Tuesday, December 18, 2007


The recent Sacramento Bee scoop - which found that the proposed Klamath River Fish & Farms Settlement will not lead to salmon recovery - contained the following:

"Four small hydroelectric dams operated by PacifiCorp cut the river system in half, diverting so much water to high desert irrigation in southern Oregon that in dry years there isn't enough for both farmers and fish, let alone to flush out parasites and diseases downstream of the dams."

In fact, the "four small hydro dams" do not "divert" any water for "dessert irrigation". The PacifiCorp dams only make power using the highly polluted return flows which the US Bureau of Reclamation allows to pass down the Klamath. Hyper-nutrient enriched irrigation drainage is most of that flow. The dams do make notoriously bad Upper Basin water quality worse. The bad water flows downstream to the dams. By the third and fourth dams - Copco and iron Gate - toxic algae scum is produced in the reservoirs. And below the dams is a death zone where most juvenile salmon die in annual fish disease epidemics.

The erroneous connection of PacifiCorp's hydro dams with diversion of river flows for irrigation is not limited to reporters. Rather it is repeated up and down the River. I've heard it, for example, in a play about the "Klamath Crisis" produced by well meaning but obviously badly informed folks connected with Humboldt State University. The play showed at several locations including Klamath near the mouth.

The Klamath dams-irrigation confusion is perfectly understandable. Many western dams do serve as diversion for irrigation and concurrently for power generation. But why haven't any of the tribes, agencies, fishing, irrigation and environmental groups who all know that the dams are not supply irrigation water and who also have media and scientific staff corrected the often repeated mis-information?

The answer may be that those who are promoting a big package Klamath Settlement that would include both a water deal and dam removal would like the press and public to believe the two issues - water allocation and dam removal - are connected.

The Klamath Water Users Association, which represents the Basin's Irrigation Elite, has always claimed a connection between dams and irrigation. They have maintained that the original deal with the power company that built the dams traded their right to divert the entire flow of the Upper Klamath for agriculture for low power rights. But the Oregon and California Public Utilities Commissions have rejected this claim.

Now it has been revealed that the 26 agencies and organizations engaged in ongoing Klamath Settlement negotiations between closed doors Those who are driving the Klamath Settlement Negotiations - the Klamath Water Users Association, Yurok Tribal consultant Troy Fletcher and Those who closely watch the and What is more interesting is the fact that the confusion has not been corrected by any of the tribes, agencies of environmental groups which all have press staffs who regularly y do you suppose these errors - whether of press or community - are not corrected?