Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Does no Dam Removal Agreement mean no Water Deal?

The Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Trout Unlimited and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations (PCFFA) are among those who have most loudly insisted that if there is no deal to remove four PacifiCorp Klamath River dams the proposed Water Deal also known as the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement will not be completed. Do they mean what they say? If the press asks the right questions, we may soon know.

At this point the answer to the question is unclear. All four of these organizations joined the Bush Administration, Governor Kulongoski and Governor Schwarzenegger in a joint press release praising the Agreement in Principle on the dams. But does that Agreement constitute a commitment to remove the four dams? Not if you believe PacifiCorp.

On December 12th the Siskiyou Daily News reported on a presentation by Dean Brockbank, PacifiCorp’s vice president and general counsel, to the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors. The Siskiyou County Supervisors – who govern the county where three of PacifiCorp’s five dams are located - have been among the loudest opponents of both dam removal and the Water Deal that irrigators who get water from the federal Klamath Project, three federal tribes as well as some environmental and fishing groups have promoted. Mr. Brockbank was unequivocal: “The AIP is not a dam removal agreement," Brockbank asserted. "There are many conditions that have to be met before we can arrive at a Final Agreement."

While some press releases have muddied the water, the language of the Agreement In Principle (AIP) is quite clear: it says that a decision whether or not to remove the dams will be made by the federal Interior Department in 2012. The AIP also says that decision will be based not on the dams’ environmental performance but rather on a “Cost Benefit Analysis” or CBA.

CBA has been used by the Bush Administration to avoid actions to protect and restore the environment. In a CBA the future benefits of salmon restoration will be deeply discounted and may not equal the power benefits which the dams produce in the present. CBA is notoriously subject to political manipulation. For example, the Bush Administration recently lowered the dollar value of a human life in order to produce CBAs that favor industrial interests like coal fired power plants which produce pollution that kills people.

Will the promoters of the Water Deal be willing to wait until 2012? Or will they interpret the Agreement in Principle as sufficient and move to finalize the Water Deal, draft federal legislation to implement it and get Congress to appropriate the billion dollars in subsidies and other payouts which would be necessary to implement the Deal?

We should soon know the answer. If the priority is dam removal, organizations will not endorse the Agreement In Principle because it not only is not an agreement to remove the dams but actually makes dam removal less likely. If the priority, however, is the Water Deal organizations will call the AIP “a sufficient step forward” and will move to finalize the Water Deal and draft federal legislation.

Where will the members of the Klamath Settlement Group come down? Is dam removal only a flagship for the Water Deal or is dam removal their top priority? We should soon know although it may be necessary to debunk the spin that will be woven around the decisions these groups make. KlamBlog will attempt to do just that.

Meanwhile an Ag Alert issued by the California Farm Bureau in late November revealed one likely reason the Siskiyou County Supervisors oppose the Water Deal. Siskiyou County Farm Bureau Past-President Mike Luiz was quoted in the Alert: "Siskiyou County Farm Bureau is concerned that in dry years, such as this year and last year, the Klamath will dry up in spots and the government will be looking to the Scott and Shasta rivers to make up those flows."

This aspect of the Water Deal debate has not been covered by the press in spite of the fact that KlamBlog identified the issue when the proposed Water Deal was first announced last January. The Deal would give first priority for water to irrigators within the federal Klamath Project solidifying their standing as the Basin’s Irrigation Elite. It would also set Klamath River flows. The Deal is silent on flows from other rivers and streams including the Shasta, Scott and Trinity Rivers which are also heavily used by agriculture. Instead it relies on a flow needs assessment which independent scientists with the National Research Council have identified as deeply flawed because it treats the Klamath “like the Upper Basin and a gutter to the sea.”

The independent scientists called for a basin-wide flow assessment to determine flows needed from tributaries – including the Shasta and Scott – as well as from the Upper Klamath. In the absence of such an assessment, the Shasta and Scott will be the first place regulators, tribes and fishermen look for more water in drought years. Pressure on the Shasta and Scott will be particularly strong if federal funds are not available to lease water for fish from the Irrigation Elite whose massive taxpayer-financed pumps mine water from the California portion of the Lost River Basin. That groundwater has been utilized by the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Water Bank to meet ESA mandated flows and lake levels while maintaining full irrigation deliveries. The US Geological Service has called the pumping and the water bank “unsustainable”.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Klamath Dams Agreement in Principle: Is it a “step forward” or a step back?

The Agreement in Principle (AIP) reached by the Bush, Schwarzenegger and Kulongoski Administrations with PacifiCorp has now been out for a couple of weeks and most of the players have weighed in with press statements and releases. Even KlamBlog’s principle author got into the act at the request of the Siskiyou Daily News.

As expected, those organizations which have been pushing a parallel Water Deal (official title: Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement) praised the move while those who have been skeptical found new support for their positions. One organization – The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association – made conflicting press statements. While Executive Director Zeke Grader voiced concern and skepticism, PCFFA’s Klamath negotiator Glen Spain joined a press release praising the deal and signed a letter (also signed by several federal officials, the Klamath, Yurok and Karuk Tribes, Trout Unlimited and American Rivers) requesting that the California Water Resources Board indefinitely delay a decision on whether the dams can meet water quality standards. It is widely believed that water quality is the dams’ Achilles Heal. If the water quality hearings went forward, some say, dam removal proponents would emerge with a much stronger hand in dam removal negotiations.

One organization that has been generally (but quietly) supporting the Water DealFriends of the River – voiced concerns about the AIP. FOR may have been influenced by the linkage of Klamath dam removal with new dams, reservoirs and a new canal to bring Northern California water south. Governor Schwarzenegger made the connection explicit during the press conference announcing the Klamath Dams Deal. Long-time salmon advocate Dan Backer spelled out the connection in an article published on Bay Area Indy Media and by KlamBlog (see November 17th KlamBlog post).

