Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fish Kill Cover Up on the Klamath, Chinook Petition, Water Deal plot thickens...and More!

Fish Kill Cover-up: KlamBlog asks the tough questions!

The ultimate question may be not whether a big fish kill happened this year in the Klamath River Who knew about it, when did they know, and why did they do nothing with the information?

This has been a “below average” water year in the Klamath River Basin. In the past such years have been associated with fish kills either in the lower River (as in 2002), in Keno Reservoir below Klamath Falls, or below the dams where agricultural pollution from the Upper Basin, Shasta and Scott conspire with the dams to create a warm, polluted river rife with disease.

A quick search of newspaper archives produced lots of articles about the 2002 fish kill in the lower river but very few articles about fish kills which occur almost yearly and which are related to water quality so poor that pure ammonia is discharged is sometimes produced. Pure ammonia is directly toxic and usually fatal to fish and other aquatic organisms.

The BOR and Irrigation Elite work hard to keep Keno Reservoir (aka Lake Ewana) fish kills out of the public eye. And they have been successful. But those organizations which led a media blitz following the adult salmon fish kill in 2002 have been silent not just about the Keno Reservoir fish kills but also about juvenile fish kills which occur downstream of the PacifiCorp dams and below where the Shasta and Scott River's add more warm, polluted water to the Klamath. This is in spite of the fact that tribal and agency fisheries biologists are in this stretch of the river all summer long, monitor out migrant fish traps and take well deserved pride in knowing what is going on in the river.

KlamBlog has learned that a large salmon fish kill occurred this summer in the Klamath RiverKlamath River this year.

The suppression of information on Coho dying in numbers in the Klamath could be a big deal. Environmental and fishing groups could use the information – as they have in many other rivers across the country – to file suit for unauthorized “take” of an endangered species. The flow management plan for the Klamath has already been found by the courts to be inadequate to protect Coho but the court did not order higher flows. It is unclear if the fishing and environmental groups in this lawsuit even asked the judge to provide more water. But if a “take” lawsuit were filed the judge might order the Bureau of Reclamation to increase Klamath flows. Since all studies and the National Research Council say that would be good for fish, one would expect the Klamath Salmon’s self-proclaimed champions to jump on this chance to get more water for salmon struggling with low flows and disease. but rather: below the dams and (reportedly) also below the mouth of the Shasta and Scott Rivers. We have been told that tribal biologists noticed a larger than usual number of dead juveniles salmon – including ESA state and federal ESA listed Coho salmon – and called in the California Department of Fish & Game and National Marine Fisheries Service. But these organizations web sites – like the press – contain no reports of salmon kills in the Klamath River this year.

Thus the question arises:

Who knew about the Summer 2008 Coho fish kill, when did the know about it and why did they sit on that knowledge?

It is likely that the Karuk and Yurok tribes knew about the fish kill along with California DFG and the National Marine Fisheries Service. But did those environmental and fishing groups who have regular conference calls with these tribes know about the fish kill? Was the fish kill discussed on one of these calls and were the environmental-fishermen’s lawyers - who come from the Seattle Office of the Earthjustice environmetal law firm – on the call when the fish kills were discussed?

One possible explanation for why the self-styled champions of Klamath Salmon did nothing about this summer’s fish kill is that they do not want a judge’s order increasing Klamath River flows. A court decision giving more water for fish would make claims that the Klamath Water Deal is needed to get that water appear very hollow. Can you hear the air going out of the balloon?

There may be another reason Water Deal promoters don’t want folks to know about the 2008 salmon kill. What were the flows at the time of the fish kill and how do those flow compare to what Water Deal promoters tell us will take care of salmon? We challenge the Klamath Salmon's champions – and especially those promoting the Water Deal - to provide KlamBlog and the public with that information!

Stay tuned! When this fish kill blockbuster gets out we may see who the real champions of Klamath Salmon are. Look for those real champions to provide an analysis of flows that lead to this year’s salmon fish kill and (dare we hope!) to file lawsuits challenging the “take” of these Coho.


Klamath Chinook Petition may be on the way!

