Friday, February 1, 2008

Water Deal Reactions – Revolt in the Upper Basin, Concerns in the Lower Basin

Views from the "Upper Basin"

The Klamath Water Users Association represents the large farm operations, golf resorts and timber companies who get subsidized water from the US Bureau of Reclamation. They use about 40% of the water diverted basin-wide for use within the federal Klamath Project. They also control most of the irrigation wells on the California side of the Lost River Sub-basin. Here's what they said in the front page banner headline story In the Capital Press, a West Coast agriculture weekly newspaper:

When Klamath Irrigation Project farmers entered into the settlement talks 21/2 years ago, Klamath Water Users Association president Luther Horsley said they had three main goals:
• A reliable source of water for irrigation.
• Affordable power for pumping.
• Assurance that growers wouldn't be negatively affected by Endangered Species Act regulations if fish return to previously shut-off habitat.

"We believe the agreement achieves those objectives," he said.

The Klamath Off-Project Water Users, were at the table but have rejected the proposed Deal. Here’s what their president, farmer Ed Bartell, had to say in the Capital Press about the Agreement:

The agreement also doesn't provide any concrete, legal assurances that farmers would actually be protected from ESA enforcement or future irrigation water shut-offs, he said….."We think it's just an empty promise in the settlement," said Bartell. "Everybody seems to have back-pedaled on everything, as far as assurances for agriculture."

Speaking in the K Falls Herald & News Klamath Tribe attorney Bud Ullman had this to say:

The first incorrect that the Klamath water settlement gives the tribes all the water in the Basin. He said its not true....."This is by far the best solution available." Ullman said, adding that all other alternatives will lead to friction and instability.

Save the Family Farm, apparently a new group that has emerged in the Upper Basin to fight against the Deal, spent over $800 on a ½ page ad in the Klamath Falls Herald & News. Here’s the bold headline:


Trey Senn, of the Klamath County Economic Development Association, offered his groups views in the K-Falls Herald & News:

….The group said it was concerned about the $960 million implementation cost and the (additional) cost of removing the dams….the cost of (dam) removal would be too much to saddle with PacifiCorp’s ratepayers alone.

Views from the “Lower Basin

Hoopa Tribal Chairman Lyle Marshall provided his Tribe’s position in a press release which has been highly quoted:

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….. ….. 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. “…..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.

In a Sacramento Bee report on the proposed Deal, Karuk Tribe spokesperson Craig Tucker said:

"I think we're on the brink of totally redefining how the Klamath River is operated, and making a landscape change in the upper basin that will be good for everybody."

Highly respected fisheries biologist Bill Trush reviewed the proposed Deal for the Northcoast Environmental Center and North Group Sierra Club. Trush appeared on his own before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on January 22nd. Here's a quote from his remarks:

"…..what we’re being told in the Settlement Agreement is that the water that is left over — and that is what the fish are going to get — is enough for recovery. My job is to lift the hood and see where that statement came from, how it could be proved, and I don’t see it there. Now that’s not to say there shouldn’t be a Settlement Agreement. But what I can say with fair certainty or feeling is that I have not had an argument made to me that says that the water that’s left over is capable of restoration."

Independent Klamath River Activist and Klamath Glen resident Felice Pace was quoted in the Mt. Shasta Herald. This quote was also in an Opinion Commentary by Pace which was published in the Del Norte County Triplicate:

A deal that clearly favors some irrigators over others, some tribes over others and some counties over others does not seem like a recipe for peace on the river.

Views from Outside the Klamath River Basin

In the LA Times Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assns said:

"Never has the basin been so unified around the necessity for removal of those dams,"

The commercial fishing association’s directors have since met and, in a letter to the Settlement Group, stated that they have problems with a number of the Deals provisions but will keep talking for now.

Also, in the LA Times Bob Hunter from Water Watch of Oregon said:

"The ironic thing is there's not even dam removal in this dam-removal deal,"…. "It seems they released it now because time is running out for the Bush administration to deliver to its political allies in the Klamath farm community."

Chuck Bonham, who represented Trout Unlimited in the negotiations, was quoted in the Environmental News Service’s article on the Deal:

"It hasn't been easy; it was a tough several years putting this proposal together, but I've got new found respect for all the communities involved from tribal to environmental and farming," said Chuck Bonham of Trout Unlimited. "I am also hopeful we can develop a good business deal that works for PacifiCorp and for the river too. We can and should do both."

The federal government's chief negotiator at the talks, Steve Thompson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was quoted in the LA Times:

(Thompson) said he participated free of political influence from the White House and continues to hold out hope that PacifiCorp will sign on to the proposal in coming weeks.

Steve Rothert of American Rivers was also quoted in the LA Times:

"We are on the cusp of ending decades-long disputes and charting a better future for farmers, tribes, fishermen and all the communities that depend on a healthy Klamath River."

Steve Pedry of Oregon Wild – one of two groups excluded from the talks mid-way - said:

"What began as an effort to help salmon and remove dams has turned into a plan to farm American taxpayers," said Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild, the other dissenting group.

Here’s what PacifiCorp is saying

Spokesperson Paul Vogel in the LA Times:

….the company initiated the talks as part of its bid for a new federal operating license for the dams. But he said PacifiCorp was "shut out of the room" for most of the last year as the final plan was cobbled together by more than two dozen state, federal and local government agencies, tribes and other groups.
"You really have to question if there's enough substance there to be worth the paper it's printed on," he said.

And in the Oregonian:

"Calling something a comprehensive, basinwide settlement of all the issues without renewable hydro in the discussion is just a tad irresponsible," said Paul Vogel, a PacifiCorp spokesman in Portland. "What really needs to be restored is the presence of the license holder and hundreds of thousands of customers in the room."

PacifiCorp executive Pat Reiten in a Guest Commentary in the Klamath Falls Herald & News:

We don’t think special interests can be allowed to hijack the hydro license settlement process for their own more diverse agendas, nor write a blank check and force our customers to cover it.

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