The ink was scarcely dry on the Agreement in Principle when the very organizations which had campaigned for years to brand PacifiCorp and principle owner Warren Buffett as an outside corporate heavyweight with its foot on the neck of Klamath River communities were positively gushing over the company’s civic mindedness. One wonders whether the rank and file who took off work to journey to protests in Portland and Omaha are confused by the about face.

But while the dominant message that came through media reports was that the AIP is a positive step toward dam removal, careful analysis of the Agreement reveals that it actually makes dam removal farther off and more difficult to achieve, Here’s why:

The AIP calls for 12 years of “studies” before a decision is made on whether or not to take out the dams. And when that decision comes it will not be made by the California Water Quality Control Board or even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but by the federal Administration which is in office in 2020. In the meantime PacifiCorp will continue to operate the dams and the dams – through their impact on water quality – will continue to contribute significantly to the fish disease epidemic in the Klamath River which is claiming thousands (and perhaps millions) of juvenile salmon and steelhead each year on their way to the ocean.

But that is not the worst part.

According to the AIP the decision on whether to take out the dams will be based on Cost Benefit Analysis. Cost Benefit Analysis is notorious among environmentalists because it has been a principle tool the Bush Administration has used to avoid environmental protection. In fact, a case was argued before the Supreme Court just this week in which environmental groups criticized Cost Benefit Analysis because it is subject to political manipulation. In the case before the high court, public utilities seek reinstatement of a Bush Administration regulation that environmentalists had successfully overturned in lower courts. The Bush regulation gutted the Clean Water Act mandate stating that when utilities upgrade or refurbish power plants they must put in new technology which eliminates water and air pollution. Utilities could avoid the clean technology mandate under the Bush regulation if the cost of the new cleaner technology failed cost-benefit analysis. All Things Considered reported on the case yesterday.

Basing a decision on whether or not to remove the dams on Cost Benefit Analysis makes dam removal less likely – or at least more remote. This is so not only because Cost Benefit Analysis is subject to manipulation but also because using it changes the standard which the dams must meet to remain in place.

It is now widely recognized that PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams can not meet water quality standards established pursuant to the Clean Water Act. Therefore, the dams must install new technology to clean the water or they can not be legally relicensed and must be removed. That new clean water technology – coupled with the fish passage requirements already ordered - would cost more than the aging plants are worth. Removing the dams would then be the best business decision for the company.

The AIP avoids this result. It puts the Clean Water Act on the shelf for 12 years and substitutes Cost Benefit Analysis for Water Quality as the standard by which the dams will be judged. And if Cost Benefit Analysis makes it into legislation to implement a dam and water deal there is the possibility that the Klamath dams could be exempted entirely from the Clean Water Act. That would clear the way for them to be legally relicensed.

But why would the Karuk Tribe and the Yurok Tribe which have been among the staunchest defenders of the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon agree to such a deal? That is a question which increasing numbers of these tribes’ members are also asking.

In such cases it is prudent to head ancient wisdom and "follow the money". In this case the AIP itself provides part of the answer. Under the AIP PacifiCorp would devote at least $500,000 per year for 12 years to water quality, engineering and other studies. With water quality and fisheries departments in place, the tribes are well positioned to receive some of these contracts. And these departments are in a bind because they are dependent on federal and state grants which have dwindled in recent years.

The rest of the $5 million or more that will be dispensed over 12 years will be picked up by state agencies – a fact which also helps explain their support. Essentially, PacifiCorp is paying half a million dollars a year so that its dams can avoid complying with the Clean Water Act for 12 years. If the Cost-Benefit Analysis says dam decommissioning is not economical, the whole process of relicensing the dams begins again. That process has already taken up the better part of a decade.

The question which is not being faced is this: Can Klamath Salmon survive 12 to 20 more years with the Klamath River dams in place? A new study released by CalTrout appears to suggest that - while the dams are only one among several factors - wild Klamath River Coho Salmon may be only a memory when the dams come down (if they ever do).

Klamath Deal dissenters – the Northcoast Environmental Center, Water Watch and Oregon Wild – have done a good job pointing out problems with the AIP and the previous Water Deal. But these organizations have yet to clearly articulate an alternative path to dam removal. This lack of a well articulated alternative strategy that leads to dam removal remains the main argument which supporters are using to promote both the Dam Deal and the Water Deal which they will seek to join together before taking the whole package to Congress. Until opponents of what can now be called the Dam and Water Deal clearly articulate an alternative path, that argument will remain potent.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Klamath Dam Deal - Is there a linkage to more dam building?

Since it was announced late last week, dozens of articles and press releases have appeared about the "Agreement in Principle" to remove four of the five dams on the Klamath River which are owned by Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp. But only one of those articles (as far as we can tell) has linked the Klamath dam deal to plans by the Schwarzenegger Administration to build two new dams and reservoirs in the Sacramento Valley as well as a "discrete conveyance" to carry Northern California (including Trinity River) water around the Sacramento Delta and to corporate farms and cities in Southern California. That one article is by Dan Backer and it appeared on the Bay Area Indy Media web site. The article is reprinted below as well as a comment on it by Klamath River Advocate Felice Pace which also appeared on the BAIM web site. Felice Pace is KlamBlog's principle author.

Saturday Nov 15th, 2008 12:44 PM

Is Schwarzenegger Trading Klamath Dam Removal for the Destruction of the Delta?

by Dan Bacher

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger never misses an opportunity to push his environmentally destructive and enormously costly $ 9.3 billion water bond proposal to build two new reservoirs and "improved conveyance" - the peripheral canal.

True to his role as the "Fish Terminator," the Governor used a press conference that he appeared at with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Mike Chrisman, California Secretary of Resources, in Los Angeles Friday to promote building new dams in California the day after an agreement in principle was reached between Oregon, California, PacifiCorp and the Bush administration over Klamath Dam removal.

