Wednesday, January 16, 2008

National Public Radio buys Klamath Water Deal Spin – PCFFA supports the Deal!

This morning NPR’s Morning Edition news show aired a story on the proposed Klamath Water Deal which has now been publicly released. The news report conformed to KlamBlog’s prediction concerning how the release of the proposed Deal would be spun. But we did not predict the extent to which OPB and NPR would act as agents of that spin. This morning OPB and NPR essentially acted as advocates for those interests that stand to gain most from the Deal at the expense of the Klamath River and its salmon.

We suspect the tone and content of the OPB and NPR stories was orchestrated by the powerful Klamath Irrigation Elitethat small group of wealthy irrigators who get subsidized water through the federal Klamath Project. The OPB story – later picked up and augmented by NPR - originated out of Bend, a rural part of Oregon. But OPB is based in Portland. So the Klamath story was written by a rural OPB stringer – one who, based on the story’s content, appears to favors irrigation interests.

As of our last check, The NPR story was not available on their web site but you can read or listen to the OPB story at

Among their journalistic failures, OPB and NPR identified opposition to the Deal with “larger environmental groups” when in reality it is the “larger” environmental groups like American Rivers who are supporting the Deal while smaller, local groups like Klamath Forest Alliance and the Northcoast Environmental Center have yet to decide whether they will support or oppose it.

The NPR story also featured a statement by Glen Spain, representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations. Mr. Spain expressed strong support for the Deal claiming that it already has created “unity” in the Basin. Spain, of course, knows very well that the Deal has already created more disunity in the Klamath River Basin than we have seen in a decade. In fact, the Deal has destroyed the Klamath Basin Coalition which Glen Spain lead for the past several years. That coalition – the group which filed and won the only litigation that has actually put more water into the Klamath River – is now in tatters, essentially if not formally defunct. This is a major blow to Klamath salmon because – contrary to what many folks have been lead to believe - this is the only group that has actually taken action that resulted in more water in the River to support salmon runs.

Both NPR and OPB ignored those who put out press statements opposing the deal (including Oregon Wild, Water Watch of Oregon and the Hoopa Tribe – a copy of the Hoopa Tribe’s press release is reprinted below). Instead these so-called journalists parroted almost word for word the positions of those who are promoting a Klamath Water Deal that is controversial, does not enjoy the support of “26 groups”, is not necessary for dam removal and – according to reviews by two sets of independent scientists - will not recover Klamath River Salmon. These are each and all false claims which NPR and OPB should have been able to identify and debunk.

Here are the specifics of the disinformation included in the OPB and NPR reports:

  • "Twenty-six groups, including the government, Native American tribes, and fishermen proposed a deal Tuesday to restore salmon to the Klamath River."

This statement is untrue. It is true that the representatives of most of the 26 groups participating in the secret negotiations indicated that they would personally support the proposed deal but their organizations have not endorsed it. When the organizations do vote, KlamBlog predict that several of the 26 groups will follow the lead of the Hoopa Tribe and will choose to actively oppose the proposed deal.

  • "Tucker says the proposed settlement is predicated on the destruction of those dams."

The connection which has been made between dam removal and the proposed water deal released today is a false connection. In fact (as you can read in older KlamBlog posts) the proposed Water Deal is likely to make removal of the PacifiCorp dams more difficult and less likely.

  • "Larger environmental groups have called it a billion-dollar handout to farmers and friends of the Bush Administration."

Two environmental groups have come out in opposition: Oregon Wild and Water Watch. Use of the term “larger” in this context is pejorative and reflects the way those promoting the Deal want to spin this issue, i.e. large environmental groups against small local tribes and farmers. The reality is that the smallest environmental groups involved – the Klamath Forest Alliance and the Northcoast Environmental Center - are still debating whether or not to support the Deal. Unfortunately those who control the spin chose to interpret no decision as support and OPB and NPR went along with that spin. Meanwhile leaders of these two organizations have failed (so far) to publicly clarify their groups’ positions.

