Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Grange Weighs in

The California State Grange and the National Grange recently passed the following resolution:







This resolution puts The Grange on a collision course with promoters of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and with the Irrigation Elite who would be that agreement’s main beneficiary. This is an amazing development because for many years The Grange has supported most positions of Big Agriculture. Even more amazing is the endorsement of the Public Trust Doctrine contained in the resolution. This also is in conflict with Big Ag which is working hard to transform public trust water into a private commodity.

The Grange emerged after the Civil War as a populist organization representing small family farmers and their communities. At the time these small farmers were being squeezed by the railroads, the banks and newly emerging industrial agriculture. It was a progressive, activist organization and considered radical by some.

As industrial agriculture expanded and came to dominate, the Grange – like the family farmers it represents – shrunk in membership and influence. It also became staunchly conservative. Late in the 20th century the Grange in Northern California came to be dominated by anti-environmental property-rights activists.

Here’s a link to an article about the Grange and here are links to the National and California State Grange web sites.

So what’s up with the Grange today? What motivated its leaders to take action in opposition to the Irrigation Elite and the KBRA? KlamBlog is not sure but we intend to invite those who championed the Grange Klamath Resolution to clarify their position on this site.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mike Thompson says he will introduce Klamath River legislation in January

In response to a question during an electronic Town Hall meeting the evening of December 9th, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson indicated that he would be introducing Klamath River legislation in January.

Here’s the question that was put to Thompson by a constituent:
"One thing on our minds in Humboldt County is the Klamath Dam Removal Deal.
Given that a number of parties have expressed concerns with the Klamath Settlement Negotiations and the linkage between dam removal and the $985 million Restoration Deal, how do you think you will proceed on introducing legislation?"

Thompson did not appear eager to talk about the Klamath River during a meeting dominated by health care. But he did give a clear indication that he was working with the Interior Department on Klamath legislation. Since the Interior Department is a party to the proposed Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) this response appears to indicate that Mr. Thompson plans to introduce the legislation which those remaining in negotiators are drafting behind closed doors.

Those with concerns about the Klamath Deals hoped Mr. Thompson would consider ideas, concepts and proposals from all his constituents and other Klamath River stakeholders who are not party to the closed door negotiations or who have rejected the resulting deals before drafting his own legislation.

Leading Northern California environmentalists - including Greg King, Diane Beck and Felice Pace - and prominent environmental organizations based in Mr. Thompson’s district - including the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) and Friends of Del Norte - favor dam removal but reject the proposed dam and water deals. Those opposing the deals are concerned because they do not commit to actually removing the dams, delay the removal unnecessarily, do not sufficiently protect water quality in the interim until the dams are removed and because the dam deal is linked to the controversial and costly KBRA. You can read Klamath Campaign Coordinator Jay Wright’s article explaining the NEC’s “new course" on the Klamath Deals on line.

Thompson indicated that he would be introducing legislation with an Oregon congressman but did not indicate whom that might be. The Upper Klamath Basin is represented by Greg Walden. Walden is running for reelection; he has yet to take a position on the Klamath deals. Peter DeFazio – who represents the Southern Oregon Coast - has also been involved in Klamath River issues. Last year he worked with Mike Thompson to obtain funding for fish disease research on the Klamath. DeFazio is a Democrat.

If Mr. Thompson decides to carry legislation being drafted by those remaining in Klamath negotiators he may face opposition from more than those who want to see a better dam removal deal. There is fierce opposition to the deals in the Upper Basin and in Siskiyou County. That opposition includes irrigators who believe that the deals give the Irigation Elite - the small group of irrigators who dominate irrigation on federal Klamath Project - an unfair competitive advantage via the KBRA's power and other subsidies.

The KBRA would require close to $1 billion dollars in spending and many millions more to purchase water from irrigators to meet salmon flow needs during drought years. Nearly half a billion dollars would be new spending. Thompson still caucuses with the Blue Dog Democrats who are deficit hawks. Organizations which fight government waste and subsidies – including Taxpayers for Common Sense - may get involved. While deal spending is being marketed as “restoration” two-thirds is actually subsidies to irrigators, tribes and counties.

One of the details on the Klamath Deals which has not yet been worked out is how to pay for them. The Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget is reportedly concerned about the spending – much of which would go to the Irrigation Elite. Congress so-called “pay go” rules would require that Mr. Thompson and other sponsors of legislation identify where they would cut funding to compensate for the new spending.

Another unresolved detail is the proposal to provide the Klamath Basin’s Irrigation Elite with access to cheap power from the Bonneville Power Administration. That proposal is likely being opposed by the aluminum and internet industries which have built plants along the Columbia River to take advantage of cheap Bonneville Power. Giving the Irrigation Elite access to Bonneville Power means less of that power would be available for existing users.

Most Bonneville power comes from Columbia River dams. Those dams have been implicated in the decline of salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin. Bonneville power for the Irrigation Elite would make those irrigators complicit in the Columbia Basin’s salmon decline. Likewise, the linkage of the proposed deals to the California Water Bond initiative could implicate the deal makers in approval of a Peripheral Canal to carry more Northern California water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and to Southern California cities. If the Peripheral Canal is built many California water watchers expect new attempts to divert more Klamath and Trinity River water south during the winter. River research indicates that high winter flows play a key role in sustaining river ecosystems - including salmon.

If they make it through Congress as negotiated, the Klamath Deals will carry implications not only for Klamath River Salmon but for Columbia River and Sacramento-San Joaquin Salmon as well.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Keep KlamBlog Indpendent and Non-commercial

Whatever your politics I hope you will agree that KlamBlog brings to light information and perspectives on Klamath River issues which are not available elsewhere. That is why I founded the Blog: as one antidote to the epidemic of secrecy and back room dealing that has become far too prevalent in the Klamath River Basin. But it takes time to uncover what others would like to keep hidden. KlamBlog takes 8 to 10 hours per week to research, write and distribute. Neither it nor I receive grant or organizational funding for that work; nor does KlamBlog accept advertising. But the financial burden of supporting KlamBlog through my other work has become problematic. That’s why I’m inviting you to make a contribution in support of KlamBlog’s continued existence. Your contribution will help keep KlamBlog independent and non-commercial.

Newspapers and other formal media sources have cut budgets for news collecting – many of them now rely on press releases for information. Press releases reflect the biases of the organizations which write them. As a result of the demise of independent, investigative news reporting the public has had to turn to non-traditional sources of information in order to keep informed. For the Klamath River Basin KlamBlog is the only non-traditional information source with both a biocentric perspective and a commitment to democratic process.

The blog is rooted in the belief that the public should be informed and involved in decisions about public resources. But experience has taught me that foundation funding and commercialization can compromise ones ability to just tell it like it is. Some foundations overtly use funding to control the agenda of organizations they fund. Others don’t interfere. But either way those who want to receive grants pay attention to what the foundations are funding and tailor their programs to conform to those foundation agendas.

KlamBlog has sought to avoid that funding game and its potential influence – however subtle - on the information presented and the opinions expressed on the blog. But that has become a financial burden. And so I am coming to you – KlamBlog’s readers – to help out.

Donations to KlamBlog are not tax deductible. Checks should be made payable to Felice Pace and mailed to 28 Maple Rd. Klamath, California 95548. Donors who wish to remain anonymous can use a money order or cashiers check.