"We are here today to celebrate something really big, which is a great victory for the environment of California," Schwarzenegger gushed. "With the Klamath River Agreement we are making actual history, because this will be the biggest dam removal project ever in the history and the biggest one in the United States. So this is great for California and this is really great also for Oregon."

He then touted the tentative pact as a consensus-style, win-win situation for the Klamath Basin. "And I'm very proud that everyone here worked together, because something like this cannot be done if not everyone is cooperating and working together, if it is environmentalists, if it is the farmers, the Native American tribes, salmon fishermen, the state and the federal agencies, the PacifiCorp, everyone, and I want to thank them all for their great cooperation. Everyone cares so much about the magnificent river and also the water quality and the fish population, and that is why this came about," Schwarzenegger gushed.

After making that statement, of course, Schwarzenegger just had to promote building new dams and sub-surface water storage, although he didn't specifically mention "improved conveyance" - the peripheral canal. In numerous press conferences and photo opportunities over the past two years, Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein have campaigned for a water bond measure that would two new unneeded reservoirs, Temperance Flats on the San Joaquin River and Sites on the west side of the Sacramento Valley, in spite of the fact that water in both watersheds is dramatically over-appropriated already and the chances are that these dams would never fill anyway.

"Now, let me just say that we all know that we have a very serious water problem in California and, of course, we want to make sure that we build more water storage, above-the-ground and below-the-ground water storage, but they have to be strategically located," stated Schwarzenegger, changing from his role as the "Green Governor" to "Arnold the Dam Builder."

"So this is why it is important that we continue building those, even though we want to take four down," Scharzenegger claimed. "I've been worried, of course, about our declining salmon population, and with this agreement here we are setting the stage for the return of the historic salmon runs on the Klamath River."

Missed in most media reports of the agreement is Schwarzenegger's expectation that this agreement could become a "quid pro quo" to sacrifice the California Delta fish and Central Valley chinook salmon species, now in an unpredented state of collapse, for removing dams on the Klamath.

A coalition of recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Indian Tribes, conservationists and Delta farmers is strongly opposing Schwarzenegger's campaign to put a water bond including a peripheral canal and more dams on the ballot this coming year. Although massive opposition to dams and the canal prevented the Governor and allies from putting the proposal on the November ballot, dam and canal opponents fear that he and his corporate agribusiness backers will try to get the water bond on the June ballot.

Supporters of fish restoration in the Central Valley and the Delta fear that the water bond will result in building the infrastructure to increase water exports out of the Delta to Southern California and drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Central Valley chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, striped bass and other fish populations have crashed in recent years, due to record increases in water exports, declining water quality and other factors. More dams and a peripheral canal would only exacerbate the deplorable condition of Delta fish and Central Valley chinook salmon, fish advocates point out.

After Schwarzenegger spoke, Kempthorne and Chrisman lauded the Klamath agreement also and praised Schwarzenegger for his environmental "leadership."

"If the data collected during the next four years shows that removal is environmentally prudent, the target for removing all four of the dams is the year 2020," said Kempthorne. "I appreciate the great leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger not only for staying at the table for these negotiations, but also for providing a platform by which Californians and Oregonians will have a future in the Klamath Basin through the restoration agreement."

I love it - here we have Kempthorne, the Secretary of the Interior for the worst-ever administration for fish and the environment in U.S. history, praising Schwarzenegger, the worst-ever Governor for fish and the environment in California history, for the Governor's "great leadership" on the environment!

The Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes, California Trout, Trout Unlimited, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, American Rivers, two farming organizations and other conservation groups are touting the pact, after several long years of negotiations in the parallel Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement process, as being an important first step toward dam removal and the restoration of the declining salmon runs of the Klamath River.

The Hoopa Valley Tribe, North Coast Environmental Center and Oregon Wild are opposing the agreement for a variety of reasons, most notably because the agreement is non-binding and unenforceable and could become a bailout for Klamath Basin agriculture.

Friends of the River Questions Pact

Friends of the River, a statewide conservation organization based in Sacramento, is critical of the agreement for a multitude of reasons, including the timing of the agreement's release as well as its controversial content, including the linking of Klamath Restoration to Schwarzenegger's water bond proposal.

"The actual agreement did not become available to all Klamath settlement stakeholders until the afternoon of November 12 when members of the Klamath Settlement Group received a briefing from state and federal officials and PacifiCorp," said Steven Evans and Kelly Catlett of Friends of the River (FOR) in a statement Friday. "The agreement has not been approved by numerous other stakeholders, including Friends of the River, that have been involved in the federal relicensing of the Klamath River hydro dams for several years. It remains purely a product produced and endorsed by a sub-set of parties."

The organization is also wary of the many conditions that need to be met for dam removal to take place. These conditions include:

• Full protection for PacifiCorp from all liability.

• Placing a $200 million cap on dam removal costs to be recovered from Oregon and California ratepayers.

• A commitment from the State of California to provide $250 million in dam removal costs through a water bond to be approved by state voters.

• A commitment to attempt federal legislation to authorize and fund the controversial $1 billion Klamath Basin Settlement deal, which would provide water and power guarantees to Klamath Basin farmers.

• Agreement by the states to forego exercising their 401 permitting authority under the Clean Water Act to reduce polluted discharge from the dams.

• State legislation bypassing the authority of the respective state utility commissions concerning ratepayer cost recovery.

• Putting the FERC relicensing process on hold until a federal study is completed by 2012 that will determine whether the benefits of dam removal justify the cost.

"Although Friends of the River believes that a concession in writing from PacifiCorp to remove the dams is a step in the right direction, we have significant concerns about the workability of the agreement in principle," Evans and Catlett said. "Foremost, the agreement has so many prerequisites that MUST occur before dam removal can happen that it would likely never result in the removal of any dams."

