Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Strategic Blunder - Tribes, Fishermen and Environmental Groups excluded from Klamath Dam Negotiations!

The Interior Department, State of California and State of Oregon are negotiating with PacifiCorp over the fate of the company’s five Klamath River Dams. Klamath River Basin tribes along with fishing and environmental groups have been excluded from the negotiations. The fate of the dams is – for the moment at least – out of the hands of those organizations which have worked for many years now for removal of four of the five dams. How did this come about and could it have been avoided?

PacifiCorp the feds and states have been able to exclude the tribes, fishermen and enviros because of the strategy advocated by members of the California Hydropower Reform Coalition and adopted by the tribes, fishermen, local and regional environmental groups. That strategy called for negotiating a “settlement” with PacifiCorp BEFORE completing the formal processes involved in hydroelectric dam relicensing. So far, that strategy has had several consequences:

  • PacifiCorp has been able to delay the relicensing process far beyond the sunset of its current license in 2005. Because negotiations for a settlement were in process, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued three one-year licenses to operate the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. This is something FERC stated at the beginning of the relicensing process that it would not do. Until recently tribes, fishermen and enviros have taken no action to pressure FERC to stop issuing annual licenses and make a decision on PacifiCorp’s long-term license application.
  • The Bush Interior Department – with assistance from the Klamath Basin Irrigation Elite, the Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Klamath Tribes and other groups - has been able to hijack dam negotiations in an attempt to tie dam removal to a costly and controversial Water Deal full of subsidies for the Irrigation Elite and other interests.
  • PacifiCorp has been able to demand that it will only negotiate with the Bush Administration and the states. PacifiCorp has excluded all tribes, all fishermen and all enviros from these negotiations. The enviro-tribe-fishermen coalition that worked for a decade to get the dams removed has lost control of negotiations over their fate.

Is this the way it had to be? Were tribes, fishermen and enviros always destined to be sitting on the sidelines while the fate of the dams was decided?

KlamBlog thinks the answer to that question is..... NO.

So what could have been different? What strategy would have put those who favor dam removal in the driver’s seat rather than PacifiCorp, the feds and the states?

Instead of initiating negotiations so early, tribes, enviros and fishermen could have continued with the standard relicensing process. FERC would have likely approved a license (they always do) pending state water quality certification. The dam removal coalition could have then sued FERC on any number of issues – including an inadequate Environmental Impact Statement. They could also have waited for the State of Oregon and State of California to act on the required water quality certifications. If the states certified the dams as meeting water quality standards, the tribes, enviros and fishermen could have sued the states for violation of the Clean Water Act. It would be a slam dunk case – there is no way those dams can be legally certified as meeting water quality standards.

Stated another way, the alternative to the negotiation strategy promoted by the California Hydropower Reform Coalition and accepted by other dam removal advocates would have been to first get PacifiCorp and/or the federal and state governments into court as defendants. Once in court, they could have then proceeded to settlement negotiations. If dam removal advocates had followed that strategy not only would they NOT now be sitting on the sidelines, there would also have been a judge overseeing the negotiations. The judge would have been duty bound to assure that the public’s interests were protected in any settlement. It is doubtful, for example, that an overseeing judge would have allowed the negotiations to be hijacked for two years. Most importantly, the judge would have remained in charge of making sure that all parties implemented commitments made in a settlement.

That is not the strategy dam removal advocates chose to implement. Instead they bought into the strategy the California Hydropower Reform Coalition advocated. As a result dam negotiations have now slipped out of their hands and PacifiCorp-Buffet are likely to get a sweetheart dam removal deal, i.e. a big pile of money and release from liability. But, according to independent hydropower experts, the Klamath dams are obsolete, inefficient and a drag on PacifiCorp profits. The company likely wanted to get rid of the dams all along - but at the least expense to Buffet and other shareholders. And that is what the strategy of the California Hydropower Reform Coalition – the strategy accepted by all the other dam removal advocates – has made not only possible but likely. Look for a sweetheart deal for PacifiCorp to be released in time for a run at implementing legislation before the end of the year.

As in poker and war the results of political strategies are never certain. Nevertheless KlamBlog believes the strategy promoted by the California Hydropower Reform Coalition and implemented by dam removal advocates has been misguided – that is unless an objective all along was a sweetheart deal for PacifiCorp! How far does Buffet’s influence reach?