Water – the source of life – is the most public of all resources. Help keep information on the management of water in the Klamath River Basin flowing. Please contribute if you can.

Felice Pace

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Klamath Justice Coalition is the grassroots, Indigenous-led group which – with help from Klamath Riverkeeper, the Seventh Generation Fund and others – has organized and led protests and direct actions from Portland, to Omaha and Scotland to call on PacifiCorp and its stockholders to take down the dams. Lately the Justice Coalition has been holding forums and discussion so that river residents can find out what is actually in the KBRA and KHSA, the dam and water deals. Yesterday, the Coalition – along with the Eureka Times Standard and others sponsors - held a panel discussion at Humboldt State University. About fifty people – including council members from the Hoopa Tribe and Yurok Tribe – attended.

For those who are regular readers of this Blog, not much of what was discussed at the Forum will be new. But there was one new piece of information revealed which may prove important as the focus shifts from negotiations among stakeholders to the US Congress.

Craig Tucker, who represents the Karuk Tribe, spoke first. He presented a power point promoting the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and emphasized that the roughly $1 billion dollars of federal spending which the KBRA calls for is needed for restoration activities.

Several other speakers later pointed out that much of the money Tucker claims is for “restoration” is actually subsidies to the Irrigation Elite. Study of Appendix B1 and B2 of the proposed (KBRA) confirms that this is the case. Of a total ten year budget of $985,202,000 only $322,495,000 – or 32.7% - would go for restoration projects. Of the remaining 67.3%:
  • • 34.4% ($338,002,000) would go directly to the Irrigation Elite – the small group of wealthy irrigators who receive water from the federal Klamath Project. Public oversight of how that money would be spent is constrained by the proposed KBRA. Most of this money is for studies; it is unclear if any of it would be used for restoration.
  • 8% ($80,000,000) would go directly to tribes. This would likely be used to support tribal fisheries and water resources departments.
  • 2.4% ($23,200,000) would go directly to counties (most to Siskiyou County). There’s no telling how this money would be spent but it is unlikely it would go toward restoration.
  • 4.8% ($47,500,000) would go for “Regulatory Assurances”. Irrigators have demanded protection from state and federal endangered species laws. The bulk of this money would go for development and agency review of Habitat Conservation Plans which – once approved – would provide a permit to Upper Basin Irrigators to “take” endangered species including Coho Salmon, Bald Eagles and Bull Trout. This is the sort of wink-and-nod ESA procedure which allows proponents of the deals to claim they are not changing any laws at the same time that they tell irrigators they won’t have to worry about the ESA.
  • 11.9% ($117,541) would go to pay for “monitoring”. The funds would actually go to the entities doing the monitoring whether agencies, tribes or irrigators. We already have lots of monitoring in the Klamath River Basin but additional monitoring would be needed for reintroduced salmon and for the sort of active real-time water management the KBRA envisions.
  • 5.4% ($53,159,000) would go to actively reintroducing salmon into the Upper Klamath Basin. Many salmon advocates favor passive restoration, i.e. allowing salmon to reinhabit the Upper Basin on their own once the dams are removed. Passive restoration would be much cheaper; only monitoring the salmon’s progress would be required. ESA-listed salmon which passively find their way to new habitats automatically receive full ESA protection; salmon which are actively reintroduced by humans (as proposed in the KBRA) do not have full ESA protection. Actively reintroduced salmon populations can be removed at the discretion of federal and state wildlife agencies.
  • .4% ($3,307,000) would go for “governance” including managing the money and supporting the advisory committees and technical teams the KBRA would establish.
There is an old adage which suggests that one should “follow the money” if one wants to know what is really going on in politics. Judging from the KBRA’s proposed budget the proposal is more about subsidies to the Irrigation Elite than about restoration. Furthermore, as was pointed out at yesterday’s Forum, much of the restoration work proposed by the KBRA is for restoration projects which will take place whether or not the KBRA is turned into federal legislation and passes Congress. KBRA promoters, however, continue to insist that without KBRA implementing legislation there will be insufficient funding for restoration.

Jay Wright and Scott Greacen represented the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) at the Forum. Wright explained that the NEC strongly favors dam removal but is concerned because the proposed Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) does not commit PacifiCorp, the federal government or the states to dam removal but only to a process to consider dam removal. He said the NEC does not think it is a good idea to force dam removal and the controversial and costly KBRA into the same legislation. The NEC has joined with Oregon Wild, Water Watch and other conservation organizations to advocate for clean dam legislation which Wright claimed would result in the dams coming out much sooner.

The Yurok Tribe and the Hoopa Tribe each presented their positions. The Hoopa do not favor the tribal waiver of rights which is in the KBRA and KHSA. They are also seeking assurances that funding for the Klamath River Basin will not be taken out of funds required to restore the Trinity River. The Yurok Tribe’s Troy Fletcher presented the Yurok Tribe’s view that the waiver only applies to past actions and is in other ways so limited that it is not important. KlamBlog can not help but wonder why the Bush Administration insisted that the waivers must be part of the deal if they are unimportant.

Back and forth between those representing the Hoopa Tribe and those representing the Yurok Tribe occupied much of the meeting. These two tribes have a history of conflict going way back. That conflict seems to be alive and well in spite of the fact that many members of each tribe have ancestors from both tribes and that they participate in each others traditional ceremonies.

One of the few new pieces of information presented at the forum came from long-time Klamath River activist Felice Pace who is also the primary author on this blog. Pace pointed out that the proposed KBRA calls for a drought plan. This indicates that under the flows and irrigation water allocations proposed in the KBRA there would not be enough water to meet flow targets in very dry years and during extended droughts.

Pace said he had worked with government and other specialists to determine how many years there would have been insufficient water supply to meet KBRA flow targets if those targets and KBRA proposed irrigation water allocations had been in place over the past 30 years. What they found was that in 7 out of the past 30 years there would not have been enough water supply to meet both KBRA flow targets and KBRA priority water allocation to the Irrigation Elite. Under these circumstances the water fish need would have to be leased from irrigators.

Pace said that the largest yearly deficit would have been 55,637 acre feet (an acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover 1 acre of land with water 1 foot deep). In 2009 the California State Water Bank paid $275 per acre foot of water. At this price, meeting the flows KBRA proponents say fish need would have cost over $15 million dollars in that one year alone. Pace asserted that leasing water to meet the needs of salmon is not sustainable and bad policy to boot.

The cost of the Drought Plan that KBRA flow and irrigation water allocations would necessitate is a major reason opponents of the KBRA say the deal is not a good idea. If Congress goes along with the KBRA and gives the first right to Klamath River water to irrigators then irrigators must be paid if some of that water is needed for fish. Under the Public Trust Doctrine as expressed in California Water and Fish & Game Codes, fish have a right to the amount of water they need to survive and thrive. Federal legislation implementing the KBRA would preempt those Public Trust rights.

Toward the end of the Forum, Kathy McCovey and Georgianna Myers of the Klamath Justice Coalition made pleas for unity. They expressed concern that Klamath River tribes and others who had previously made common cause to get the dams down were now divided and observed that divide and conquer had long been a federal policy with respect to tribes. This led to calls for a tribal summit and to pleas for unity from some of the council members present.