Echoing my concerns that Schwarzenegger is trying to link Klamath Dam removal to the building of new dams in the Central Valley, Evans and Catlett noted that California will likely rely on a proposed water bond to be approved by the voters in 2009 to provide the $250 million for river restoration outlined in the agreement.

"Conservationists will oppose this water bond if it also includes billions of dollars to build new or enlarge existing dams in California," they stated. "Coupled with the fact that voters may be leery of approving a multi-billion bond as the state economy continues to melt down, the prospect of the state to meet its obligation under the agreement seems dubious."

They also said the agreement in principle does not spell out who will be responsible for dam removal costs above and beyond the $450 million that would supposedly be covered by ratepayers and the State of California.

"The assumption that the federal government will produce the legislation and authorizations needed to implement the Klamath Basin Settlement is also questionable," they contended. "Opposition has delayed by more than two years the congressional approval of similar legislation to implement the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement. With a price tag that is four times larger than the San Joaquin Settlement and given the declining state of the economy, it seems likely that any Klamath Basin Settlement legislation would be subject to similar attacks, particularly since many groups in Oregon and California oppose the Basin Settlement."

The federal and state agencies hope to come to a final agreement with PacifiCorp in June 2009. The process will include other stakeholders moving forward, but in what capacity is still undetermined at this time, according to Evans and Catlett.

They are also concerned that interim measures adopted until dam removal takes place will be not sufficient to protect salmon and steelhead populations hammered by low, warm water conditions nor protect people, fish, animals from the toxic algae blooms created by PacifiCorp's Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs on the Klamath. While recreational and commercial salmon fishing this year was closed in ocean waters off California and Oregon, due to the collapse of Central Valley fall run chinook salmon, in 2006 commercial salmon fishing was severely restricted because of the Klamath River salmon decline spurred by the Bush administration-engineered fish kills of 2002.

"It is unclear whether interim operations measures adopted after the final agreement is signed in June 2009 will be sufficient to reduce pollution in the Klamath River and adequately protect salmon and steelhead," they concluded. "But these are the measures that will be in place until the dams are actually removed."

I have worked closely on both the Klamath and California Delta restoration battles with recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, California Indian Tribes, farmers and environmentalists -and I greatly respect and support all of the stakeholders for the enormous time, money and effort that they have put into the battle to bring down Warren Buffett's Klamath River dams.

I agree with FOR that the unprecedented concession in writing from PacifiCorp to remove the dams on Thursday is a step in the right direction. I also agree with Evans and Catlett in their critical assessment of the Klamath agreement, particularly in regard to the apparent trade off between Klamath dam removal and the construction of new dams that Schwarzenegger and the Bush administration are pushing.

The final agreement is set to be signed by the states, federal government and PacifiCorp in June 2009. This gives us time to put intense and unrelenting political pressure on the incoming Obama administration to remove any connection to a canal/dam water bond in this agreement, as well strike out other troubling provisions of the tentative agreement.

This is a non binding agreement only and hopefully a more fish-friendly and environmentally-proactive administration in Washington willl craft an improved final agreement that doesn't trade dam removal for new dams and a peripheral canal - that doesn't restore the Klamath River at the expense of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest and most significant estuary on the West Coast. We must restore both the Delta and Klamath River at the same time - and must emphasize to the incoming Obama administration the urgent need to restore the declining salmon and other fish populations in both watersheds!

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Comment by Felice Pace on 11/16/08:

It is difficult to understand why the Pacific Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA) has joined the Bush Administration and Governor Schwarzenegger in pushing a Klamath River deal that on balance does not appear to be in the interest of salmon and salmon fishermen. Not only is there the linkage to dam building and the peripheral canal in the Central Valley but the Klamath Deal would put farmers ahead of fish in Klamath River water allocation and require leasing water from irrigation interests in order to provide the flows needed by salmon during drought years.

PCFFA and the environmental groups which have signaled support for the Klamath Deal (American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and Cal Trout) are throwing away an opportunity to do something much better for the Klamath River and its salmon. PacifiCorp's Klamath dams can not be legally relicensed because they can not be certified as meeting water quality standards. By pursuing that angle, getting PacifiCorp into court and then pursuing a settlement those who want the dams out could strike a much better deal and avoid providing Governor Schwarzenegger with cover for his Central Valley dam building ambitions.

Here's a link to the original article at Bay Area Indy Media:

Your comments about the Klamath Dam Deal are welcome and encouraged

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

California Department of Fish and Game proposes sweeping Coho “Take” and “Stream Alteration” local-control permits for Shasta and Scott River Ag

The California Department of Fish & Game has published Draft Environmental Impact Reports (DEIRs) for the proposed Scott River Watershed-Wide Permitting Program and the proposed Shasta River Watershed-Wide Permitting Program. If granted, the proposed permits would “Cover” all agricultural operations of participating landowners and allow “Take” of Coho salmon which are listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. The sweeping permit programs would be administered by the Shasta and Siskiyou Resource Conservation Districts which are appointed by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors and which are dominated by ranchers and farmers.

The DEIRs for the Shasta and the Scott respectively are available at the Department of Fish & Game’s web site. Comments on the DEIRs are due on or before December 9, 2008. Comments should be directed to:

Mr. Bob Williams
Department of Fish and Game
601 Locust Street
Redding, CA 96001

Fax: 530-225-2381

Comments can also be submitted by e-mail. The email address for comments on the Scott DEIR is:; The e-mail address for Shasta DEIR comments is:

The public may also submit verbal and written comments at public meetings which have been scheduled on the DEIRs. The Scott meeting will take place at the Fort Jones Community Center on November 18, 2008 from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. The Fort Jones Community Center is located at 11960 East Street in Fort Jones. The Shasta meeting has been scheduled at the Siskiyou County Superior Court on November 19, 2008 from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. The Siskiyou County Superior Court is located at 311 Fourth Street in Yreka.