It is not too late to salvage the Klamath Dam Removal Campaign. If tribes, fishermen and enviros who are involved in the process – or any subset of those involved – change strategy they can still get PacifiCorp and any government that approves the dams into court. But that would require tribes, fishermen and enviros to say “NO” when PacifiCorp, the feds and states announce a deal that soaks taxpayers and releases PacifiCorp from liability. By saying “No” and going to court those who favor dam removal can still regain control of the process and prevent PacifiCorp-Buffet from getting to walk away without liability and with a pile of taxpayer cash.

Will they do it? We doubt it. Tribal, fishing and enviro negotiators appear unwilling or unable to play hard ball. They will go to Portland and make a show of protest but we bet they will not take on PacifiCorp and the Bush Administration in court. Instead look for some of them to scramble for crumbs from the table once PacifiCorp has made off with the loaf.

Here’s a list of California Hydropower Reform Coalition Steering Committee member groups and their web sites. If you are a member of any of these groups or just a concerned citizen and you want to provide them with feedback about the CHRC’s Klamath strategy or other issues, you can find contact information on the web sites:

American Rivers –

American Whitewater –

California Outdoors –

California Sportfishing Protection

California Trout –

Foothill Conservancy –

Friends of the River –

Natural Heritage Institute –

South Yuba River Citizen’s League –

Trout Unlimited –

You may also want to contact Keith Nakatani, Director of the CHRC. His e-address is Here is full contact info for the CHRC:

436 14th St, Suite 801
Oakland, CA 94612



KlamBlog Water Deal Quiz

  • Which of the 26 organizations participating in drafting the proposed Water Deal support it in the form released to the public?
  • Which of the 26 organizations participating in drafting the proposed Water Deal do not support it in the form released to the public?
  • Which of the 26 participating organizations have taken no position on the proposed Water Deal?
  • Which of the 26 participating organizations support the Water Deal but say they will not sign it?
  • What are the issues which non-endorsing participants want to see addressed before they can support the proposed Water Deal?
  • Is the proposed Water Deal complete except for the section on the dams? If not, which sections remain to be completed, why are these sections not being worked on and how do participants plan to complete these missing elements if a dam agreement is reached?

Look for answers next week!


KlamBlog Clarification:

In our July 18th post we praised the Northcoast Environmental Center for raising the funds for an independent scientific review of river flow targets in the proposed Water Deal. It has recently been pointed out to us that the Environmental Caucus involved in Water Deal negotiations supported this NEC initiative. Some members - including California Trout - contributed funds for the review. The Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club also provided funding.

Friday, July 18, 2008

NEC assumes leadership role on Klamath River issues

Most readers are aware that the Arcata-based Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) has undergone a series of changes over the last several years. First the Centers long-time home in downtown Arcata burned to the ground. Then the long-serving editor of the ECONEWS, Sid Dominitz, resigned that position[1]. And in July 2006 the NEC lost its long-term director when Tim McKay passed away suddenly.

The triple whammy hit the Center hard but KlamBlog is pleased to report that the NEC is making a strong comeback. The ECONEWS has an energetic, young editor in Erica Terence, a native of the Salmon River Country, and executive director Greg King has come up to speed quickly on the issues and appears ready to provide leadership within the Northcoast’s environmental community. NEC has also increased the size of its board of directors and has established a conservation committee to guide its activist work.

Over the past year King and the NEC have placed special emphasis on Klamath River issues, something which we believe Tim McKay would heartily approve. First the Center raised the funds for an independent scientific review of Klamath River flows specified in the proposed Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement – a controversial Water Deal being promoted aggressively by the Klamath Water Users Association and the Karuk Tribe[2]. One would have thought one of the national environmental groups involved (American Rivers, Trout Unlimited) or the Klamath Basin Coalition would have commissioned this review but these groups did not; the NEC stepped into the void.

Here’s what NEC contract hydrologist Greg Kamman said about the Deal’s proposed Klamath River flows:

As a hydrologist, the focus of my review of the assumptions integrated into the WRIMS modeling was on the accuracy and feasibility of water supply and demand expectations. The areas of greatest concern to me relate to the ability of the project to actually achieve: the 100K AF expansion of water storage within and around Upper Klamath Lake; the 30K AF augmentation of inflow to Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) associated with agriculture retirement in the upstream “out-of-project” area; and reliance on groundwater supplies to augment project wide water demands during interim and drought periods and the reliability of 1961-2000 period to represent baseline hydrologic conditions.