The Klamath Justice Coalition made a video of the Forum. To make a contribution in support of their Coalition’s work or to request a copy of the Forum video contact Georgianna Myers:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Glen Spain's view of Klamath reality

KlamBlog editor's note:

From time to time KlamBlog will feature the views of guest authors on Klamath River issues. We invite submissions from all of good faith. Below is a submission from Glen Spain. Glen took exception to our October 1st post but could not fit his objections into the allowable comment space. So we are publishing his critique in full.

Glen Spain has been involved with Klamath River issues for a decade or more. He has been involved in Klamath Settlement Negotiations since they began. Glen is an attorney.

Glen Spain is one of the most articulate promoters of the proposed Klamath Dam and Water Deals. KlamBlog does not agree with his reading of the benefits and costs of those Deals but we will resist the temptation to critique his analysis here.


NW Regional Director
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA)
(541)689-2000 Email to:

Reference to KlamBlog entry for 10/1/09

Though such mistakes in these complex issues are certainly understandable, the analysis of the KBRA and the new Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA) outlined in the KlamBlog October 1, 2009 entry is both over-simplistic as well as incorrect, for a number of reasons. Hopefully this response will clarify the facts and help separate them from the myths as part of this healthy debate.

The facts are these:

(1) NEITHER THE KLAMATH HYDROPOWER SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT (KHSA) NOR THE PARALLEL KLAMATH BASIN RESTORATION AGREEMENT “WAIVE” THE FEDERAL OR CALIFORNIA ESA TO ANY DEGREE. The only “waiver” of any provision of California wildlife laws that will be required to remove the Klamath Dams is a very limited one to allow dam removal (which will create sediment, which will harm some fish) that may adversely affect certain “fully protected species” from a short list codified in Cal. Fish & Game Code sections 3511 and 5515. These sections predate the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and were largely replaced by CESA (except for this remaining list of species in sections 5515 and 3511) because they are a “zero tolerance” impacts policy. Those specific species from this statutory list which occur in the Klamath include: Lost River sucker, shortnose sucker, bald eagle, American peregrine falcon and golden eagle.

In other words, it would currently be LEGALLY IMPOSSIBLE to remove dams in the Klamath or anywhere else in California that “might” adversely affect any of these specifically named so-called “fully protected” species without a statutory waiver. There simply IS no CESA-like “incidental take” exemption available under Fish & Game Code section 3511, even when the small short-term harm is a necessary price for much greater long-term benefits, such as large-scale river restoration. CESA was adopted much later to remedy that problem, but the old statute was never actually repealed.

A placeholder statement that legislation will be introduced resolving these conflicts to allow dam removal appears in the KHSA Appendix G-3. A much older (and now superseded) statement of specific proposed bill language to resolve that conflict appears in the KBRA at Appendix A-3, but this KBRA language will probably disappear in the final version of the KBRA because it was: (a) overly complex and a bit too broad, and; (b) the issue is now better covered in the KHSA Appendix G-3 specifically as a dam removal issue.

To keep Fish & Game Code Secs. 3511 and 5515 on the books, according to Fish and Game, legally blocks the Department’s ability to do many forms of watershed restoration, not to mention dam removals, all over the state – wherever any of these so-called “fully protected” species are present. Since these species are already covered under the far more inclusive as well as more flexible modern CESA process, these old statutes, they argue, are now obsolete.
CESA and the federal ESA would still apply regardless, and cannot be changed by a mere contractual agreement in any event. The specific exemption would also only apply to dam removal impacts – not to irrigation or other farming activities, to which the regular CESA and ESA would still always apply.

(2) THERE ARE NO CONCEIVABLE SCENARIOS IN WHICH PACIFICORP SHAREHOLDERS (AS OPPOSED TO ITS CUSTOMERS) WILL BE EXPECTED TO SHOULDER COSTS OF EITHER FERC RELICENSING OR DAM REMOVAL. Public utilities are nothing more state-regulated pass-through organizations. All their costs and operational expenses, whether for power facilities building, relicensing or demolition, are always simply passed through the company to be divided up among its ratepayer-customers. The only restriction on the Company’s ability to pass these costs through is that those costs must be “prudently incurred” (as determined by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in an appropriate rate setting case) in the course of the utilities’ business. Neither Warren Buffett nor any of the Company’s other shareholders would be ever required to shoulder prudently incurred costs by FERC or otherwise. Utilities just do not work that way.

(3) THE TEN (10) YEAR TIME FRAME FOR KLAMATH DAM REMOVAL IS BOTH REASONABLE AND NECESSARY. It can take a long time to tear down a dam right. The other major PacifiCorp dam involved in a removal settlement agreement, Condit Dam, will also take about 10 years to remove if (as currently scheduled) it comes down in 2010. The recently removed Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River took something like 18 years to remove.

There are many studies still to be done on how to engineer the removal, minimize fish damage and sediment, and avoid other environmental problems. There is almost certainly going to be litigation to resolve, and additionally the Klamath Trust Fund ratepayer funding for dam removal will not be all there until 2020 at the modest ~$1.50/month rate increase it was possible (barely) to pass into law in Oregon (SB 76). There simply is not enough time to have the $200 million required by SB 76 before 2020, nor enough time before then to accomplish all the other myriad of details that such an undertaking will require.

In fact, 2020 seems optimistic to many. Fortunately, however, numerous dam removal studies have already been done, and many more are in the pipeline right now, as part of the FERC process and in anticipation of an extensive NEPA-CEQA process. This has given us several years head start on meeting the 2020 deadline.

(4) THE REGULAR FERC PROCESS WOULD LIKELY NOT GET DAMS DOWN ANY SOONER – AND PERHAPS NOT AT ALL. FERC has never, during its entire history, unilaterally ordered a dam down against the wishes of a relicensing Applicant. The only arguable exception of the Edwards Dam in Maine -- which ultimately also resulted in a negotiated settlement -- still only gives you odds of such a FERC action at about 1/2 of 1 percent of all dam relicensing cases to come before FERC in the last 20 years. These are not good odds for getting FERC to unilaterally order dams down in the Klamath without the Company’s consent.

In order to get the dams decommissioned through the regular FERC process by other means, first you have to win the Clean Water Act 401 Certification fights in BOTH CA and OR, with both states firmly saying no (or making conditions PacifiCorp cannot live with). Then you have to win ALL the legal appeals, without exception, all the way through the state court system, then once again thorough the federal system on preemption and related issues, and finally to the US Supreme Court -- and this could easily be 7-8 years of litigation right there. And THEN, all PacifiCorp has to do to start the whole process over again would be to withdraw the original Application for 401 Certification and resubmit a new and slightly modified Application -- giving them one more year to obtain State 401 Certification administratively each time they do so, followed perhaps by more years of litigation, on and on well past 2020 and maybe past 2030.

And all this time, absent the KHSA, PacifiCorp does not have to do any "interim measures" of any sort, because they get an automatic annual status quo renewal of the current license. FERC has always been upheld on this in every past legal challenge of such rubber-stamp existing annual license extensions.

And, of course, without any sort of negotiated settlement you get no water reforms in the process as provided for in the KBRA. You might also wind up with at least one dam (J.C. Boyles, in Oregon) in the end, with a few patched-up fish passage measures. Oregon’s case against state 401 Certification for J.C. Boyle is much weaker than the case in California where most of the Clean Water Act problems within the reservoirs exist. J.C. Boyle Dam is also by far the most valuable part of the Hydro Project to PacifiCorp for power production.