Also among those members of the “26 groups” is Humboldt County which will consider its position on the proposed Deal in open session on Tuesday January 22 in Eureka. Their representative during the secret negotiations, Jill Geist, is said to be a strong supporter of the Deal. Tuesday’s meeting is shaping up to be very interesting. Look for deal supporters to be there and to dominate while those environmental groups which are involved and are also based in Humboldt County - the Klamath Forest Alliance and the Northcoast Environmental Center - may still be debating the Deal internally

When the dust settles KlamBlog expects that most of the “large” non-local environmental groups involved in the secret negotiations (American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and Friends of the River) will decide to support the Deal. These organizations have no long term commitment to the Klamath River and they will not have to live with the consequences if this Deal becomes law.

While the reality that our Public Radio establishment has been controlled by certain special interests is disheartening, there is one good thing about today’s events: A proposed Deal that has been kept secret from those who will be most affected by it is now public. KlamBlog is at work analyzing what is proposed in the 137 pages as well as an equal volume in appendices. Look for our analysis of key provisions soon. KlamBlog will identify advantages and disadvantages of 12 key components of the Deal. We will also identify alternative approaches to addressing these key issues.

So far the Deal is the only proposal on the table. But soon alternatives will be articulated. Then the public will be able to see and judge competing visions for the future of the Klamath River Basin. LET THE PUBLIC DEBATE BEGIN!


Here’s the Hoopa Tribe’s press release:

Media Contacts:
Clifford Lyle Marshall (530) 625-4211 ext. 161
Mike Orcutt (530) 625-4267 ext. 13
Tom Schlosser (206) 386-5200



Hoopa, Calif. – The Hoopa Valley Tribe of northern California will not endorse
the latest draft of the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KRBRA) because the
agreement lacks adequate water assurances for fish. Despite being in the minority among
the negotiators, Tribal Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall said Hoopa would never waive
its fishery-based water rights, as demanded by federal and other negotiators, in a deal
providing no assurances for fisheries restoration.

“What began as dam removal negotiations got tuned into a water deal.
PacifiCorp left the room two years ago and negotiations with the company have since
been separate from this negotiation. The terms of this so-called restoration agreement
make the right to divert water for irrigation the top priority, trumping salmon water needs
and the best available science on the river,” Marshall said. “Such an upside down deal
threatens the goal of restoration and the Hoopa Tribe’s fishing rights,” Hoopa
Councilman Joe LeMieux said. “We cannot waive the rights of generations to come.
Dangling a carrot like this will not work for Hoopa.”

The Hoopa objections come after three years of negotiations with farm irrigators,
environmental and fishing groups, government agencies, counties, and other tribes. The
Tribe has been a leading advocate to protect water rights and fish habitat in the Klamath
and Trinity rivers that run through their reservation. “We have worked for years with all
the parties to forge an agreement that genuinely restores Klamath River salmon habitat.
Unfortunately, this deal locks away too much water for irrigators with no recourse for
salmon when the fish need more water. Salmon need enough water, plain and simple,”
he said.

Marshall said the proposed billion dollar deal altogether ignores the National
Academy of Science’s recommendations in its November 2007 report on the U.S. -
contracted Hardy Phase II Instream Flow Assessment in the Klamath River.
Congressional members have urged the use of the Hardy Report to protect coho salmon
from jeopardy. Marshall said the deal also dismisses the only independent scientific
reviews of the agreement itself. “This latest draft is not a modern science-based river
restoration plan. It looks more like an old West irrigation deal, guarantees for irrigators,
empty promises for the Indians.”

The Tribal Chairman also said that agreement proponents talk about helping the river’s fish, but no real fisheries restoration objectives, standards, or assurances are in the agreement. “Some parties seem to think there’s no other way to remove the dams. The declining fish population tells us the river is being compromised to death. Hoopa will retain its rights to defend the Klamath. We will work with any and all parties to remove the dams and assure a restored healthy river.”

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