The issues Kamman raised have never been adequately addressed by the proponents of the Water Deal. For example, KlamBlog has called for the Deal’s proponents to produce the Drought Plan which is mentioned in the proposed Deal but not included in it. KlamBlog believes the Drought Plan would reveal that under the Deal it would be necessary to lease water from irrigators and to mine Lost River groundwater in order to supply river flows which by Public Trust Right belong in the river. KlamBlog opposes paying anyone for the Public Trust Water fish need to thrive.

Hydrologist Kamman later stated in a letter that he now believes tribal and federal managers can be trusted to do the right thing in the Klamath River Basin. But his scientific critique remains substantially unanswered. You can read the NEC-commissioned scientific reviews at the NEC’s web site. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the links.

More recently, the NEC, along with Klamath Riverkeeper, has moved strongly to mobilize citizen participation in the State Water Resources Control Board’s consideration of whether PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams can be certified as complying with the Northcoast Basin Plan and the Clean Water Act. And when PacifiCorp withdrew its certification request, the NEC quickly distributed a citizen alert complete with a sample letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) calling on that body to immediately impose requirements on the company’s Klamath River operations to address ongoing water quality issues - including threats to salmon and humans resulting from toxic algae produced in the reservoirs and discharged into the Klamath River.

Once again the NEC stepped into a void. Neither the national groups involved on the Klamath, nor the California Hydropower Coalition, nor the Klamath River Basin Coalition have taken steps to mobilize citizen pressure on FERC to impose conditions on PacifiCorp’s current Klamath operations.[3]

Lack of efforts by the environmental community to educate, mobilize and involve citizens has been one of the changes KlamBlog has observed in recent years on the Klamath along with an increased amount of secrecy. It appears that most of the environmental groups now involved in Klamath River issues prefer to take an “insider” approach which locks the public out of deliberations in favor of back room deals with irrigators and federal agencies. This mirrors what is happening nationally – many mainstream environmental organizations seem increasingly interested in making deals with polluters and less interested in mobilizing citizen pressure on the despoilers of nature. KlamBlog is thrilled to see the NEC break this pattern by devoting time and resources to citizen education and involvement. We hope other environmental groups involved on the Klamath will follow the NEC’s lead by devoting time and resources to informing and mobilizing citizens.

If you like what’s happening at the NEC, take the time to thank them for their efforts and encourage them to continue focusing on citizen education and mobilization. Unlike many environmental organizations, the NEC still provides staff contact e-mail addresses on their web site.


[1] Sid is still volunteering lots of time at the NRC as proofreader, ECONEWS contributor and advisor.

[2] You can read KlamBlog’s evaluation of the proposed Water Deal in our January 29th post, reactions to the Deal posted February 1st and about impacts on Klamath refuges in the March 16th post.

[3] KlamBlog checked web sites for American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, Friends of the River, the California Hydropower Coalition and the Coalition for the Klamath River Basin. None of their web sites contained a citizen alert prompting involvement in the SWRCB water quality certification or to pressure FERC to impose conditions on PacifiCorp’s current Klamath River operations in order to address water quality problems. The Klamath Basin Coalition website’s “Action Center” contains this message: “This page is under construction. Check back frequently. Last updated 5/20/03.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PacifiCorp’s Customers Petition the California Public Utilities Commission to review the company’s spending on Klamath River Dams

Some Californians who get their electricity from Portland-based PacifiCorp want the California Public Utilities Commission to review PacifiCorp’s spending on its Klamath River dams and to provide an expert, independent assessment of what is best for the ratepayers.

PacifiCorp's Iron Gate Dam

The ratepayers filed their petition on July 14th with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) asking that the CPUC use existing rules to review the prudence of PacifiCorp continuing to spend heavily in its campaign to secure a new long-term license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for operating its Klamath Hydroelectric Project. They fear PacifiCorp has already spent too much (about $50 million) on the antiquated dams, and that it is in the ratepayers’ best interest for the dams to come out.

“We’ve become increasingly concerned,” said ratepayer Susan Botts, “as we’ve watched this dam re-licensing issue play out.” Botts and her family live on the Yurok Reservation near the mouth of the Klamath River. Botts says that she signed the petition because she wants to see the Klamath River restored and because she has become convinced by a number of recent technical studies that it will be cheaper to remove the dams than to solve the many environmental problems which the dams cause or make worse.