Here is how the Department of Fish & Game describes the purpose of the permit programs:

The primary purpose of the Program is to facilitate compliance by Program participants with Fish and Game Code Section 1600 et seq., and with respect to coho salmon, the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) (Fish and Game Code, §2050 et seq.) while conducting specific routine agricultural activities the Program covers. Farmers and ranchers in the Program area may participate in the Program. Other participants include the Shasta Valley and Siskiyou Resource Conservation Districts which will perform restoration activities under the Program. Department of Water Resources will also participate in the Program because it provides watermaster service in the Program area, and as part of that responsibility delivers water to farmers and ranchers.

Fish advocates are not opposed to the idea of providing farmers and ranchers in the Shasta and Scott River Valleys with workable ways to obtain stream alteration permits or with programs by which they can comply with legal requirements. However, those who advocate for Klamath Salmon say the permit programs proposed for the Shasta and Scott are fatally flawed and do not comply with the California Endangered Species Act and other applicable laws. Advocates also say that granting these permits would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied elsewhere in the state and that Coho Salmon Recovery will not be possible in these watersheds if the permit programs are implemented in the form they are proposed.

Here are the “fatal flaws” which salmon advocates have identified:

  • The permits are designed to cover not just irrigation water diversions from streams but ALL agricultural operations of participating landowners. This includes unregulated activities - including groundwater pumping - which are likely to be negatively impacting stream flow. In the Scott, for example, there is a peer reviewed study (see abstract at the end of this post) indicating that unregulated groundwater pumping (which has doubled since the 1950s and now accounts for about half of all irrigation in the Scott) is responsible for 60% of the reduction in Scott River streamflow. Adjudicated rights of the Forest Service to flows in the Scott for fish are now not met in the late summer and fall even in average water years. Chinook migration is delayed in even average water years; in drought years Chinook don't reach the Scott Valley and Coho migration has been delayed due to insurmountable salmon migration barriers caused by low river flow. In very dry years the Scott River now completely dries up before it leaves the Scott Valley. Advocates say the Shasta has similar problems with groundwater and that any riparian landowner can pump unlimited amounts of water from the Shasta River.

  • The Department of Fish and Game proposes to put the farmer and rancher dominated Siskiyou and Shasta Resource Conservation Districts in charge of enforcing stream alteration permits and the California ESA. Advocates liken this to putting the proverbial fox in charge of the proverbial hen house. They say that the Department of Fish and Game can not legally delegate its permitting and enforcement authorities to locally appointed boards. The Resource Conservation Districts were not set up as regulatory agencies and it is doubtful that their farmer and rancher dominated boards would be willing to enforce rules and regulations on their neighbors.


Here’s the scientific journal abstract of the peer-review study which found that 60% of the reduction in Scott River streamflow can not be attributed to changes in climate and snowpack and are likely related to unregulated groundwater pumping:

Relative Effects of Climate and Water Use on Base-Flow Trends in the Lower Klamath Basin

Authors: Van Kirk, Robert W.1; Naman, Seth W.2

Source: JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Volume 44, Number 4, August 2008 , pp. 1035-1052(18)

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing


Since the 1940s, snow water equivalent (SWE) has decreased throughout the Pacific Northwest, while water use has increased. Climate has been proposed as the primary cause of base-flow decline in the Scott River, an important coho salmon rearing tributary in the Klamath Basin. We took a comparative-basin approach to estimating the relative contributions of climatic and non-climatic factors to this decline. We used permutation tests to compare discharge in 5 streams and 16 snow courses between “historic” (1942-1976) and “modern” (1977-2005) time periods, defined by cool and warm phases, respectively, of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. April 1 SWE decreased significantly at most snow courses lower than 1,800 m in elevation and increased slightly at higher elevations. Correspondingly, base flow decreased significantly in the two streams with the lowest latitude-adjusted elevation and increased slightly in two higher-elevation streams. Base-flow decline in the Scott River, the only study stream heavily utilized for irrigation, was larger than that in all other streams and larger than predicted by elevation. Based on comparison with a neighboring stream draining wilderness, we estimate that 39% of the observed 10 Mm3 decline in July 1-October 22 discharge in the Scott River is explained by regional-scale climatic factors. The remainder of the decline is attributable to local factors, which include an increase in irrigation withdrawal from 48 to 103 Mm3/year since the 1950s.

Keywords: surface water hydrology; climate variability/change; rivers/streams; Klamath River; salmon; permutation tests

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2008.00212.x

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, Idaho State University, 921 S. 8th Ave., Stop 8085, Pocatello, Idaho 83209 2: Research Assistant, Department of Fisheries Biology, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California 95521.

Links for this article


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

There's a new Klamath Riverkeeper and an Opportunity to help the Scott River

There's a new Klamath Riverkeeper!

EricaTerence has been selected for the position of Klamath Riverkeeper. She joins Scott Harding (Executive Director) and Melena Marvin (Outreach & Science Director) on the KR staff.

Erica grew up on the Salmon River and attended the Forks of Salmon school. Her parents - Malcolm and Susan - came to Black Bear Ranch many years ago and now live at Butler Flat on the lower Salmon River. Erica previously worked for the Northcoast Environmental Center as ECONEWS editor and on Klamath River issues. KlamBlog wishes Erica great success as Klamath Riverkeeper!

The KR web site is You can read KR's Klamath River News there or sign up for an e-mail copy.

Tell the Water Board that Scott water quality needs more help!

There are currently three outstanding opportunities to improve water quality in the Scott River. The Scott River Sediment and Temperature TMDL Action Plan is currently being implemented by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board. As part of Implementing the Scott TMDL, the NCWQCB is developing MOUs with the Forest Service and BLM to address sediment and temperature issues. Road management is a key sediment issue.