At least with a negotiated FERC settlement you know what you are getting – all four dams down by 2020. Without such a settlement, facing many years of litigation and disputed hearings before FERC, you would not know with any certainty in advance that the dams will in fact be removed.

(5) FINALLY, THE “NEW SPENDING” IN THE KLAMATH CONTEMPLATED BY THE KBRA IS NOT “$500 MILLION” ALL IN ONE CHUNK AS IMPLIED, BUT OVER A PERIOD OF 10 FULL YEARS – THAT IS, ONLY ABOUT $50 MILLION/YEAR. This is not very much money by Congressional standards, but will do a great deal of good – and help the Klamath Basin avoid expensive future conflicts.

There is always competition for funding in Congress these days, but this problem is endemic to all federal funding programs, not just to the Klamath’s. To maximize the odds of full funding, however, requires Congressional authorization for at least that 10-year amount. Authorized programs always have first budget priority over ad hoc needs. So potential funding problems are an argument FOR Congressional authorization of the KBRA, not against it.
Fortunately, dam removal itself will be paid from non-federal funds ($200 million from PacifiCorp rate surcharges, and up to $250 more from future California bond funding) and so requires no Congressional funding. However, taking the dam removal decision entirely out of FERC’s hands does require Congressional approval – which is why this is provided for in the KHSA.

Hopefully the above helps to shed more light on these complex issues as groups analyze the Agreement in more detail. The KHSA documents are available at by following the Klamath link. KBRA References above are to the May 6, 2009 Draft KBRA available at: .
People should read these documents and think through these issues for themselves. These decision are too important to leave to speculation and rumor.


KlamBlog can echo that! Here are quick links directly to the documents:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A tale of two ditches….and a water trust

KlamBlog investigators have been in the Scott River watershed recently to check on the status of adult Chinook salmon. Regular readers will remember that Scott River Chinook salmon have been prevented from reaching their spawning grounds due to extremely low river flow. Our latest investigation was on November 4th; we have good and bad news to report.

The good news is that some Scott River irrigators voluntarily shut off their ditches to help the fish. The bad news is that some ditches are running nearly full even though – according to the Scott River Adjudication - irrigation was supposed to end “on or about” October 15th. Out of season irrigation is a regular practice in the Scott River Valley. Most of the Valley has no watermaster service and the California Department of Fish and Game refuses to enforce codes that regulate diversions. As a result, compliance with the Scott River Adjudication and California’s Fish & Game Codes is unregulated and voluntary.

One of the ditches that was shut off is the Scott Valley Irrigation District’s ditch – the largest diversion on the Scott River. Here’s a photo of that ditch on the 4th of November:

Scott Valley Irrigation District Ditch, Scott River Valley, November 4, 2009

At the same time another major irrigation ditch – the Farmer’s Ditch below Callahan - was running at an estimated 3 to 5 cubic feet per second (cfs). Since the irrigation season had ended more than two weeks earlier, the Farmer’s Ditch was officially running to supply livestock water – a right of 0.1 cfs. However, this irrigation district has been known to practice out-of-season irrigation. Here’s a photo showing out-of-season irrigation of a cattle pasture from the Farmer’s Ditch in a recent prior year. The photo was taken in early November.

Out-of-season flood irrigation from the Farmer's Ditch, Scott River Valley

While the Farmer's Ditch was running full, most of the salmon were still stuck in the Scott River canyon where they were forced to spawn before reaching their natal streams in and above Scott Valley. A few battered salmon had made it as far as Fort Jones in the lower part of Scott Valley. Some of the best Chinook spawning grounds are located in tributaries above Fort Jones.

The Farmer’s Ditch is owned and operated by an irrigation district with a sordid record. In addition to regularly practicing out-of-season irrigation this district killed an estimated one hundred thousands young steelhead and salmon a few years back. The irrigators turned on Farmer’s Ditch and dewatered the Scott River below the diversion. The resulting fish kill was documented by the California Department of Fish & Game (CDFG) but was not disclosed to the public. KlamBlog learned about it from a whistleblower. That fish kill was covered up and no consequences were enforced. The kill reportedly included a few juvenile Coho salmon. It is unknown whether Coho take prohibitions were in effect at that time.

Water Trust or Public Trust

On the same day KlamBlog was investigating the situation on the Scott an article appeared in the Mt. Shasta Herald newspaper announcing that the Scott River Water Trust had taken action to help migrating salmon. According to the article, the Trust leased 400 acre feet of water from Scott Valley irrigators in early October. The Trust’s press release indicated that their action helped “reconnect” the dry reaches of the Scott River in Scott Valley. Maybe so; KlamBlog did not observe any portion of the Scott River which did not have some flow on November 4th. However, it was clear that the flows in the river were not sufficient to get the salmon to their preferred spawning grounds, that is, the streams in which they were born.

The Scott Valley Water Trust claims to be the first water trust in California. Those who care about salmon should hope that it is also the last water trust in the state. That’s because the Trust is using public money to lease water which – pursuant to Public Trust law – belongs to the fish and the River.

The prospect of becoming water brokers who sell water so that fish can survive is becoming more and more popular with irrigation interests. Another example in the Klamath River Basin is the misnamed Klamath Water Bank whereby the Bureau of Reclamation pays irrigators to deliver the water the Bureau is compelled by the Endangered Species Act to release to the Klamath River. The Bush Administration initiated the practice so that it could continue to provide full irrigation deliveries to the very irrigators from whom it purchased water to prevent jeopardy to Klamath River Coho salmon.

Think about that for a second. Even though the ESA and the Public Trust legally trump the rights of all other water users, the Bureau of Reclamation has diverted Klamath River water for irrigation and then bought water from the very irrigators to whom it supplied the water!

This practice has not ended with the Bush Administration. If the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) is legislated by Congress, government payments to irrigators in order to provide the flows fish need during drought years will be institutionalized. With more and more drought years predicted, this KBRA provision could become a big budget buster which over time will dwarf the $1 billion in subsidies which promoters of the controversial Water Deal want Congress to appropriate.

Did developers of the KBRA Water Deal defer development of the drought plan in order to hide the true cost of the Deal from Congress? It certainly looks that way.

Have Chinook salmon been extirpated from Shakleford-Mill Creek?

Returning to the Scott River, in early November KlamBlog also observed that Chinook salmon were not able to reach spawning grounds in the Shakleford-Mill Creek portion of Scott Valley. Shakleford-Mill is a large tributary system which enters the Scott River at the lower end of Scott Valley. The creeks are fed by streams originating in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. They should have good flows year around.

As late as the early 1970s this major Scott River tributary did have year-around flows and these flows supported prolific Chinook and a solid Coho run. Then a government-funded “soil conservation” project diked and channelized the lower portion of the creek in order to “reclaim” more land for irrigated farming. This was followed in the 1980s by massive logging and road building by a new industrial timber owner. Fruit Growers Supply – a Sunkist subsidiary – bought the industrial forests above Shakleford and Mill Creeks and accelerated logging and road building. This led to massive amounts of sediment being delivered to the creeks.