The people who signed the petition to the CPUC live in Del Norte County and in Siskiyou County.

Because of the toxic algae, nutrients and other pollution that the dams produce and release down the river, the petitioners say that the Klamath Hydroelectric dams represent a human health risk and a huge financial and legal liability that must not fall on the ratepayers, many of whom have only modest incomes. “If PacifiCorp insists on spending recklessly trying to re-license the Klamath Project, then PacifiCorp should be the ones financially and legally on the hook – not us.” Botts said.

“We have our own Erin Brockovich story happening right here in our back yard” said Felice Pace, another of the petition-signers. “The human health catastrophe that Erin Brockovich uncovered cost PG&E hundreds of millions of dollars. We don’t want that here and we certainly don’t want to have to pay for it.”

Toxic Algae at Iron Gate Reservoir >

Customers are called “ratepayers” in utilities parlance. PacifiCorp has been claiming for some time that their only interest is to protect the interests of their ratepayers. Botts, Pace and the other petitioners think the company’s behavior is more geared toward getting the ratepayers to pay for everything.

PacifiCorp makes about $3 million a year in profit from the Klamath dams — paid by the ratepayers. If the ratepayers are forced to pay for PacifiCorp’s relicensing plan, they would end up paying PacifiCorp an annual profit of about $40 million — for dams that the downstream public doesn’t want. “Does this make sense?” asked Pace. “Why should we pay PacifiCorp a profit on something that we don’t want – that harms us? We need the CPUC to give this situation a thorough and independent analysis.”

“We simply don’t trust PacifiCorp to look out for our interest,” said Susan Botts.

Portland-based PacifiCorp’s is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Investment Company.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Our apologizes to Craig Tucker, Sam Schucha and to the editors of the Redding Record Searchlight for KlamBlog missing both Craig Tucker's and Sam Schuchat's replies to Marcia Armstrong - as well as Frank Galusha's June 3rd reply to Craig Tucker. And thanks to those readers who posted correcting comments.

The argument between Armstrong and Galusha on the one hand and Tucker and Schuchat on the other is about the environmental consequences of removing four Klamath River dams. Is anyone surprised that those favoring dam removal find no serious consequences and those who want to keep the dams in place find all sorts of consequences?

Those in favor of removal appear to have credible studies behind their assertions. Marcia Armstrong asserts that her fears are based on review by a Siskiyou County "consultant". But that consultant's report has not been released - something KlamBlog again calls on her to do. And as for Galusha’s assertions – KlamBlog is currently checking them out and will report our findings.

When the dams come down - because they can't comply with water quality standards - it will have been after many additional studies and an environmental impact analysis. Even then there may be unknowns. After all, science does not supply absolute answers. And that is one among many good reasons that PacifiCorp should not be absolved of all liability if a removal deal is struck.

Will there be negative impacts from dam removal? Of course there will be. Will these impacts be "significant"? The credible studies on the table so far suggest they will not be significant.

While dam proponents are exaggerating the negative consequences likely if the dams are removed, dam removal advocates exaggerate the benefits of removal. Removing four Klamath River dams is critical to restoring the River and Klamath Salmon; but that action is no silver bullet that will magically restore the once-magnificent Klamath salmon runs. And the plan being put forward by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to actively reintroduce Spring Chinook into the upper basin – reportedly using Rogue River fish – is downright foolhardy!

More on that in another post.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Is Marcia Armstrong blowing hot air?

Siskiyou Supervisor Marcia Armstrong has been claiming that sediments behind PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams are so toxic they will cause serious risks to human health and fisheries if the dams are removed. Armstrong laid out her claims in a May 19th commentary in the Redding Record Searchlight. Here’s a quote:

A review of sediment bore samples showed some presence of ethylbenzene and creosote compounds. Three bore samples taken in each of the reservoirs indicated that the sediment contains dioxin. Two samples were above human health standards. (You can read about that toxin and its carcinogenic health impacts at It is likely that the levels of dioxin could kill the benthic community or bottom ecology of the river and that a large quantity of floating organic toxic waste particles would pollute the mouth of the estuary.”