One of the problems with complex agreements that become state and federal law is that they often result in unforeseen consequences down the line. KlamBlog has learned that this is already happening in relationship to the Klamath Water Deal. Certain environmental organizations which are not part of the Klamath Settlement Group are preparing a petition to list Klamath Chinook salmon under provisions of federal and state endangered species laws. Environmental groups have chosen not to file Klamath Chinook petitions before in deference to Klamath River Basin tribes who do not want to see Klamath Chinook gain ESA protections. Now that most of these tribes are promoting the Water Deal, however, certain environmental groups think an ESA petition to list Klamath Chinook is necessary to prevent these fish from becoming a casualty of deal-making.


~ Water Deal Developments ~

1. The Klamath’s Lettergate:

KlamBlog has learned that a letter is being circulated for signature among the non-government groups and tirbes involved in the Klamath Settlement Group (KSG). The KSG has presented itself to the press and public as made up of private entirties and tribes and these are the gorups being asked to sign the letter. But a large number of agency and government people participated in the group's "confidential" negoatiations. If you also consider the tribal people involved to be government (and they are you know) the number of “citizen” groups allowed into the confidential back rooms has been a decided minority.

The letter is apparently to members of Congress (and maybe even the McCain and Obama Campaigns) and it reportedly indicates that the Klamath Settlement Group hopes to bring a package that includes the Water Deal and a Dam Removal Deal to Congress after the election.

KlamBlog has learned that the letter has become controversial within the environmental-fishermen coalition. Certain members are accused of misrepresenting the letter’s contents to other members. And no one seems to know who wrote it. KlamBlog has not yet seen a copy - but we will! And when we do get a copy we'll let the public know what the signatories have in mind for our river.

The letter has become controversial because it apparently is not merely a place holder but represents or implies that all members of the Klamath Settlement Group support the Water Deal. In reality the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), Hoopa Tribe and the Northcoast Environmental Center are on record that they can not sign or endorse the Deal as it is currently written. PCFFA alone has identified seven provisions of the proposed Deal that would need to be fixed before they could “sign-on”. Included in their list is “Lack of Comparable Assurances and Standards for Fish Recovery and Instream Flows.” While PCFFA's representative to the KSG appears to favor the Water Deal, the PCFFA Board so far has been more careful and more critical.

Misrepresentation of the positions of members of the Klamath Settlement Group (KSG) is nothing new. The press release accompanying the Deal’s public release in January - which was coordinated by the “facilitator” hired by Bush’s Interior Department – implied that “26 groups” supported the Deal. It later turned out that many of the 26 were government agencies and could not sign or formally endorse the Deal in any way. Several other KSG members – the Hoopa Tribe, PCFFA, NEC and the Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) had either not taken a position or had indicated that they needed substantial changes before they could sign on.

2.Water Deal Budget conflicts with Salmon Recovery: Salmon Stronghold restoration gets short end of the money stick!

The scientific consensus on Pacific Salmon Recovery is that we must make securing the remaining Salmon Strongholds our top priority if we hope to avoid extirpation and extinction of Pacific Salmon stocks. This strategy was recently reinterated by the prestigious Wild Salmon Center. Renowned salmon scientist Gordon Reeves is among many top scientists on the Center’s staff.

The Salmon Strongholds strategy is embedded within the Aquatic Conservation Strategy of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). The NWFP identified Key Watersheds for salmon and directed the Forest Service, BLM and Park Service to secure these areas as a first priority. Securing the Salmon Strongholds involves decommissioning problem roads, “stormproofing” those roads which must be retained, constraints on road building, protection of roadless areas from road construction and reducing the risk of catastrophic fire and landslides. The Salmon Strongholds Strategy is endorsed by virtually all top salmon scientists. It is clear in stating that we should move on to restore nearby areas and finally the degraded watersheds – like the Shasta, Scott which once produced the bulk of the once-abundant Klamath’s salmon runs - only when the Strongholds are secure.

The proposed Water Deal would turns this strategy on its head. It would allocate the vast majority of $322.6 million in restoration funds over 10 years to the most degraded portions of the Klamath River Basin. Further down this page you’ll find a table giving the numbers. The table is drawn from Appendix B-2 of the proposed Water Deal and also lists the entities/interests which KlamBlog expects will control the bulk of the funds in each geographic area.

The bulk of Klamath River Basin Salmon Strongholds are located on the Bain's national forests. They are all dominated by roadless lands and wilderness. On the Klamath River side almost all key watersheds are in the Mid Klamath and Salmon Rivers. Blue Creek is an exception. It is a key salmon watershed located on the Lower Klamath.

