One of the persistent problems in the
Late Fall brought many examples of important information on Klamath water issues which were reported in the Upper Basin but not reported in the Lower Basin. A few of those stories are summarized below along with links to the original news reports and comments on the significance of events reported. Unfortunately, many of these reports come from
Late Fall 2008 in the
- On November 19th the Herald & News reported on the breeching of levees above
Upper Klamath Lakewhich will create 2200 acres of restored wetlands. The project was lead by The Nature Conservancy which owns the Delta Preserve established on what was previously Tulane Farms. TNC paid $7.5 million for the properties with funding from federal, state and private sources. The current project is part of an ongoing effort by TNC, the Bureau of Land Management and others to restore previously diked and drained wetlands around Williamson River Upper Klamath Laketo improve water quality and to provide habitat for endangered Kuptu and Tshuam (sucker species). You can learn more about restoration efforts around Upper Klamath Lakeon TNC’s web site. (http://www.nature.org/success/klamath.html)
One of the “selling points” often cited by proponents of the proposed Klamath Water Deal (AKA the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement) is that it will establish a restoration program. However, a lot of the restoration work which is included in the Deal is already going on (see example above) and appear to have no problem securing funding. In fact, by legislating how restoration funds would be used the Water Deal (if it ever is enacted into law) will tie the hands of restorationists, preventing allocation of restoration funding based on “most benefit for the buck.” Instead restoration projects favored by those interests which have dominated Klamath negotiations (the Klamath Water Users Association, Klamath Tribes and Yurok Tribe) would be mandated while other projects which would provide more benefit to salmon – including projects in the Shasta and Scott and to address Keno Reservoir water quality – would have a difficult time finding funding.
Siskiyou CountySupervisor Marcia Armstrong writes the column “Ridin’ Point” for the Pioneer Press published in . In her 11/19 column, Armstrong revealed for the first time one of the reasons Scott Valley does not support the Water Deal. According to Armstrong the Deal’s governance structure “includes no representation for agriculture in the Scott and Siskiyou County , timber and mining.” Shasta Valleys
The proposed Water Deal not only does not provide “representation” for Shasta and Scott Ag interests it all but ignores these Basin’s altogether. This is one of the main weaknesses of the Deal and reveals its explicitly political and anti-scientific approach. The Water Deal’s disdain for science includes ignoring the recommendations of the two independent Klamath science evaluations completed by the National Research Council. The first NRC Report pointed out that the Shasta and Scott provide the best opportunities to help Coho salmon and are key to recovery of Coho in the
The Water Deal’s most controversial provision – the water allocations and river flow regime it seeks to lock in via federal legislation – is based on the flow assessments which the NRC identified as the wrong approach. How will this abandonment of good science be viewed by the incoming Obama Administration? Obama has emphasized that decisions in his Administration will be based on solid science as opposed to the Bush Administration where politics routinely trumped science. The Klamath Water Deal may be among the first issues where that Obama promises will be tested.
The conservation groups who have most strongly promoted the Water Deal are
- On November 25th the Herald and News reported that the
Siskiyou CountySupervisors have produced a document titled “Solutions and Alternatives for the Klamath River” which includes alternatives to dam removal. One of those alternatives (“Hart Bypass”) would develop a salmon migration channel from below Iron GateDam to the upper end of Copco Reservoir.
- On November 28th the Herald and News reported that the “Off-Project Water Users” – those who do not receive water via the federal Bureau of Reclamation managed Klamath Project – have again asked the Klamath County Commissioners to arrange a meeting with the “On Project Water Users” and the Klamath Tribes. The Commissioners agreed to bring up the issue with its Natural Resources Advisory Committee in January.
The Klamath County Commissioners are in a tough place. Traditionally they have backed the “On Project Water Users” (the Irrigation Elite) who have more money, are better organized and enjoy much greater political influence as compared to the “Off Project Water Users”. However, in this case the elected state senator and assemblyman for the area both oppose the Water Deal and the congressman – Greg Walden – has not endorsed it. Furthermore, some members of the Commission appear to have ideological problems with the Water Deal which they see as a big government approach. They are also hesitant to support dam removal. Look to them to continue to sit on the fence neither endorsing nor opposing the Water and Dam Deals.