KlamBlog's June 8th post included this statement:

If – as has been claimed – there are toxic dioxins in the dam sediment this could be a very big deal and very costly for taxpayers. PacifiCorp should not be liable for dam removal impacts they do not control; but they should not be released from liability for any toxic legacies associated with their dams and powerplants.

We stand by that statement - PacifiCorp should be responsible for any toxic legacies they have created. But as a result of this statement KlamBlog was contacted by folks at the National Marine Fisheries Service which provided two long memoranda addressed the results of dam sediment tests in general and the risk posed by dioxins in particular. Below are a few quotes from an April 8, 2008 memorandum to Steve Edmondson who is the NMFS Northern California Habitat Supervisor. The memo included numerous references to scientific literature. For copies of the memos contact Edmondson (

Dioxin and furan compounds are not manufactured directly, but are byproducts of chemical production processes and combustion. Anthropogenic sources include waste incineration, burning of fuels (including coal and wood in power plants, gasoline and diesel by automobiles, trucks and farm equipment), chlorine bleaching of pulp and paper, synthesis and application of organochlorine pesticides, application of phenoxy herbicides, manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and wood burning (fire places, stoves, camp fires, etc.).

Natural sources of dioxin include forest fires and volcanic activity, both of which have been prevalent in the Klamath River basin naturally. Atmospheric deposition is believed to be a major source of dioxins and furans in many watersheds.

Studies from outside the Klamath basin show that the levels found in the sediments behind the Klamath dams do not appear to be problematic.

The US Center for Disease Control has determined that a concentration of 100 pg/g of 2,3,7,8 TCCD ( a dioxin much more toxic than those found in the samples) represents the level of concern for soils in residential areas. The Klamath reservoir data is below these levels.

KlamBlog finds the NMFS memoranda to be persuasive. There are dioxins in the sediments behind some of the dams. There are a number of possible sources. But the levels of the dioxins in the sediments are below the levels which the US and other governments find to represent significant risk to humans, fish and the environment.

Supervisor Armstrong’s claims of significant risk to humans and fisheries if the dams are removed appear to have no meaningful relationship to the facts. We find it curious that none of the environmental and fishing organizations and tribes which are advocating dam removal have responded to Armstrong's claims. For example, there apparently has been no attempt to correct her commentary in the Redding Record Searchlight - no counter-commentary, no letter to the editor, nothing. We wonder what those expert media doctors working for the tribes and organizations are doing with their time.

In her commentary, Armstrong states that her conclusions are based on evaluation of the data by a “consultant”. But Siskiyou County has apparently not released this evaluation nor can it be found on their website. KlamBlog challenges Supervisor Armstrong and Siskiyou County to release their consultants report. We also invite Armstrong to address on KlamBlog the substance of the NMFS memos.

KlamBlog has criticized some dam removal advocates for playing loose with historical facts. It seems that some dam opponents are also willing to twist the facts in order to advance their objectives; Marcia Armstrong appears to be one of those people.


It has also been pointed out to KlamBlog that our reporting indicating that much of what is behind the dams is detritus and not sediments is in error. We’ve checked the studies and confirmed our error. As a percentage of what is stored behind the dams, sediments predominate; detritus is a minor component.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Answer to the Question of the Week

Q: Who were the original members of the Klamath Basin Coalition and what were the key proposals in the Coalition’s original vision for the Klamath Basin?

A: The following 10 organizations are founding members of the Klamath Basin Coalition: Institute for Fisheries Resources, Klamath Basin Audubon Society, Klamath Forest Alliance, Northcoast Environmental Center, Oregon Wild, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Waterwatch of Oregon. The Coalition was organized by activists from the Klamath Forest Alliance and Oregon Natural Resources Council (now Oregon Wild).

The KBC's original vision: "Our vision is to restore a healthy, naturally diverse, and productive Klamath Basin ecosystem by reestablishing, to as great a degree as feasible, natural hydrological conditions and ecological functions throughout the entire basin. This should be accomplished through a comprehensive restoration program."

Bonus Q: There are about 200,000 irrigated acres in the federal Klamath Project. How much power does it take on an annual basis to irrigate those 200,000 acres?

Bonus A: The information is a secret. KlamBlog suspects the reason it is not revealed is because the Klamath Irrigation Project is among the most energy wasteful non-military government projects in the entire USA! We challenge the Bureau of Reclamation and Irrigation Elite to prove otherwise!

