan protections which we subsequently gained from the Clinton Administration. But others still say we bowed unnecessarily to political pressure from our friends in the Clinton Administration. KlamBlog knows only one thing for sure – the internal and external pressures to go along with the deal were intense.
Finally, at home in Siskiyou County, KlamBlog’s principle writer and colleagues were invited to cut a deal with the timber industry that promised an end to the threats, intimidation, physical attacks and blackballing of self, wife and children that were the true cost of fighting the Timber Wars while living in a anti-environmental timber county. All we needed to do was agree to stop litigating over logging. The pressure to agree was intense; we walked away.
In each of these situations and in several others, KlamBlog’s principle writer has experienced the overwhelming pressure to conform to group norms, adopt the group’s perspectives and myths and go along with the “program” demanded as the price for acceptance by the group and all the good feelings that go along with that acceptance. Never has the main pressure come from the outside; the main pressure always comes from within.
For most of its existence, the human species has lived in small groups. Within these communities the dominant social glue has been the innate desire in each individual to be part of the group, to be accepted and loved.
Struggling to survive in a harsh and unforgiving world; conformance to group norms has been a key to our survival as a species, to avoiding personal and group annihilation. Because of its survival value, the internal compulsion to conform to the group mind has become a basic human trait.
So it should come as no surprise that activists and leaders who have worked long and hard for the Recovery of the Salmon and the Restoration of our River would now feel compelled to accept a Deal which, when looked at logically and in the light of all the facts, is neither necessary nor beneficial.
Knowing whence the strong internal compulsion to go along with the group mind comes, it is possible to resist, to stand back and get perspective, to fight the compulsion when the interest for which you stand is not served. It is possible to JUST SAY NO to a bad deal!
KlamBlog is betting that in the final analysis those who carry the mantle of the Salmon and the Environment, and those who truly serve the People of the Klamath River, will recognize that the Klamath Water Deal is neither necessary to get the dams out nor in the interest of those who depend on the River for their well being and livelihood. KlamBlog knows these leaders and representatives and believes they have the courage which is required if only they will turn from the Group and listen instead to the River as it speaks to their hearts.
 It has now come to light that the federal agencies which – along with Yurok and Karuk representatives – have been driving the push for a Klamath Water Deal, will not be signing the Agreement. They are rightly concerned about a little item known as FACA – the Federal Advisory Committee Act – which requires that the public be allowed in whenever a federal agency is taking advice from any corporation or interest group.
 In alphabetical order the six federal tribes are: Hoopa, Karuk, Klamath,
There are also ‘tribes” in the
 Troy Fletcher, the ‘consultant’ who directs the Yurok Tribal Council’s Klamath policy, is a fisheries biologist. He has little experience with the system by which the State of
The Hoopa Tribe does have federal regognition as the equivalent of a state for purposes of Clean Water Act enforcement. Because of Mr. Fletcher's decision and because a corner of the Hoopa Reservation crosses the
 This makes KlamBlog wonder whether some tribal biologists are constrained as much by organizational interest as by loyalty when they remain silent on a deal fellow scientists whom they respect say won’t lead to “salmon recovery”. I suspect, however, that their concerns are more immediate: How likely would it be for a tribal fisheries biologist who spoke out publicly against the Water Deal to retain his/her job?
 PacifiCorps will ultimately agree to go along with dam removal because that is what is in the economic interest of its owners. They will, of course, play the game in such a way that the financial cost of dam removal is passed on to taxpayers. But the core reason they will cut a deal for dam removal is that – should the relicensing actually play out and the license to operate them not be granted because the dams can not be certified as complying with water quality standards – PacifiCorp would be solely responsible for removing the dams and mitigating all related impacts. This is a chance that PacifiCorp’s owners have no intention of taking. They will settle and get out with minimum losses. When that happens, not even KlamBlog will complain about them getting a free ride out of the