- On December 10th the Herald and News reported that the
Klamath CountyCommissioners would not send a representative to the meeting of the self-styled Klamath Settlement Group which met in in mid-December. Reportedly two of the three commissioners considered attending the meeting but decided not to “on advice of legal counsel.” Sacramento Dan Bunch said he was concerned about “how an elected official can be held to a confidentiality agreement.” County Counsel
Where was this county counsel during the past two years? Over that period, one of
Why is the issue of the legality (and appropriateness) of discussing public resources, government policy and exemptions from state and federal law in meetings covered by a written and legally binding “confidentiality agreement” only being raised now? And why have none of the groups which oppose the secret deal making not filed suit under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)? FACA prohibits federal officials from “taking advice” from private entities in closed door meetings; it was passed specifically to prevent the sort of process the Klamath Settlement Group has followed – making public policy while excluding the American Public from the process.
By going along with “confidentiality agreements” that prevent public participation and oversight, our elected officials have failed to champion the right of the public to participate in the making of public policy. It now appears clear that the tribes, conservation and fishing groups, government agency reps as well as the local elected officials who participate in the Klamath Settlement Group have no interest in upholding FACA! Secrecy breeds mischief. Perhaps what we need more than anything else in the Klamath River Basin is a democracy watch dog group which will look out for the interests of the all the people!
- On December 10th the Pioneer Press reported on dissent within the Karuk Tribe over the Tribe’s support for dam removal. Allegedly a group of “angry Karuk and Klamath River residents fired off an angry letter and petition to the county (of Siskiyou) against dam removal and the Karuk Tribal Council.” The petition reads in part: “All tribal members and community members should be able to have a voice, not a select few.”
The Karuk Tribe has for many years had two main political factions which have competed for control of the tribal government. While the current tribal council has championed causes like dam removal and limits on “recreational” mining, the other faction has opposed these causes. The current tribal council has often been in conflict with
- On December 18th the Herald & News published a report with the headline “Water meetings: Mum’s the word.” The article asserts that “Stakeholders who want to participate in talks about
Klamath Riverdam removal will have to sign confidentiality and protocol agreements in order to attend future meetings on the issue.”
It appears to KlamBlog that “confidentiality agreements” are being used in the
Given past behavior of the Bush Administration and the Klamath Settlement Group’s dominant players, we suspect that what is behind this behavior is control and manipulation. On the Klamath as elsewhere the Bush Administration is attempting to tie the hands of the new Obama Administration by locking in the Agreement in Principle (AIP) on PacifiCorp’s dams. As we have pointed out previously (see December 3rd post), the AIP changes the standard for deciding whether or not the dams should come out and thereby makes dam removal less rather than more likely. The AIP also unnecessarily delays the earliest commencement of dam removal until 2020. Tribal governments and state agencies have been given incentives to go along with the delay: under the AIP they will divide up $500,000 per year in “mitigation” funds from PacifiCorp for every year of delay in commencing dam removal.
The Upper Basin/Lower Basin divide: Historical Roots and Political Realities
In 1905 when the federal government chose the
It seems amazing to us now but the federal Bureau of Reclamation was allowed to take rights to the entire flow of the river. Just as they had dewatered
It was only development of hydropower in the Klamath’s
With the exception of water allowed to flow to PacifiCorp’s dams, the
This changed a bit in the 1960’s when Iron Gate Dam was built. By that time the Federal Power Act had been passed and the California Department of Fish & Game was able to file arguments for “mitigation” for the loss of habitat blocked by the dam and for dam bypass flows sufficient to support salmon and other fisheries in the
The next change affecting the separation of Upper and Lower Basins occurred with the listing of Coho salmon in the 1990s as threatened pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act. As a result, the Bureau of Reclamation had to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service on the Klamath Project’s impacts to Coho salmon in the
Seen within this historical context, the proposed Klamath Water Deal is an attempt to re-separate management of the Upper and
Locking in the amount of water which flows from the