Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hoopa Tribe: Still fighting (alone) for the Klamath and Klamath Salmon

You would not know it if you get your Klamath information from media sources, but the Hoopa Tribe has continued strong advocacy for the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon at a time when most of the Klamath’s self-declared “champions” have put their advocacy on the shelf in favor of supporting the Bush Interior-Schwarzenegger-Kulongoski-PacifiCorp agenda for the Klamath River and Klamath Dams.

Organizations like the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA) which have in the past been frequent litigants challenging the government’s Klamath decisions are now supporting those decisions. For example, PCFFA, American Rivers and Trout Unlimited signed on to a Bush Interior letter asking the California Water Board to delay developing water quality standards for PacifiCorp’s Klamath dams pending negotiations. At the same time the Hoopa Tribe was urging the Water Board “not to grant any additional extensions in this (water quality) proceeding.”

The Hoopa Tribe also recently refiled a petition which was originally made to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February 2007. That petition, which FERC denied, requested that FERC impose ramping rate and minimum flow requirements for the J.C. Boyle dam as conditions in the annual operating licenses which it is giving PacifCorp pending final resolution of the Klamath dam issue.

The ramping rate and minimum flow requests are for Redband Trout. Redband inhabit the river above Iron Gate dam. According to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Upper Klamath Lake Basin supports the largest and most functional Redband Trout populations of Oregon interior basins. They add, however, that the Klamath Basin population is severely limited in distribution and abundance by habitat quality and non-native species.

A judge has already determined that the ramping rate and flows which have been requested by federal and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists for Redband Trout are reasonable. The Hoopa petition asks that FERC make them a requirement in annual licenses which are being granted to PacifiCorp to operate the dams pending a final resolution on relicensing the dams.

FERC originally rejected the petition because (in part) it said that “since completion of the relicensing proceeding is itself awaiting issuance of water quality certification, there would be no environmental advantage in instituting yet another proceeding that could not be completed until water quality certification were issued.” But now there is a good chance that process too will be put on hold pending negotiations. The argument of FERC for rejecting the petition will become moot if the California Water Board again grants a delay in the water quality certification process as requested by Interior, PCFFA and others.

The Bush-Schwarzenegger-Kulongoski-PacifiCorp Agreement in Principle proposes “Interim Conditions” for operation of the dams by PacifiCorp until at least 2020. While PCFFA and other groups have indicated support for those interim measures, the Hoopa Tribe says they are not adequate to protect fish and water quality. That’s why they have refiled their petition to FERC and part of why they do not support a further delay in the water quality certification process.

It is amazing that no other organization has so much as filed a letter in support of the petition to FERC on behalf of water for Redband Trout. Why have these former Klamath Defenders become so compliant with the government? And why are trout organizations like Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Flyfishers apparently willing to go along with at least a 10 year delay before Redband Trout get the flows which biologists say they need? KlamBlog offers the trout groups and others the opportunity to explain themselves.

But there is more to this story than flows for trout. The ramping rates and flows below J.C. Boyle Dam are key to PacifiCorp’s profits from the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. The current ramping rate (which alternately flood and dewater the Klamath River below J.C. Boyle Dam) is the main source of PacifiCorp’s profits from its Klamath dams and powerhouses. By maximizing the ramping rate (the current situation) the company can produce more power in the evening when demand is high and the price of electricity is also higher. If PacifiCorp is ordered by FERC to modify ramping and flows for Redband Trout they will make a lot less money from Klamath Operations.

KlamBlog and others have noted that delaying dam removal until 2020 is neither necessary nor desirable. If the Hoopa Tribe succeeds in getting FERC to impose the ramping rate and flows biologists have called for below J.C. Boyle Dam, PacifiCorp - like all corporations focused primarily on profits - might well have a change of heart.

The Hoopa Tribe is quietly working to get the dams down well before 2020. Too bad the other “Klamath Defenders” are not joining them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has there been any effort to form an inter-tribal organization between the tribes who live along the Klamath River? I would imagine that this kind of alliance around a common goal might benefit the tribes in many ways as well as help maintain the energy of the efforts to remove the dams. Even something a simple as a website updating the general public on issues and concerns seems like it would help promote this issue and keep those who live elsewhere in the country and the world involved in this struggle. I would like to see this issue remain in the public eye. Have the tribes lost the sense of alliance they had up until the November 2008 "agreement in principal"?