Friday, December 16, 2011

Siskiyou County declares jurisdiction over Scott River water

It was buried deep below the lead, but on December 7th, 2011 the Yreka-based Siskiyou Daily News broke what could become a big story.

The front page news item by John Bowman reported on the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisor’s decision not to participate in a California Department of Fish & Games Scot River flow study. But several paragraphs in, Bowman reported Supervisor Marcia Armstrong declaring that Siskiyou County – not the State – has jurisdiction over Scott River Basin water.  Here’s what Armstrong said:

           “as the County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, we have jurisdiction over flows, not [the DFG].”

 In recent decades Scott River has been dewatered as a result of illegal, year-around irrigation and unlimited groundwater pumping for irrigation. The Forest Service right to flows for fish in Scott River is now not met every year

Now we all know that talk is cheap. In spite of the fact that the Siskiyou County Supervisors have diverted money from services to citizens in order to beef up the county counsel’s office - and in spite of the considerable sound and fury they unleash on federal and state officials whenever they have the opportunity - so far the majority faction we call “the Four Stuporvisors of the Imaginary Kingdom of Siskiyou” have yet to file even one lawsuit backing up their claims of jurisdiction.

Will they put their lawyers where their mouth is?

So which is it: are the Four Stuporvisors just blowing hot air or are they willing to put that new stable of lawyers to work? KlamBlog offers each of them – Jim Cook, Grace Bennett, Michael Kobseff and Marcia Armstrong - all the space on KlamBlog they desire in order to explain themselves to the people. 

KlamBlog will offer a prediction:  Should the Four Stuporvisors actually believe what they are spouting and should they have sufficient courage to pursue those beliefs in court (which we doubt), their case claiming jurisdiction over Scott River water would be thrown out at the first hearing. It would also be the occasion for uproars of laughter in every law firm specializing in water law from here to Alaska and back down to Southern Arizona.

Here’s why we can predict with absolute confidence that such a case would quickly land in the court’s dustbin:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Politics gone wild…and two rays of light.

Recently Mike Tbompson and Jeff Merkley introduced legislation in the US Congress to authorize and fund the Klamath Dam and Water Deals. That prompted a new eruption of verbiage from the usual cast of Klamath Deal promoters and detractors who have been all over the media competing to spin public opinion.

We won’t publish any of those editorials and web postings because they do little more than repeat the same tired arguments residents of the Basin have been hearing for far too long now. KlamBlog wishes these spinmeisters could come up with some new arguments – or at least some new and more entertaining ways to present their propaganda.  

What we do publish in this post are recent statements by the two Congresspersons who currently represent the vast majority of California’s Klamath River Basin residents – Wally Herger and Mike Thompson. We also comment on the two men’s statements.

Then, from the “rays of light” department, we publish and comment on what we believe are notable exceptions to an increasingly dark outlook for resolution one way or the other of the impasse over the costly and controversial KBRA and KHSA – the Klamath Dam and Water Deals.

The first ray of light is an announcement from the Klamath Tribes that their treaty water rights – which have been affirmed by the Supreme Court - have been quantified in Oregon’s Upper Basin Adjudication.

Along the Wood River above Upper Klamath Lake 
Most of the Klamath Tribes' water rights are located above Upper Klamath Lake

The second is an editorial by Bill Cross of Ashland, Oregon. Bill represents the group American Whitewater in the Klamath River Basin. He is an avid whitewater enthusiast and instructor who has spent a lot of time on the Klamath River. Bill is an unpaid volunteer for the river advocacy group which, so far, has steered clear of Klamath deal-making. You can find more information on AW’s Klamath Restoration Project at this link.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Racism and Genocide Denial in the Klamath River Basin

As it has before during times of tension over water management and environmental needs, racism has once again surfaced in the Klamath River Basin. The occasion this time was a series of formal public hearings to take testimony on the draft Klamath Facilities Removal EIS/EIR. That environmental review is intended to inform a decision by Secretary of Interior Ken Salizar. Salizar is scheduled to decide whether or not to implement the controversial Klamath Dam and Water Deals which were developed during years of closed-door negotiations. 

The Deals have split long-time Klamath River allies and exposed fault lines in Klamath River Basin communities. Among the Basin’s federal tribes, three tribal councils -those representing the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes - have signed the deals and are among their chief promoters; three tribal councils - those of the Hoopa, Quartz Valley and Resighini Rancheria tribes – have rejected the deals.

Prayer Pole at the stronghold where Kientpus and other Modoc's held off the US Army.
They only wanted to be left alone to live in their ancestral territory.

The environmental community is also split with several national groups in support while local and regional groups are on both sides of the split. Other regional groups support the Deals in principle but want changes to address what they see as major deal flaws.  A table listing the positions environmental organizations have taken on the Dam and Water Deals can be found at the end of this post. 

Vocal Basin residents who oppose dam removal, however, do not recognize these distinctions. As is typical of racialized attitudes, Indigenous natives and environmentalists are homogenized and objectified. In the eyes of the Klamath River Basin racist all “Indians” want to destroy “our” dams and all “environmentalists” are “radical” and want to destroy “our way of life.” 

