Friday, November 12, 2010

Implementing the Klamath Agreements - Report #1

Behind the Klamath Curtain:
Managing Water and Endangered Species in the post-KBRA era

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement - the Water Deal - and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement - the Dam Deal - are done. Those who were going to sign have signed and those who were not going to sign have not signed. In the Klamath River Basin there has been a rearrangement of sides in what has always been a zero sum water game with winners and losers.

The federal agencies which provided motivation for the deal-making and who funded the effort have begun implementing many portions of the complex schemes which do not require Congressional action. Federal bureaucrats understand that consolidating the new management arrangements will return Klamath River Basin Water Management to their control and will allow them to conduct that management out of the public eye, that is, without interference from publicly elected officials and pesky citizen activists.

Indeed KlamBlog believes that was the federal family's agenda all along. The Klamath Deals are part of a long historical drama which has played out in the West since white Europeans first conquered the region. Because control of water gives the ultimate control in the water-limited western US, western water history has been dominated by the struggle to determine if the federal government, the states or local interests will control water and thereby the West’s destiny.

Congress may yet play a role in The Klamath's destiny. The Deals include plans for subsidies and restoration programs which require Congress to appropriate or redirect over a billion dollars in federal spending. That would be a tall order in these days of record deficits. Will our elected legislators give their blessing to the Deals; will they balance interests by giving both supporters and opponents some but not all of what they want; or will they take no action - leaving it to Obama Administration officials to implement the Deals within existing budgets? Only time will tell; KlamBlog will be watching and will report any indications that Congress is moving toward legislating for the Klamath River Basin.

In the meantime - in order to gain perspective on what the victory by federal agencies will mean on the ground - KlamBlog has been monitoring how water, fish, refuge and endangered species management are being implemented by federal and state agencies in the Basin in the post-Water Deal era. This is our first report on those investigations.