And here's the new Question of the Week:

If PacifiCorp's Klamath River Dams can not be legally relicensed (because they cannot comply with the Clean Water Act) who is responsible for removing them from the River?

(Please post your answer in a comment)

Environmental, fishing and tribal Klamath River "Defenders" turn a blind eye to agricultural water pollution

The Bush Administration has been trying since 2005 to change Clean Water Act rules so that agricultural interests can dump polluted water into public lakes and streams. But Florida environmentalists represented by Earthjustice lawyers have filed suit several times to block Bush’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) from implementing the proposed new rules. On June 9th, the Bush EPA tried once again and again environmentalists are going to court to block the new weak rules. Click here to read a newsclip about the lawsuit.

Members of the public who have been following Klamath River issues in recent years would likely believe that the Klamath Dams are the largest threat to Klamath River water quality. But in reality the impact of PacifiCorp’s dams pale in comparison to the degradation caused by irrigation water which is collected and discharged to the Klamath River, Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges. In fact, if the PacifiCorp reservoirs did not receive highly polluted irrigation water mostly coming from Upper Basin irrigated agriculture, it is unlikely they would be producing the toxic algae which has been so much in the news lately.

Many scientists believe agricultural water pollution is a major reason an epidemic of fish disease is killing millions of juvenile salmon and steelhead before they can reach the Pacific Ocean. Throughout the Klamath River Basin – and especially in the Lost, Shasta and Scott Sub-basins - there are numerous opportunities to use the Clean Water Act to clean up that pollution. For example, at the Southeast corner of the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, large pumps owned by the US Bureau of Reclamation and operated by the Tulelake Irrigation District pump agricultural drainage water that is highly polluted with nutrients, fertilizers and (possibly) toxic pesticides directly into the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This is a clear and open violation of the Clean Water Act which none of the self-styled “Klamath River Defenders” apparently care to challenge. Here's a photo of those pumps.

In the Scott River Valley the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District claims that it has completed cattle-exclusion fencing on 95% of privately owned land along the river (that cattle are not present on the other 5%) and 40% of the tributaries. This work was accomplished mainly with salmon restoration funds. The implication is that cattle and their waste are not getting into the waters of the Scott. But, as the photo below taken in February 2007 indicates, these fences can be opened to give cattle access to the river and tributaries. During the winter of 2007 200-300 head of cattle had access to the river at this point because a section of fencing had been opened. Siskiyou RCD does not require landowners who get the government financed fencing to keep their cattle behind the fence. So it is unclear how effective the fencing projects have been toward ending the direct deposition of cattle manure to the Scott River.

On July 4th of this year, for example, major deposition of cattle manure and trampled banks were observed and documented at the dewatered confluence of Patterson and Crystal-Johnson Creeks in the Scott River Valley. The bed of Patterson Creek is fully accessible at this location to 30-40 head of cattle and the streambed is full of cow poop. When flow returns to these streams sometime in the fall, all this manure will be washed down into the Scott and thence into Klamath River. The Klamath Basin Plan – which implements the Clean Water Act – contains a prohibition on direct deposit of animal waste into streams. Even though the North Coast Water Board has a staff person assigned to Scott Valley, however, it is obvious that the prohibition on animal waste delivery to streams is not being enforced. None of the self-styled defenders of the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon have taken action to stop the cattle manure pollution!

So why is it that those who claim the mantle of Klamath Defender are not challenging agricultural pollution of the Refuges and the River? This is a question which members of the environmental and fishing groups involved and members of Klamath River Basin Tribes should ask their leaders. But let’s also see what we can understand about the issue by examining the two examples of unchallenged agricultural pollution described above.

The 16 member Klamath Basin Coalition[1] has the health of the Klamath Refuges as one of its five core objectives. Actually the objective reads “reduce and ultimately eliminate commercially farmed leaselands on the refuges.” The Clean Water Act may be the most powerful tool at this Coalition’s disposal to achieve the objective. That’s because of the dozen or so sets of massive pumps that move polluted ag water around the Basin and because the Tule Lake Refuge – a natural lake - is used as an agricultural sump to store this polluted water.

At least 6 member groups of the Klamath Basin Coalition have signaled that they are ready to support commercial farming at current levels on the refuges for another 50 years as part of the controversial Klamath Water Deal– provided that an agreement can be reached with PacifiCorp to remove four of the company’s five Klamath River Dams.