As a result of channelization and logging-generated sediment a large gravel delta has developed at the mouth of Shakleford Creek. Flow diminished by irrigation diversions can not break through this barrier and goes underground. As a result, adult Chinook can not access the creek in many years. Mill Creek – a major Shakleford Creek tributary – has been identified as possessing some of the best remaining Coho habitat in Scott Valley. But if major storms do not come soon, even Coho will not be able to spawn in Shakleford-Mill Creek this year.

Sediment barrier at the mouth of Shakleford Creek
Scott River Valley, July 2009

The slide toward extinction

The Scott River conditions described above are not unique. From San Francisco Bay north to the Oregon border Chinook and Coho salmon are being extirpated from streams in a similar manner. Irresponsible logging clogs the streams with sediment; illegal water diversion and unrestrained groundwater pumping result in diminished flows; low flow barriers to migration develop. As salmon are prevented from reaching spawning grounds in more and more streams and in more and more years they eventually are extirpated from the streams. As more and more streams suffer this fate extinction happens.

This is the course we are on and there is no indication that as a society we are going to turn back.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Opposition grows to PacifiCorp Dam Deal

Concerns are mounting that the recently unveiled Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) may not actually result in dam removal. Problematic provisions have been identified that could frustrate dam removal or delay it for decades. Klamath Salmon advocates also worry that by the time the dams actually come down Coho and Spring Chinook Salmon may have already been driven to extinction in the Klamath River Basin. Here is a summary of the main concerns which have surfaced so far:

• The KHSA does not make a commitment to dam removal. Instead it outlines a process by which the Secretary of Interior would make a decision in 2012 concerning whether dam removal is in the public interest. An increasing number of dam removal advocates are saying that this is not good enough. These activists want PacifiCorp and the Obama Administration to make a definite commitment to TAKE DOWN THE DAMS!

• The KHSA contains numerous provisions that could stop the process and allow PacifiCorp to back away from dam removal. Activists say these provisions could be used by PacifiCorp to indefinitely delay dam removal or even to avoid it altogether. Meanwhile the company would continue to reap profits while Klamath River Salmon continue to suffer from lethal water quality and inadequate flow below the dams.

• The KHSA would delay dam removal at least a decade beyond the time necessary to complete engineering and environmental impact studies. The only reason for the delay is to allow PacifiCorp to collect money for dam removal from its customers in Oregon and Northern California. Under the KHSA PacifCorp would continue to make profits during this period but would contribute no funds toward dam removal. Activists say that PacifiCorp stockholders should share bear part of the cost of removing facilities it owns and that the federal government should advance funds for dam removal and recoup those funds later from ratepayers.

• The KHSA does not adequately protect water quality or salmon during the decade-long period it proposes to delay dam removal. In fact, the Deal would in effect provide PacifiCorp with an exemption from the Clean Water Act. This in turn would prevent the North Coast Water Board from implementing the Klamath TMDL Clean-Up Plan it is currently developing. That Klamath Clean-Up Plan offers hope that the severe water quality problems which kill millions of young salmon every year might finally be addressed.

The dams are only part of that water quality problem – pollution from irrigation return flows and livestock operations create even more pollution than the dams. We can not clean-up the Klamath without addressing both Ag and dam-related pollution. Furthermore, Agricultural interests will rightly cry fowl if they are expected to clean up their pollution while PacifiCorp is allowed to continue business as usual.

Water polluted with livestock waste flows from a ditch into the clear water of Patterson Creek in the Scott River Valley

• The KHSA would absolve PacifiCorp from any and all liability associated with 100 years of powerhouse and power generation operations. Old power generation facilities often contain hidden toxic legacy which can be very costly to remediate. Activists say that it is OK to free PacifiCorp from liability for dam removal but they should remain liable for any toxic legacies associated with their operation of power generating facilities .

Connection to Water Deal Questioned

Grassroots activists and organizations are also questioning the wisdom of connecting the Dam Deal with the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. Like KlamBlog, these activists and organizations realize that saddling dam removal legislation with the weight of controversial water allocations and costly cash subsidies could well sink the legislation or delay it in Congress for a long time.

The nearly $1 billion in subsidies and new programs included in the controversial KBRA will require shifting money from other tribes and other federal programs. That will be opposed by those other interests and programs because they would loose government funding as a result. The KBRA also requires nearly $500,000 in new funding – much of it for subsidies to the small group of wealthy irrigators who dominate Upper Klamath River Basin politics. Under congressional rules a congressperson or senator who proposing such spending will have to specify which programs will be cut to provide for the new spending. Cutting existing programs can be very controversial and all it takes is a single senator to put an indefinite hold on such legislation.

The KHSA and KBRA also include a provisions which would provide irrigators in the Upper Klamath River Basin with power from the Bonneville Power Administration. Because it is cheap Bonneville Power is coveted across the West. Those who currently have access to that power are vigilant lest they loose some of it. But the Dam and Water Deals both propose taking some of that power away from current industrial users and giving it to wealthy Klamath Basin irrigators. In response the Northwest Industrial Power Users Association – a trade group made up of internet firms and aluminum producers – has become involved in Klamath dam issues. This is a powerful and well connected lobby group whose opposition could kill dam removal legislation.

Termination of Tribal Rights

While the above list of problems with the proposed KHSA and KBRA are formidable they are not the least of the problems with these proposed deals. Exploding onto the national scene recently have been concerns about a waiver of rights which the four federal Indian tribes involved in dam negotiations – the Hoopa, Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes - would be required to sign as part of the Deal. While the Yurok and Karuk Tribes argue that the waivers are conditional on funding and other aspects of the deals going forward, tribes across the US have become concerned about provisions in the KHSA which would allow the federal government to waive the rights of a dissenting tribe should the other tribes involved decide to sign the waiver.

This provision of the KHSA appears to be aimed directly at the Hoopa Tribe which has expressed serious reservations about the waiver of rights and about how the KBRA would impact Trinity River restoration.

The Hoopa Tribe may hold the trump card when it comes to Klamath Water Deals because they have the status of a state for purposes of the Clean Water Act. Because a portion of the Hoopa Reservation crosses the Klamath River above Weitchpec, the Hoopa Tribe’s water quality standards must be addressed. But the combination of KHSA provisions empowering the federal government to terminate the Hoopa right to decide for themselves whether to waive their water rights and the proposed suspension of the Clean Water Act discussed above could in combination render objections of the Hoopa to the Dam and Water Deals ineffective and irrelevant.

Indigenous activists like Chris Peters, president of the Seventh Generation Fund, have spoken out against an agreement that would empower the federal government to terminate the rights of a sovereign tribe without their consent. Many members of the three lower Klamath River tribes – the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk - are related or have common ancestors. The three tribes also participate in each others traditional dances and ceremonies. Will the Karuk Tribal Council and Yurok Tribal Council go along with the consultants and staff who are telling them that it is OK to treat the Hoopa in this manner? Only time will tell.

You can read Chris Peter’s statement on “termination” of tribal rights in KlamBlog’s October 10th post below.

Termination of tribal rights without a tribes consent would set a modern national precedent and harkens back to days when Indians were treated like small children for whom the federal parent decided virtually everything. Both the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the National Congress of American Indians recently passed resolutions in support of each tribes sovereign right to enter into or reject water agreements.

Widespread tribal attention to the proposed Klamath Deals calls attention to the broader context in which the Klamath Dam and Water Deals are being pursued. If one were to add up all the water to which western federal tribes have claim it would likely amount to about half of all the water in the West. But when that water was divided during past centuries those claims were ignored.