Research and experience indicate that native surface (dirt) and gravel roads are responsible for much of the sediment problem. Failure to properly maintain the roads has been shown to accelerate road failure, landslides and sediment delivery to streams The Forest Service and BLM have thousands of miles of these roads in the Scott watershed. Therefore the MOUs with the Forest Service and BLM should address ROAD MAINTENANCE. The Forest Service has funding to maintain less than 25% of national forest roads. This failure to maintain roads leads sooner or later to sediment delivery to streams. Klamath River advocates will want to insist that Road Maintenance is adequately addressed in the MOUs.

The situation is even worse on private industrial timberlands but there is no evidence that the Water Board is addressing the lack of maintenance on private gravel and dirt (native surface) roads. Siskiyou County has refused to adopt a grading ordinance. The Water Board should therefore work directly with large landowners (the timber companies) to address the lack of road maintenance on industrial timberlands.

The NCWQCB is also in the process of deciding when a Grazing Management Plan will be required on the Scott. Public land grazing is notoriously unmanaged in the Scott River Basin and throughout the Klamath Mountains. Cattle are released into the wilderness in summer and basically left to fend for themselves. As a result they often congregate in riparian areas and in the streams themselves as well as in wet meadows. In fact, at times the Forest Service actually orders the ranchers to hold the bovines in small lower pastures to allow upper pastures time to go to seed. This happens when we have a late spring. When cattle are confined to small lower pastures they hang out in or near the streams trampling the banks and eating the riparian vegetation. When winter storms come the trampled banks bleed sediment into streams. The loss of riparian vegetation leads to elevated stream temperature. Degraded stream condition is the result. This can be avoided if the rancher has a ranch hand ride the range moving the cattle and salt blocks. In bygone days teenagers had the job of riding the upper range often staying in the wilderness all summer long. But this traditional cultural activity is rarely if ever practiced today.

To address the public land grazing issue the MOUs being developed with the Forest Service and BLM should commit the agencies to requiring herding and other management actions to prevent bovines from congregating in riparian areas with associated bank trampling sedimentation and negative impacts on stream temperature.

Those who wish to advocate for road maintenance requirements and improved grazing management in the Scott River Watershed in order to reduce sedimentation and lower stream temperature should contact Catherine Kulhman, Executive Officer of the North Coast Water Quality Control Board at 707-576-2225 or Be sure to let her know that your comment is about Scott River TMDL Action Plan implementation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Water Quality hearings for Klamath Dams kick of at Klamath and Eureka

Inability to comply with water quality standards may prove to be the Achilles Heal which sinks PacifiCorp’s drive to relicense four of its five Klamath River Dams and turn a fifth dam over to the Bureau of Reclamation or Upper Basin Irrigation Interests. Some Klamath commentators – including KlamBlog – believe PacifiCorp is not really interested in relicensing the dams but is projecting a pro-relicensing stance so that it can get the taxpayers to pay for decommissioning its Klamath Hydroelectric Project. If the dams and powerhouses can not be relicensed because they can’t meet water quality standards – or because meeting those standards would be too expensive – PacifiCorp might be on the hook for the cost of removing them.

Yesterday – October 20th 2008 – the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) kicked off “scoping meetings” which eventually will be held across the Klamath River Basin and in Sacramento. The process will lead to a decision by the State Board about whether the Klamath River dams can comply with the Clean Water Act. The state must certify compliance with water quality standards enshrined in the North Coast Basin Plan before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can issue a license for PacifiCorp to operate the hydroelectric dams. If the State of California decides the dams can not be operated in a way that protects water quality, no license can be issued and PacifiCorp could be financially responsible for removing its Klamath River dams and powerhouses.

The “scoping meetings” kicked off yesterday in Eureka and near the mouth of the Klamath River in Klamath. About 100 people attended the Klamath Meeting hosted by the Yurok Tribe which provided a meal for all who attended featuring salmon and traditional fry bread.

Two different sets of “talking points” were available at the meeting. While you could not tell who had prepared the talking points (there was no heading or letterhead on the copies distributed) one set was said to come from the Karuk Tribe’s Natural Resources Department. KlamBlog was able to confirm that the other “talking points” came from Klamath Riverkeeper’s web site.

But most of those who spoke in Klamath did not cover technical issues but rather talked from the heart about what they remembered of the River from former days or were told by elders. Several tribal members spoke about getting rashes when they come in contact with Klamath River water and about the fear they feel when their children or other people’s children come in contact with the water.

Here are a few highlights of the comments:

  • Bob McConnell pointed out that water quality is an “environmental justice” issue for the Yurok People. Bob is a tribal member and employee working to identify and protect archeological sites.

  • David O’Neil talked about getting a rash just from collecting willow roots along the margins of the River. Willow roots are used in traditional Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa basketry.

  • Ray Mattz spoke about the salmon wars and the lawsuit that won Yurok’s the right to fish for salmon in traditional ways. He said that he lost a dog which died because it drank water from the toxic river and pointed out that he too gets rashes when he works on the River.

  • Peggy O’Neil called attention to all the money PacifiCorp continues to pull out of this Basin while the environmental and economic costs are exported downriver.

  • Jim McQuillen talked about the Brush Dance site near the mouth of the river and how he partook in a sweat with some of the younger boys there recently. After sweating, the boys and he wanted to swim in the river to cool off as this had been done for untold ages. But they decided against swimming due to the epidemic of rashes and fear of toxic algae poisoning.

  • Dave Gensaw delivered a powerful historical and cultural perspective. He wrapped up an emotional talk by calling for the bureaucrats to “Let the River run free!”

Members of the State Water Quality Board did not attend the Klamath meeting;

Below are the dates and locations of the rest of the scoping meetings. Comments can also be provided until November 17th at 4 PM by e-mail, USPS mail or fax to:

Attention: Jennifer Watts

State Water Resources Control Board


Sacramento, CA 95812-2000

Phone: (916) 341-5397 Fax: (916) 341-5400

A copy of the Notice of Preparation of the Environmental Impact Report (Scoping Notice) for the certification is available on line.

