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 http://www.klamathriver.org/. 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 ckuhlman@waterboards.ca.gov. 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

Email: jwatts@waterboards.ca.gov

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 www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/. 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 dcole@entrix.com, 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: wise@entrix.com 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.