Over the past two decades the federal government has been systematically cutting deals with tribes across the West that are designed to make sure those tribal claims never are quantified or perfected. All of these deals involve tribes giving up water rights – or the ability to exercise those rights – in exchange for the promise of federal funding, restoration and – in the case of the Klamath Tribes - land. But in the modern world of water banks and water brokering those tribes which hang onto and perfect their water rights are likely to be much more wealthy than the wealthiest casino tribes of today. Still the allure of funding and the promise of restoration has proven difficult for cash strapped tribal governments to resist.

Seen in this light the Klamath Dam and Water Deals can be viewed as part of yet another vast swindle whereby Indigenous People are being divested of the most valuable right they hold – the right to life-giving Water. History may look back and condemn our complicity with this immoral federal project which has and continues to be implemented in Democratic as well as Republican administrations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Klamath on PBS - River of Renewal to air during November

River of Renewal - the award winning documentary about the struggle to restore the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon - will air on numerous Public Broadcasting Stations during the month of November. On November 6th the film will show nationwide on PBS World. You can check out all showing dates and times on line.

There is a lot more information about the film on the River of Renewal website. You can purchase a DVD of the film there too; River of Renewal DVDs make excellent holiday gifts! You can also learn more about Klamath River issues, how to get involved, where to get more information and how to contact the filmmakers on the web site.

If you have not yet seen River of Renewal plan to catch it on PBS during November or plan a party around one of the showings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shasta Scott "License to Kill Salmon" Challenged

Below (after the photo) you will find a Press Release from 8 organizations which filed a challenge today to the California Department of Fish and Game's attempt to allow farmers and ranchers in the Shasta and Scott River Valleys to "take" Coho salmon in their agricultural operations.

The "Watershed-wide" permits CDFG is attempting to give farmers and ranchers in these Klamath River tributaries attempt to put rancher-dominated Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) in charge of enforcing state law pertaining to dams and stream diversions. Farmers in the Scott River Valley have been denying Department of Fish & Game personnel access to the Scott River for many years now. CDFG has obeyed the rancher-farmer prohibition even though state law guarantees access to the navigable Scott River not only to CDFG employees but also to all citizens. Officials and ordinary citizens can float these rivers (when there is any water in them) but they can also walk, fish and recreate anywhere within the mean high water mark.

The right of citizens to use navigable rivers for travel, fishing and recreation is specifically guaranteed in the Act of Congress which admitted the new State of California into the United States. But like many laws of the land, the navigability law is not in effect in the Scott and Shasta Valleys.

The agricultural operations which the Department of Fish & Game seeks to permit include dewatering these rivers through a doubling of agricultural water use since 1960. Numerous salmon and steelhead - including Coho Salmon which are listed as "threatened" under state and federal endangered species laws - die each year when farmers and ranchers turn on stream diversions in the spring dewatering river sections below the dams and diversions. State law is supposed to keep that from happening but that law - Fish & Game Code 5937 - has not been enforced in the Scott and Shasta Valleys.

The Shasta and Scott Rivers are major Klamath River tributaries. The National Academy of Sciences has identified the Shasta and Scott River Basins as the places where Coho Salmon must be restored in order to prevent extinction of Klamath River Coho. Currently, wild Coho in the Klamath-Trinity system are at high risk of extinction with only one year in every three producing a spawning population large enough to maintain genetic diversity - one of the keys to salmon survival.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed today include environmental and fishing groups and one federally recognized Indian Tribe - The Quartz Valley Indian Reservation (QVIR) - which is located in a portion of the Scott River Valley. The QVIR was illegally terminated in the 1960s via a fraudulent federal election but was reinstated as a federal tribe in 1980 as a result of a lawsuit brought by California Indian Legal Services.

Elders of the QVIR now passed on told of how the land was stolen by whites during the period of termination. When the Tribe was terminated by the federal government, reservation lands became the private property of the individual Indians living on the reservation. Many of the older folks were not literate. When they got sick they were taken to the hospital which at that time was owned by Siskiyou County. They were treated and taken home. Then the bill arrived.

Many of these elders could not read the hospital bills; they were not part of the cash economy and had no idea they were at risk for non-payment. Siskiyou County , however, foreclosed on the property for non-payment and white ranchers bought the prime agricultural land at auction. Other QVIR Indians lost the land through non-payment of taxes.

This scenario was not unique to the Scott River Valley. Across America the Eisenhower Administration terminated tribes and whites subsequently gained control of the land. Many of the terminations were later overturned in court but the land remained in the hands of whites. That is why the majority of land on most Indian Reservations today is owned by non-Indians.

The Dewatered Scott River near Fort Jones in June of this year
Note full-on sprinkler irrigation in the middle ground left of the photo

Klamath Riverkeeper ~ Earthjustice ~ Environmental Protection Information Center ~ Northcoast Environmental Center ~ Sierra Club ~ Quartz Valley Indian Reservation ~ Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations ~ Institute for Fisheries Resources


October 22, 2009


Erica Terence, Klamath Riverkeeper, 530-627-3311,
Glen Spain, PCFFA, 541-689-2000,
Wendy Park, Earthjustice, 510-550-6725,

Coalition Challenges State’s “Licenses to Kill Salmon” on Key Klamath River Streams. Agency proposal leaves threatened coho with dry riverbeds, impaired water quality

San Francisco, CA – A coalition of tribes, conservationists, and commercial fishing groups filed suit today in San Francisco Superior Court to block a precedent-setting agency proposal to strip endangered species protections from threatened coho salmon in northern California’s Klamath River watershed. The groups, represented by Earthjustice, oppose a plan by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) to issue a blanket permit for agricultural practices that kill salmon or destroy habitat in the Shasta and Scott rivers, two of the Klamath’s key salmon spawning tributaries.

“These proposed permits are essentially licenses to kill salmon,” said Erica Terence of Klamath Riverkeeper, lead plaintiff on the case. “With conditions deteriorating for fish every year on the Scott and Shasta, CDFG should be proposing programs that expand protections for fish, not destroy them as these watershed-wide permits would do.”

This summer, the Scott and Shasta garnered headlines statewide after irrigation withdrawals caused record low flows and dewatered stretches of both rivers as thousands of salmon swam upriver to spawn. While local officials blame lack of rain for this year’s record low flows, peer-reviewed science shows that steadily increasing irrigation withdrawals are largely to blame for no-flow and record low-flow conditions in these rivers.

“This program amounts to a death sentence for salmon in both rivers.” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), representing commercial fishermen devastated by fishing closures. “Instead of enforcing the laws, CDFG’s proposed program turns a blind eye to the practices that have driven Klamath coho to near extinction. CDFG should put an end to these destructive practices, not make them the assumed environmental baseline.”

The Watershed-Wide Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) at issue in this case would provide legal cover for continued de-watering of the Scott and Shasta while allowing illegal dams, water withdrawals, and livestock grazing in stream beds to continue unchecked. ITPs for coho salmon are required under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) because the species is listed as threatened with extinction. Coho populations in the Klamath Basin have declined to roughly 1% to 2% of their historic abundance, with the Scott and Shasta rivers among their most important remaining habitat.