Region of Klamath Basin

$ millions in Water Deal

Who is likely to control the $

Upper Klamath Lake & Above

(Williamson, Sprague, Wood R)

$ 117.6

Klamath Tribes, BLM

& The Nature Conservancy

Salmon Reintroduction[1]

$ 44.5

Klamath & Yurok Tribes &


Keno Reservoir[2]

(aka Lake Ewana)

$ 5.0

Irrigation Elite and BOR[3]

Cascades Canyon

(Keno to Iron Gate)

$ 5.3

Forest Service[4] and DFG

Shasta River Basin


Shasta RCD, Forest Service[5]

Scott River Basin

$ 25.3

Siskiyou RCD, private timber companies[6], Forest Service[7]

Mid-Klamath and Salmon R.

(area of Salmon Strongholds)

$ 9.9 million

Salmon River and Mid-Klamath Restoration Councils,

Karuk Tribe,

Forest Service

Lower Klamath - The

Yurok Reservation

$ 52.7

Yurok Tribe and

Simpson (Green Diamond) Timber Corporation[8]

[1] Most of this will likely be spent in the Upper Basin and near the Klamath’s mouth.

[2] There is an additional $50 million in the Deal for “water quality studies and remediation actions.” Since the Irrigation Elite would loves to study things until the Second Coming, KlamBlog does not expect much in the way of “remediation”.

[3] Legislating the Water Deal would make the Keno Reach of the Klamath River (Lake Ewana) and the Lost River Basin (which connects to it via the Klamath Straits and a tunnel that pumps water through Sheepy Ridge) into sacrifice zones managed by the Irrigation Elite.

[4] The Forest Service amount is likely money for timber sales which they will say are designed to “reduce fire risk.” However, the economics of commercial timber sales in the are means the logging will actually increase the risk of a catastrophic fire.

[5] See footnote 4 above.

[6] Almost $1 million will go to private timber companies to stormproof and decommission roads. However, the companies in this area are not decommissioning roads according to restoration standards. Instead they water bar them so they can open them when they are ready to log. Stormproofing is used to off-set sediment impacts of clearcutting; thus restoration funds are being used to do more clearcutting. See above re funding to Forest Service.

[8] $37.5 million will go for road work which the Yurok Tribe will do on Simpson/Green Diamond timberlands. This is good work done according to restoration standards but it also allows Simpson/Green Diamond to do more clearcutting because they claim this work as a sediment off-set. This restoration work which is free to the timber company has also used to bolster the company’s bid for an Aquatic HCP that will allow them to “take” Coho. The argument goes like this: “We are doing this good stuff so in return you (state and federal regulators) can allow us to clearcut more land, log in unstable areas and log next to seasonal creeks.” The results is “take” of Coho. It’s a great deal for the timber company!




DEAL IN SALMON STRONGHOLDS……………………………...……............…………..… $ 9.9

You cam check out the Wild Salmon Center’s push for Pacific Salmon “Strongholds” at:

From a salmon restoration perspective the best science tells us to prioritizing securing the strongholds. Restoration of salmon to the upper basin - according to salmon specialists like Peter Moyle - will not pay off well in terms of salmon returns. But – as shown in the table above - it WILL eat up much of the available salmon restoration funds. The Klamath Settlement Group failed to strike a balance that would assure sufficient funding remains focused on critical Salmon Strongholds.

When it comes to salmon restoration, the proposed Klamath Water Deal elevates political science over real science. Those who are pushing this approach do not recognize the consequences if they succeed. Klamath Salmon will be the big looser if the restoration priorities in the proposed Water Deal are adopted by Congress and the State of California.

3. The Governator has a plan: Klamath and Sacramento-Delta-San Joaquin Trade-Offs

Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan for a new water bond is getting plenty of attention. According to the Governator, the bond is needed in order to build more reservoirs in the Sacramento Valley and a canal in the Sac-SJ Delta which will move Northern California water south. But what is not getting much attention is the connection between this water bond and the Klamath. Money for decommissioning Klamath River dams may be included in the bond initiative.