Klamath Riverkeeper (KR) – now a stand alone non-profit corporation – is also a member of the Klamath Basin Coalition. It was founded by the Klamath Forest Alliance specifically for the purpose of Clean Water Act enforcement and with an eye to bringing the Basin’s most extensive polluters – irrigated agriculture and the timber industry – into compliance with the Clean Water Act. But KR has been urged by leaders of the Karuk and Yurok Tribes not to file complaints or lawsuits against agricultural polluters – even those in the Shasta and Scott – until the Water Deal is enshrined in federal law. Judging from the political hurdles which the subsidy-rich Deal faces, that could be a very long time.

Nevertheless, Klamath Riverkeeper appears to be complying with the request from tribal leaders. The group - which prides itself on how many clean water lawyers work for and with it [2] - has focused all its energy on PacifiCorp’s toxic algae – even ignoring toxic algae in the Shasta River’s Dwinnell Reservoir because that reservoir is owned by agricultural interests.

The four tribes involved in Klamath Water Deal and Klamath Dams negotiations each have water quality departments. Three of the tribes – the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes - support the Water Deal so it is unlikely they will be taking action to challenge agricultural water pollution any time soon. The Hoopa Tribe does not support the Deal and they have demonstrated a willingness to take on big agriculture in the form of the Westlands Water District which covets Trinity River water. But even the Hoopa show no signs of challenging agricultural pollution of the Klamath, Shasta and Scott Rivers. A fifth federal tribe - the Scott Valley based Quartz Valley Indian Reservation (QVIR) - is not involved in the Klamath Water Deal. QVIR has a small environmental department which has urged the State of California to enforce the CWA. But they have not flied suit to force enforcement.

Some environmental, fishing and tribal leaders will no doubt protest that they have and continue to participate in developing TMDLs – which are clean-up plans for the Lost, Shasta, Scott and Klamath Rivers. But TMDL clean-up plans have proven to be paper tigers because the North Coast Water Board shows no will to enforce the plans - preferring instead to “collaborate” with organizations that represent the polluters. In most river basin’s the Riverkeeper and/or organizations like Trout Unlimited would now be filing complaints and lawsuits to force the responsible agencies to enforce the clean up plans and Basin Plan prohibitions. But in the Klamath River Basin even groups like Oregon Wild and Water Watch - which oppose the Water Deal in large part because it allows continued commercial farming on Klamath National Wildlife Refuges - have not taken action in recent years to enforce the Clean Water Act even on the Refuges in spite of the fact that the pollution is blatant and easily documented!

And that explains why the Bush Administration is trying to change the rules in order to exempt agriculture from the Clean Water Act. While "Defenders" of the Klamath have failed to act, in other river basin - including nearby on the Sacramento and San Joaquin - environmental and fishing groups are using the Clean Water Act as a tool to end agricultural water pollution.

Klamath River "Defenders" justify their poor CWA performance by telling us how important dam removal is for the River. Hearkening back to the Lone Ranger, their propaganda claims that taking out four of six mainstem dams will be the silver bullet that magically restores the River and Spring Chinook salmon. But while dam removal may be the single most effective action which can be taken to restore the Klamath River, reports by independent scientists indicate that recovery of Klamath Salmon can not be accomplished unless and until we deal effectively with agricultural water pollution. Those who brought us the Klamath Water Deal will acknowledge this in private. In private they say they will take on agricultural pollution after the dams are gone. But even if a dam removal deal is finalized tomorrow, it will take at least a decade and likely two decades before the dams are gone. The question is whether Klamath Salmon can survive that long if agriculture pollution – by far the #1 pollution problem in the Klamath and likely the key factor causing the disease epidemic - continues to be ignored by those environmental, fishing and tribal entities which dominate Klamath River politics and which are funded to "save" the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon.


[1] The following organizations are members of the Klamath Basin Coalition: American Rivers, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Friends of the River, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Klamath Basin Audubon Society, Klamath Forest Alliance, National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, Northcoast Environmental Center, Oregon Wild, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Sierra Club, Klamath Riverkeeper, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Waterwatch of Oregon.

[2] Daniel Cooper, the president of Klamath Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors, is a San Francisco lawyer who specializes in Clean Water Act litigation.