California currently issues individual permits to allow farmers and ranchers to continue lawful use of these rivers while threatened salmon are present, as long as their activities do not jeopardize fish survival and efforts are made to mitigate harm. But in the Scott and Shasta, the agency is planning a blanket waiver for all farming activities – without first determining whether any activities are harmful to salmon or even illegal. The program may be replicated by CDFG in watersheds throughout the state.

Terence suggested the new permits could actually undermine the good work done by Scott and Shasta landowners to restore fish habitat in the rivers, noting that “Fish screens and streambank restoration are good things, but they don’t help much if there’s no water in the river.”

“The agency proposal runs exactly opposite to the intent of the laws protecting our natural resources. Unfortunately, these permits as outlined by CDFG will ensure that conditions for threatened salmon will continue to erode in these key salmon watersheds,” said Wendy Park, attorney with Earthjustice.

The proposals have been in draft since September 2008. Tribes, conservationists, fishing groups, and the general public made frequent and substantive objections to the process, but CDFG failed to make significant changes in its final Environmental Impact Report released early this October. The agency’s action flies in the face of a 2004 National Academy of Sciences report suggesting that curbing agricultural water use and habitat degradation in the Scott and Shasta watersheds are critical for restoring Klamath River coho salmon. Indeed, the Shasta River was once the most productive salmon stream, for its size, in the state of California.

“This plan would also significantly undermine the efforts of the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, who were tasked with restoration of acceptable water quality in the Scott and Shasta under the federal Clean Water Act,” added Daniel Myers of the Sierra Club.

The suit comes on the heels of renewed concerns of another possible wave of fish kills in the Klamath Basin. Relatively high numbers of fall chinook salmon have returned to the Klamath this fall, even as the Shasta and Scott experience record low flows. Scientists found that low flows sparked the infamous September 2002 Klamath River fish kill that took the lives of some 70,000 returning salmon before they could spawn.

“We all want to encourage local landowner actions that help coho salmon recover in the Scott and Shasta, but this plan fails to deliver meaningful recovery actions for salmon. We cannot allow the state to just write off two of its greatest salmon rivers,” concluded PCFFA’s Glen Spain.

More information, references, photo galleries, and photos for download of the de-watered Scott and Shasta Rivers are available at


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lost in the Klamath Deal swamp – The Lost River Basin

The Lost River Basin comprises about 20% of the total land area of the Klamath-Trinity River Basin. KlamBlog’s review of the proposed Klamath Water Deal indicates that – if that Deal is implemented as written – the Lost River Basin will be rendered an environmental and wildlife sacrifice zone.

The Lost River Basin is the area at the right center of the map straddling the Cal-Or line
Note all the surface water indicated in blue (Map courtesy of KRIS)
KlamBlog has also determined that, if the proposed Water Deal goes through as planned, it will be virtually impossible to reverse the sacrifice of Lost River Basin environmental and wildlife values. That is because the operative sacrifice provisions would be locked in via federal and state legislation already drafted as part of the proposed Water Deal.[1] While the Water Deal is not yet in final form, deal promoter Craig Tucker is reported in the press as stating with off-hand assurance that there will be no major changes from drafts previously released to the public.[2] Full text of the proposed Water Deal ( as well as the related Dam Deal) are available on line.

Some details of how the Lost River will become a sacrifice zone are presented below. The list is not complete. KlamBlog has not had the time, for example, to study proposed Oregon Legislation to determine if there are additional Lost River Sacrifice Zone provisions in that aspect of the proposed Deal or in the related Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) also known as the Dam Deal.

Historical Background:

In order to understand why and how the proposed Water Deal if adopted and implemented would render the Lost River Basin an environmental and wildlife sacrifice zone it is necessary to know a bit about the history of water development there.

The Lost River Basin was not always part of the Klamath River Basin. While water may have flowed from the Upper Klamath Basin to the Lost River Basin near Klamath Falls during extreme flood events, prior to the coming of white Europeans, the Lost River Basin was a completely self-contained basin with no surface outlet to any other water body.

We now know that Lost River Basin groundwater flows into and through volcanic tunnels. These full fledged rivers emerge to the South in the Fall River Valley. The streams then flow on the surface into the Pit River, a tributary of the Sacramento River. Water that originates in the Lost River Basin thus comprises a large part of the Pit River’s flow and a significant part of the water stored behind Shasta Dam near Redding, California.

The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) changed the Lost River Basin in a manner that has made it an integral part of the Klamath River Basin. Beginning in 2005, the BOR began draining lakes and wetlands in the Upper Klamath and Lost River Basins to create irrigated farmlands. The main problem the BOR faced in this effort prior to the 1970s was too much water.

Each year water from Upper Klamath Lake and above flowed into the Lower Klamath Lake Area expanding the size of that vast waterbody. Likewise water from Clear Lake and the Lost River Basin uplands flowed into the then vast Tule Lake at the closed Basin’s lowest point.

In order to turn Lower Klamath Lake into farmland, the BOR used a railroad grade as a dike to prevent Upper Klamath Lake water from flowing into it. In order to turn Tule Lake into farmland the BOR first built the Lost River Diversion Canal and then a tunnel to pump “excess” water from the remnant Tule Lake (renamed a “Sump”) and through the Klamath Straits (renamed a “Drain”) to the Klamath River. In the absence of those facilities, the former Lower Klamath Lake and the former Tule Lake would flood – submerging the farmland the BOR had created and returning the land to lakes and marshes.

Because of the human manipulations described above, the Lost River Basin now consists not only of the lands actually in the Basin but also the lands to which Lost River and Klamath Project irrigation wastewater are now diverted and pumped. These include the Lower Klamath Lake, Klamath Straits and Keno Reservoir portions of the main Klamath River Basin. Most of the irrigation wastewater generated within the Klamath Project is collected in the remnant Tule Lake, pumped through Sheepy Ridge to Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and then dumped into the Keno Reservoir portion of the Klamath River via the Klamath Straits.

Sacrificed: Tule Lake and Lower Klamath NWRs:

Under the proposed Klamath Dam and Water Deals the Lost River Basin will be placed under the firm control of the so-called “On Project Irrigators” – the small group of wealthy irrigators KlamBlog calls the Irrigation Elite.

Section 15.1.2 of the Water Deal provides terms for the allocation and delivery of water to National Wildlife Refuges. Careful study of these terms reveals that water for the Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges will be under the control of the Irrigation Elite who can choose to dewater the refuges under specified conditions, i.e. when the Elite decides that there is insufficient water for irrigation by its members.

This section – as well as draft legislation included in the Water Deal’s appendices - also locks in commercial agriculture on the refuges and assures that these commercialized refuge lands will get water before the marshes and wetlands on which refuge waterfowl and other wildlife primarily depend.

Furthermore, this section provides that the Irrigation Elite can use Tule Lake and Lower Klamath refuges as their water treatment plant in order to meet obligations under the Clean Water Act. These well-off irrigators can also choose to supply the refuges with water “from other sources.” That would be the wells which the public gave these irrigators during the 2001 drought (California taxpayers) and under the $50 million Klamath EQIP provisions in the 2002 federal Farm Bill (federal taxpayers). The Irrigation Elite would – of course – want to be compensated by the government IF they choose to provide the refuges with water in this manner.

Sacrificed: Lost River Basin Groundwater

This member of the Irrigation Elite was protesting the first ever curtailment of water deliveries in 2001. Those who value the environment, fish and wildlife might take away a different meaning.