Few of those involved on the Klamath pay much attention to what goes on in other California Basins and in the State Capital regarding water issues. This is unfortunate since it appears that the Governator’s interest in taking out Klamath dams is – at least in part - so that he can sweeten the water bond and thereby build support for more dams in the Sacramento, raising Shasta Dam and a canal to move Norhtern California water South while bypassing the S-SJ Delta.

The governor’s plan is being sold as necessary to slack Southern California’s thirst. But the real reason the Governator wants the bond appears to be to keep the water flowing to the Westlands Water District and other corporate agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. Westlands is the outfit that fought for years to keep 75% of Trinity River water flowing to them. These growers of cotton, alfalfa and other high water use crops in the near dessert of the San Jaquin Valley’s west side, have even more political influence than the Klamath’s Irrigation Elite. Like our own Irrigation Elite, Westlands has been polluting their rivers and streams with virtual impunity for several decades, has refused to consider less water intensive crops and does not want to implement new water conservation technologies that experts tell us can obviate the need for more storage and the controversial canal to bypass the Sac-SJ Delta.

To read more about the governor’s water plan visit the California Sportfishing Protection Association’s web site or the California Water Impact Network’s web site.

The governor’s agenda – and the place the Klamath plays in that agenda – is one reason why it is of great concern that fishing and conservation groups have been excluded from negotiations with PacifiCorp over the fate of the five Klamath River dams which PacifiCorp owns. What sort of mischief will emerge from negotiations between PacifiCorp, the states of Oregon and California and the Bush Interior Department and will the excluded groups have the guts to oppose a bad deal that nevertheless removes 4 of the 5 PacifiCorp dams? Stay tuned.

4. Irrigation Elite prepares to control water and power – with or without the Water Deal

The Klamath Falls Herald and News reported on August 23rd the formation of a new group which aims to take over the Water Bank which has been operated by the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) in order to avoid reducing Klamath River Basin water demand.

The Klamath Water and Power Agency is being organized by the Irrigation Elite but it is open to all irrigation districts in the Upper Basin. Apparently, however, Shasta and Scott Irrigation Districts will not be allowed to join.

As of this article’s publication date the Klamath Irrigation District, Klamath Drainage District and Tulelake Irrigation District had voted to join the new agency. All three Districts serve the Irrigation Elite – those farmers who receive water via the BOR’s Klamath Project and who will be the big winners if the proposed Water Deal is enshrined in legislation.

The Klamath Water Bank relies on water pumped from the California side of the Lost River Basin where giant pumps owned by irrigation districts and individual farmers were developed in recent years with funding from taxpayers via State of California emergency drought assistance and Klamath EQIP. These are the pumps which have been used to supply the BOR’s Water Bank in the past and these are the pumps that will extract most of the water which, under the proposed Water Deal, would be purchased from irrigators and irrigation districts with taxpayer funds to provide the water Klamath Salmon need during droughts.

The US Geological Service has determined that the Klamath Water Bank is not sustainable and that groundwater pumping in the Lost River Basin is rapidly reducing the level of the groundwater. As a result of falling groundwater, towns in the Lower Lost River Basin have been forced to deepen their municipal drinking water wells. But the towns have not dared to complain about the Irrigation Elite’s pumping.


Big Changes At Klamath Riverkeeper – Do non-residents control the decisions?

Regina Chichizola, the first Klamath Riverkeeper (KR), has been fired by KR’s Board President Daniel Cooper, a San Francisco water lawyer. Rumors are rampant concerning the reasons for Regina’s firing which have not been released to the public.

Klamath Riverkeeper was organized by the Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) which until recently was fiscal agent for the organization. The separation of the two groups was not a pleasant affair. In a recent ECONEWS profile, Chichizola failed to acknowledge or mention the role KFA played in establishing Klamath Riverkeeper nor is KFA's role mentioned on KR’s website.

Concerns have been raised about the presence of individuals who do not reside in the Klamath River Basin on the group’s Board of Directors. Board Member Stephanie Tidwell lives in the Rogue River Basin and Board President Daniel Cooper lives in San Francisco. Concerns have also been raised about the close connection between KR and the Karuk Tribe. The Karuk Tribe’s Klamath Campaign Director, Doctor Craig Tucker, holds a seat on the Riverkeeper Board. Other board members include long time Salmon River activists Petey Brucker and Nat Pennington – the only board

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