Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Donnybrook in the offing – Klamath debate shifts to Congress


donnybrook: an uproar, a free-for-all, a brawl. Derived from the Irish town of the same name famous for brawling.

cabal: A clique (often secret) that seeks power usually through intrigue)

The long-promised “Draft 12” of the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) has been completed…or has it? While those in control refuse to release Draft 12, the Klamath Basin Crisis (KBC) website published a copy recently. It is labeled "KBRA Latest version of Draft 11" and dated 5/6/09. Whether this is Draft 12 or 11b, our hats are off to Jacqui Krizo of KBC for liberating a document which powerful interests do not want the people of the Klamath River Basin to see – at least not yet!

This latest version of the KBRA is even longer and more convoluted than Draft 11 with lots of complex legal language. But one thing is clear: it does not follow through on the promise made by Glen Spain – who represents the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens’ Associations (PCFFA) in the negotiations – that the Klamath Settlement Group (KSG) would address the serious issues which have been raised with Draft 11 since it was release 16 months ago.

Spain is one of the dominant personalities in the secretive collection of organizations and agencies which calls itself the Klamath Settlement Group (KSG). Along with Troy Fletcher representing the Yurok Tribe, Chuck Bonham representing Trout Unlimited and Paul Simmons who represents the small group of wealthy irrigators who have long dominated Upper Klamath Basin politics (aka Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), Spain forms a leadership cabal which preaches consensus but consults, meets and makes important decisions without consulting other KSG members.

The cabal recently revealed its true temperament. After over two years of frustrated effort to make the KBRA a document it could support, The Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) decided that all its suggestions were going to be ignored. Consequently the organization declared its intent to leave the KBRA but remain in negotiations with PacifiCorp and others over the fate of that corporation’s five Klamath River dams.

The cabal, however, has always insisted that the two agreements are inseparable. This, of course, is a silly notion. It is not necessary, for example, to provide a small group of rich irrigators with primacy in water allocation and many millions in anti-competitive subsidies in order for a dam agreement to work. In fact the opposite is true – the mass of special interest subsidies and benefits which the cabal seeks to tag onto a dam deal makes actually removing the dams much more difficult and uncertain.

Working through the KSG’s “facilitator” – a man personally chosen for the task by the Bush Administration’s Interior Department – the cabal informed the NEC that it would be banned from continuing dam negotiations. But the NEC representative, Greg King, cried foul; the NEC insisted that the entire group follow its declared consensus process.

This is not the first time the cabal has sought to control the KSG agenda and process. For example, certain non-scientists (Glen Spain among them) were allowed to participate in the much heralded “science summit” while others - including Petey Brucker of the Klamath Forest Alliance - sought but were denied access. Other KSG members have complained privately about the cabal’s control of the KSG process. But, except for the NEC, none have apparently risen to challenge cabal control.

Cabal members lost no time in attacking the NEC once it decided to withdraw from the Klamath Water Deal (KBRA). For example, Glen Spain recently claimed that the NEC’s press release explaining why it rejected the water deal is “riddled with outright errors and misstatements.”

The cabal wants the agreement they crafted and controlled behind closed doors to become the center of the Klamath debate. But KlamBlog predicts this tactic will fail. There are real alternatives to the cabal’s vision for the Klamath’s future. For example, soon after release of Draft 11 KlamBlog published an analysis of the KBRA which identified “strengths, weaknesses and alternatives” to its major provisions. You can refer back to that analysis by scrolling down to the January 18, 2008 KlamBlog entry. Or you can use this link.

We will soon see other alternatives articulated which will figure prominently as the Klamath debate shifts to Congress.

The NEC says it stands by its explanation of why it was forced to abandon negotiations. Fortunately citizens can now decide for themselves. Klamath Basin Crisis has published the May 6, 2009 draft of the KBRA. You can compare it with the original Draft 11, dated January 15, 2008, on the KBC site. Decide for yourself whether Glen Spain’s claim - that major issues with Draft 11 raised by diverse interests and individuals have been adequately addressed - is accurate or false.

It appears clear that we are heading for a donnybrook in Congress over the future of the Klamath River Basin. On one side will be the Irrigation Elite (aka Klamath Water Users Association), Trout Unlimited, The Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes and others; one the other side will be the Northcoast Environmental Center, Hoopa Tribe, Oregon Wild, Water Watch of Oregon and others.

Where PCFFA will come down remains to be seen. If Glen Spain has his way they will join with the Irrigation Elite and others. But that route is not supported by some prominent fishermen and could lead to a deep rupture between PCFFA and the very environmental organizations which have been the salmon fishermen’s staunchest allies in the battle to restore Pacific Salmon. How the PCFFA Board will vote remains in doubt.

1 comment:

Steve Pedery said...

Speaking for Oregon Wild, we'd be thrilled at the opportunity to address the Yurok Tribal Council and express our concerns about the continuing decline of spring chinook salmon in the Klamath Basin. We'd love to also discuss the deeply-flawed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).

We remain puzzled by the Yurok Tribe's support for the eviction of Oregon Wild (and also WaterWatch) from the original Klamath dam settlement talks. On the day when the Bush administration withdrew from the original, consensus-based Klamath talks in the spring of 2007, were we notified via an email from the Interior Department. A couple of hours later, we received a second email sent jointly by attorneys from the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) and the Yurok Tribe stating they were starting a new set of invitation-only talks. It was separately made clear to us that Oregon Wild and WaterWatch would not be invited due to our advocacy around wildlife refuges, wetlands and water for salmon, which was viewed as problematic for making a deal with Klamath agribusiness interests.

I continue to believe that decision was not in the best interests of the Klamath Basin, its salmon, wildlife, or dam removal. Two years later we have a KBRA plan that costs $1 billion dollars, while making environmental conditions worse for wildlife, salmon, and clean water, no real dam removal plan, and an “Agreement in Principle” that seems to primarily serve to allow Pacificorp to continue operating its dams with no changes until at least 2020. It is an expensive, politically motivated mess that seems more geared to preserving the status quo in the basin than in actually recovering salmon and wildlife.

This political quagmire makes an ESA listing for chinook in the Klamath absolutely vital. Without it, the political deal making will continue divert energy and attention away from actually restoring the fish, wetlands, and waters of the Klamath.