The Water Deal provides in section 15.2.4 for the protection of groundwater. This is necessary because – while the critical Drought Plan required by the Deal has intentionally not yet been written – it is clear to those who know the Basin’s water resources that it will be necessary to pump groundwater in order to meet the priority irrigation water allocation provided to the Irrigation Elite and also meet the minimum Klamath River flow needs of salmon and other fish during drought years.

Protection of groundwater is accomplished by monitoring a specified set of springs. If groundwater falls too low these springs will diminish or cease running. It is a good monitoring plan and it should be effective in preventing mining of groundwater in order to provide for irrigation and Klamath River flow.

Careful study of the Deal, however, reveals that all the springs which will be monitored are in or adjacent to the Klamath River. There will be no monitoring of springs in the Lost River Basin. But this is precisely where the US Geological Service is already on record that current levels of pumping are unsustainable, i.e. that the Irrigation Elite is already mining Lost River groundwater in order to market that water to (who else) the Bureau of Reclamation which then uses it to meet its ESA obligations without having to reduce irrigation deliveries.

This is one of the dirty little secrets of the Water Deal: Obscured by language protective of groundwater on the Klamath River side, the Deal would allow and even encourage the continued, unsustainable mining of Lost River Basin groundwater so that Klamath Project irrigation deliveries can continue at current levels and so that water for fish can be commoditized.

Sacrificed: Public Water Planning in the Lost River Basin

Section 15.2. of the Water Deal provides about a million dollars to the Irrigation Elite to develop an “On Project Water Plan”, that is, a plan to “align water supply and demand” for most lands within the federal Klamath Project. This section gives the Elite sole control of the planning and a million bucks to do it and only requires approval of the resulting plan by (you guessed it!) the Bureau of Reclamation – an agency which has never seen an irrigation proposal it did not like. This section of the Deal says groundwater will be protected but it defines impacts to groundwater so as to exclude impacts to Lost River Groundwater.
The Anderson-Rose Diversion Dam on the Lost River
This dam was built on top of the natural volcanic sill used by the Modoc Indians and by pioneers traveling the Applegate Trail
This section of the Water Deal creates a classic black box. Under its provisions, the Public will be excluded from water planning within the Lost River Basin. But the Public (taxpayers) will nevertheless pay so that the Irrigation Elite can plan the water future – including water commoditization and marketing – for 20% of the Klamath Basin, i.e. the entire Lost River Basin.

Sacrificed: Endangered Species in the Lost River Basin and Lower Klamath Lake Area
California legislation included in the proposed Water Deal (see section 23 and appendix A2) would provide the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) with the ability to allow the Irrigation Elite to “take” California fully protected species including but not limited to Kuptu and Tsuam (aka Lost River and Shortnose suckers), Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles.

Apologists for the Deal argue that this is simply extending the ability of CDFG to issue take permits as it does for other species – like Coho Salmon – which are listed under provisions of the California ESA but not “fully protected”. These apologists are correct; here’s the specific legislative language lawyers for the Irrigation Elite wrote into Appendix A2:

Section 2081.9 is added to the Fish and Game Code to read:
2081.9. (a) Notwithstanding Sections 5515 and 3511 and contingent upon the conditions set forth in (b) and (c), the department may authorize, under Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) or Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 2800), the take of species in the Klamath River basin and those portions of the Tule Lake basin and Lost River basin that occur in California.
In other words, the Water Deal would provide the California Department of Fish & Game (CDFG) with the ability to do the sort of thing they are trying to do right now in the Shasta and Scott River portions of the Klamath River Basin. In the Shasta and Scott CDFG has decided to legalize the massive take of Coho Salmon which occurs each year via the dewatering of these key Klamath tributaries. That dewatering is occurring primarily as a result of a doubling of irrigation water consumption by irrigators since 1960.

The sort of mischief CDFG is engaged in on the Shasta and Scott would be exported under the Water Deal to the Lost River Basin and applied to the Irrigation Elite. Language added to the CDFG “take permit” program proposal at the behest of Scott River irrigators illustrates what this would lead to in the Lost River Basin:

"The Department will make every effort to work with Siskiyou Resource Conservation District and sub-permittee to correct or avoid such take [coho stranding] by some means other than reducing or ceasing the diversion and/or changing the timing or manner of the diversion."

Some promoters of the Water Deal are expected to be plaintiffs in litigation which will be filed soon to block CDFG from selling-out Coho on the Shasta and Scott. These individuals apparently do not believe that Kuptu, Tsuam and Bald Eagles are as important as Coho Salmon.

Based on its corrupt behavior on the Shasta and Scott, KlamBlog expects that CDFG will attempt to legalize take of Kuptu, Tsuam, Bald Eagles and other protected species by the Irrigation Elite in the following portions of the Lost River Basin IF the Water Deal and the California legislation included in that Deal is adopted and becomes law:

¨ Clear Lake: This natural lake is the source of the Lost River. It provides habitat for Kuptu and Tsuam as well as White Pelicans and other species.

¨ Lost River: Subject to channelization (straightening) by the Bureau of Reclamation, virtually every stick of vegetation has been removed from the banks of the Lost River. Nevertheless a few Kuptu and Tsuam are still found in the river.

¨ Tule Lake: The remnant Tule Lake is key habitat for Kuptu (Lost River Suckers). The "fully protected" status of Kuptu and Tsuam puts some limitations on the Irrigation Elite which use the remnant lake – aka Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge – as an agricultural sump and agricultural sewage pond.

¨ Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges: These refuges host and provide food for as many as 1,000 or more wintering Bald Eagles. Studies conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service during the Clinton Administration found that failure to provide these refuges with the water they need results in “take” of Bald Eagles. Eagles die when the refuges are dewatered because their main food source – ducks and geese – move down to the Central Valley and Salton Sea when the Klamath refuges are dewatered. The eagles, however, do not leave; they starve to death. Although this “take” is illegal under California law no environmental organization has yet filed suit to keep the refuges from being dewatered and thereby to save starving Bald Eagles.


KlamBlog has presented above information from the proposed Water Deal which we believe makes the case that those who support and promote the Deal are colluding to render the Lost River Basin an environmental and wildlife sacrifice zone. The conservation groups which have signaled that they are ready to endorse this abomination in the name of Klamath Dam removal include (in alphabetical order) the following organizations:
  • American Rivers
  • California Trout
  • National Center for Conservation Science and Policy
  • Northern California/Nevada Council Federation of Fly Fishers
  • Trout Unlimited.
KlamBlog invites representatives of these organizations to defend themselves here. We welcome their submission telling KlamBlog’s readers why they think the analysis above is in error or alternatively why they think it is OK to sell out one area and river in order to “save” another area or river.

Prayer Pole at Captain Jack's Stronghold, Lava Beds National Monument, Lost River Basin. The Stronghold looks north over what was once the vast Tule Lake and the Modoc Tribe's winter village. The area is now mostly farmland dominated by the Irrigation Elite

[1] Proposed federal and state legislation to implement the Klamath Deals has already been drafted. See Appendix E, G1, G2 and G3 of the proposed Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) – the Dam Deal; and Appendix A1. A2 and A3 of the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) – the Water Deal. Both are available at
[2] The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) Board of Directors voted over a year ago not to agree to any major changes to the Draft Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (the Water Deal). KWUA represents the Irrigation Elite in Klamath negotiations.