Upcoming Scoping Meetings:

October 21, 2008:

  • noon – 2 p.m: Orleans Public Karuk Community Center, 39051 State Hwy. 96, Orleans, CA 95556, (530) 627-3446 x 0

  • 6 p.m. – 8 p.m: Yreka High School Student Union, 400 Preece Way, Yreka, CA 96097, (530) 842-2521

October 29, 2008

  • 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Sacramento Public California EPA Bldg., Byron Sher Auditorium, 1001 “I” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

November 3, 2008

  • 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Sacramento Agency California EPA Bldg., Sierra Hearing Room, 1001 “I” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

The Sacramento meetings will be webcast and can be accessed via a toll free call in number. Here’s a portion of the Notice which tells how to go about tuning in remotely to the Sacramento meetings and where to go if you have concerns or need additional information:

The Sacramento meetings will be webcast live on the California Environmental Protection Agency website, at Additionally, a toll-free call-in number, 877-213-1782, will be available for telephonic participation. Please contact Debra Cole of ENTRIX, at (925) 935-9920 or, to receive the telephonic participation code. The Sacramento meetings will be documented with audio and visual recording. The Eureka, Yreka, Orleans, and Klamath meetings will be documented by transcript. It is possible that one or more members of the State Water Board will attend one or more of these meetings. In case a quorum of State Water Board members attend, this notice serves as notice under Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, Government Code, section 11200 et seq. No decisions will be made at the CEQA scoping meetings.

If you have additional questions concerning the meetings, the agenda, or would like to make a request for reasonable accommodation for disability please contact: Larry Wise of ENTRIX Inc. at: or (925) 935-9920.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Is it time to disband the Klamath Settlement Group?

Among the important Klamath River Basin news item which no mainstream media outlets have reported are several meetings of the Klamath Settlement Group (KSG) which certain members of the group say have taken place since the January release of the proposed Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement. The Agreement is also known as "Draft 11" and (by others including KlamBlog) as the Water Deal. According to one prominent KSG member:

"Since Jan 15th there have of course been numerous intervening sub-group and committee meetings and efforts to negotiate further on some last sticking points and obviously un-finished sections (such as the Governance Section App. C) , including a formal March 6-7 Full Group meeting over two days…." (emphasis added)

KlamBlog asked other members of the Klamath Settlement Group to confirm this assertion in general and in particular that there had been a "formal March 6-7 Full Group meeting". Here is the question we put to members of the KSG's Conservation Caucus:

"It has been reported to KlamBlog that the KSG has been meeting and has agreed to changes to Draft 11 (released in January)? Is this information accurate? Will the public get to see a Draft 12 soon?"

Here are responses we received back:

  • "You are misinformed."
  • "I am not aware of KSG meetings."

We did receive one more response from a member of the Conservation Caucus but that individual refused to answer any questions because: "My schedule the next several days will prevent me for further responses or followup." Wow, some of these "conservation groups" have apparently become very important!

Based on these responses, KlamBlog concludes that there are meetings taking place concerning the proposed Water Deal but that some members of the Klamath Settlement Group are not being informed of those meetings.

KlamBlog got similar responses when we inquired whether members of the Klamath Settlement Group's Conservation Caucus supported the proposed Sense of Congress Resolution. KlamBlog readers will remember that the proposed Resolution was represented to aides of Northcoast Congressman Mike Thompson as having the "support" of all members of the Klamath Settlement Group (see KlamBlog's 9/23 post below), Here is one of the questions we posed and responses we received back from Conservation Caucus members:

  • Question: Did you support or oppose the resolution? Answer: Haven't seen it - can you provide me a copy?
  • Question: Did you support or oppose the resolution? Answer: There is no resolution to support or oppose at this time. And, there will not be one going forward. This question is moot.
  • Question: Did you support or oppose the resolution? Answer: I didn't know there was one to oppose or support.

There is something wrong with this picture.

On the one hand we have members of the Klamath Settlement Group who are claiming that serious negotiations over the proposed Water Deal are taking place – including an alleged meeting of the "full group" over two days! Meanwhile we have other members of the same Group who are saying the meetings did not take place and/or that they did not know about the meetings.

We also have members of the Klamath Settlement Group who represented to Members of Congress that all members of the Group supported the proposed Klamath Resolution while other members tell KlamBlog that they did not even know the proposed Resolution existed!

KlamBlog would like to know what is really going on? And we are betting that there are other citizens of the Klamath River Basin – and (hopefully) members of the Klamath Settlement Group and Members of Congress as well – who also want to know what is really going on.

There apparently is at least one member of the Klamath Settlement Group who does not want these discrepancies to be cleared up. According to this member "This question is moot" – In other words, KlamBlog should not dig deeper!

We disagree. As a very wise person once observed:

"The Past is Prologue to the Future."

KlamBlog believes that the manner in which the Klamath Settlement Group has conducted itself in the past gives the citizen's of the Klamath River Basin a fair idea of how this Group will behave in the future. We think citizens can expect members of the KSG to continue to misapply agreements so as to hide their actions from the citizens. We can also expect more attempts to influence the amount of water which the National Marine Fisheries Service will order released into the Klamath River for Coho salmon. And as soon as there is a dam agreement with PacifiCorp, we expect members of the KSG will once again rush off to Washington DC where they will misrepresent to members of Congress both support for and opposition to the Water Dealt.

We can expect certain dominant members of this Klamath Settlement Group group to continue to act in their own interest at the expense of the River and other competing interests.

KlamBlog has come to the conclusion that the Klamath Settlement Group can not serve as a forum capable of forging the sort of agreements we need in this Basin – agreements that are fair to all interested parties. We do not believe those who have assumed leadership of the KSG can be relied on to act in a trustworthy manner. Therefore, we call on other members of the Group to recognize that they are being used and that their good name is being dragged in the mud by those who would use the Group to further their own ends. Member groups need to recognize that their reputation is being lowered by virtue of participation in the Klamath Settlement Group. In the interest of the River, the Klamath Salmon and your own reputations it is time for these groups to quit the KSG.

Leaving the Klamath Settlement Group will not mean an end of attempts to achieve a broad agreement among all Klamath River Basin interests going forward. Before the Klamath Settlement Group began there was talk in the Basin of a Klamath Congress – a public forum whereby all interested citizens and all groups with interests in the Basin could come together voluntarily to share information, create solutions to problems and build a democratic and sustainable future for our Basin. The demise of the Klamath Settlement Group would revive those discussions and – if democratic leadership emerges – should lead directly to the formation of the Klamath Congress.


According to the web site of Ed Sheets – the consultant hired by the Department of Interior to facilitate development of the Water Deal – the Klamath Settlement Group is comprised of the following members:

Farmers and Ranchers (2): Klamath Water Users Association, Off-Project Water Users

Tribal (4): Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe

Federal (6): U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Commerce's National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and Fish and Wildlife Service.

State (4): California Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Water Resources Department

County (3): Humboldt County, Klamath County, Siskiyou County

Environmental Organizations (5): American Rivers, Friends of the River, Klamath Forest Alliance, National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, Northcoast Environmental Center.

Fishing Groups (4): California Trout, Northern California/Nevada Council Federation of Fly Fishers, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Trout Unlimited.

Restoration Groups (1) Salmon River Restoration Council

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Klamath Parochialism - What the region’s Mainstream Media are not reporting and why

Those who follow the usual news outlets in Klamath Country might conclude that Klamath River Basin environmental, fishing, tribal and irrigation interest groups are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what emerges from negotiations between PacifiCorp, the Bush Administration and the Governors of Oregon and California over the fate of five Klamath mainstem dams. But there is actually a lot of activity taking place which could impact the future of the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon. Unfortunately, most media outlets which cover Klamath River Basin issues only report when they get a press release telling them what to report. And groups which were once eager to trumpet their actions on behalf of the River and the Salmon have grown reticent. To continue the pretense of “Peace on the Klamath” some Klamath organizations have placed a lid on telling the media about anything that would suggest otherwise.

In addition, editors and reporters at news outlets in the Upper Basin apparently do not read or tune in to news outlets in the Lower Basin and vice versa. We may have become one river basin for purposes of policy and politics, but regional news outlets still treat the Klamath for the most part as if it were two basins – the Klamath Basin in Oregon and the Klamath River in California.

It is for these reasons that citizens who want to be well informed on Klamath issues rely on sources like KlamBlog and Klamath Basin Crisis.

Here are some recent examples of how parochial reporting on Klamath River Basin issues remains:
  • Support for the proposed Agreement: The Klamath Falls Herald and News is the newspaper of record for the Upper Klamath Basin. H&N’s editors strongly support the proposed Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (Water Deal) and have editorialized regularly on its behalf. But H&N’s editors have gone further: they have intentionally misreported support for the Deal. For example, the H&N recently reported that “commercial fishermen” support the Water Deal. But these editors are aware that the only organization which represents commercial fishermen in the negotiations which produced the Deal - the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) is on record as requiring further negotiations on 7 key issues – including a guarantee of water for salmon – before they could sign-on in support.
  • H&N editors also report that "many" environmental organizations support the proposed Water Dealand that only "a few" oppose it. Reality is more complex: the major environmental organizations active in the klamath River Basin are spit - some support the Deal released in January, some oppose it and others have not taken a position.
  • Head in the sand: Compared to newspapers which circulate in the lower Klamath River Basin, however, the Herald and News is doing a good job reporting on Klamath River Issues. Whether we consider the Del Norte Triplicate or the two Eureka-based newspapers - the Times Standard and the Reporter - or all three dailies together, reporting on developments in the Upper Klamath River Basin are next to non-existent. For example, none of these papers reported on the ongoing push in the Upper Basin to develop a new dam and reservoir even though the Long Lake water storage proposal could have major implications for the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon.
  • Nor have these newspapers reported on development of the Klamath Water and Power Agency which is designed to facilitate the Upper Basin’s Irrigation Elite’s plans to market water, take over the controversial Klamath Water Bank, control all water and power developments in the Lost River Sub-basin and take over (from PacifiCorp) operation of Keno Dam. These efforts by the Irrigation Elite amount to a strong move to consolidate their control of the Keno Reach of the Klamath River (which is also known as Lake Ewana). The Keno Reservoir currently has the worst water quality of any reach of the Klamath River and fish kills - including federally endangers Kuptu and Tsuam (sucker species) – occur there nearly each year. The Keno reach of the river is also likely to be the main bottleneck which salmon and steelhead face as they attempt to return to the Upper Klamath River Basin.
  • Clueless?: KlamBlog would be remiss if we did not mention the newspaper of record for the Middle Klamath River Basin – the Siskiyou Daily News. Even though this newspaper calls itself a “daily” it does not publish on weekends. KlamBlog admits that it rarely reads the SDN. But a search of the web site indicates that the newspaper has not covered the Long Lake storage proposal or the Klamath Water and Power Agency even though the paper’s home base (Yreka) is the county seat of Siskiyou County. Siskiyou County includes the Tule Lake Area where the Klamath Project’s most valuable farmland and its most valuable wildlife refuges (Lower Klamath and Tule Lake NWRs) are located.

Why don’t the Northcoast/Lower Klamath media report on Upper Basin issues, why do Upper Basin media outlets ignore what is going on in the Lower Basin, and why do mid-Klamath media not report regularly on key developments in the Lower and Upper Basin? KlamBlog thinks it is pure and simple parochialism. One thing is clear, however - until the citizens of the Klamath River Basin insist that news outlets report on the entire basin it is just not going to happen – at least not with any consistency.