Denial is a common feature of today’s racism. In the Klamath River Basin denial of contemporary anti-Indigenous racism and denial of the historical genocides visited upon Indigenous natives during the conquest era are both evident. The proper response to racism is non-acceptance; the proper response to the denial that racism exists is disclosure.

This post reports on contemporary racism in the Klamath River Basin and chronicles the denial of historical genocides with evidence drawn from contemporary and historic sources.  We then suggest what is needed to deal with racism in the Basin and who we believe should be leading that effort.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tales from two meetings

The team of federal and state officials charged with hearing testimony on the Klamath Facilities Removal Draft environmental report wrapped up their assignment last Thursday evening in Klamath, California near the mouth of the River. The Klamath Public Hearing followed others held in Klamath Falls, Yreka, Orleans and Arcata and upon a teach-in on the environmental report in Eureka sponsored by the North Group Redwood Chapter Sierra Club and other organizations.  Links to media reports on hearings in Klamath Falls, Yreka and Arcata are included at the end of this post.

 Members of the Hoopa Tribe express their sentiment

The Klamath Public Hearing

Located near the mouth of the Klamath River, Klamath is an diverse community and that was reflected at the hearing. The event was held at the Yurok Tribe’s administrative facility which is right across the River from another of the six federally-recognized tribes located within the Klamath River Basin. The members of the Resighini Rancheria are all Yurok Indians and The Rancheria's government predates the Yurok Tribal Government. Officials and members of both tribes – the Yurok Tribe and the Resighini Rancheria – dominated the hearing.

To give folks a sense of the hearing we present below quotes and paraphrases from those testifying at the Klamath hearing. Here’s what individuals and those representing organizations had to say about the environmental report and about the Dam and Water Deals – the KHSA and KBRA – which the report claims to assess.

Thomas O’Rourke, Chairman, Yurok Tribe:
  •   Native people have been caretakers of the River for uncounted generations.
  •   Water Quality is the River’s most significant problem.
  •   Working together we can be successful at restoring the River.

David Gensaw, Council Member, Yurok Tribe:
  •    He reminded folks that Klamath River Indigenous Natives had to fight the attempted termination of their fishing rights. In the 1970s those fishing traditionally faced arrests and beatings.
  •    We need the dams out to restore the salmon. We’ll fight for that and won’t settle for less.
  •    Our salmon refugia have been destroyed by irresponsible logging and irrigation/farming.

Sunshine Watkins, Treasurer, Resighini Rancheria:
  •    We were excluded from Klamath negotiations; if the KBRA is endorsed by Congress our rights will be terminated. Under the KBRA we will be on the outside for 50 years.
  •    The dams should come out before the 2020 date proposed in the KHSA.
  •    The best way to get the dams out is to return to the FERC process; the State of California 401 Clean Water Act certification process will result in timely dam removal.
  •    We need Ecological Restoration which the KBRA does not provide.

Ray Mattz:
  •    When he was young in the days of massive logging the eddies in the river were filled with bark.
  •    The Candlefish – a mainstay of traditional Yurok diet – are gone. The Trinity Dam was built and within 7 years the Candlefish were gone.  
  •    “We should be proud that (unlike other rivers) we still have wild fish."

Sammy Gensaw , member, Yurok Tribe:
  •    “I come here to represent the youth of the reservation.”
  •    We’re living in a food dessert; we need a thriving river in order to maintain our culture.
  •    We’re part of the ecosystem.

Mike Belchik, fish biologist in the employ of the Yurok Tribe:
  •    Supports the KBRA and KHSA which will provide salmon with access to refugia above the dams that have stable sources of cold groundwater.
  •    He believes dam removal and the KBRA are the keys to restoring Spring Chinook Salmon.

Josh Norris, member of the Yurok Tribe:
  • “I’ll be here for the long haul.”
Josh Norris: "I'll be here for the long haul."

Georgianna Myers:
  • “Our river is sick and we feel its pain.”

Josh Strange, fisheries biologist who has worked for the Yurok Tribe:
  •    Risk associated with the ‘no action’ alternative are not properly appreciated or addressed in the environmental document.
  •    Klamath River fish disease problems cannot be fixed if the dams are not removed.
  •    Global warming is a new threat that has not been assessed.

Patrick Higgins, fish biologist in the employ of Resighini Rancheria:
  •    The environmental document does not analyze the impacts of the KBRA; this sort of deferral of environmental analysis violates NEPA and CEQA.
  •    The environmental document lacks an ecologically based alternative; ecological restoration is the only way to restore the River.
  •    Because the KBRA will not employ ecological restoration in the Upper Basin terrible water quality due to agricultural pollution will continue. The fish diseases will simply migrate upstream once the dams are removed.
  •    The environmental document fails to address pesticide use in the Upper Basin. Commercial agriculture on the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges has the largest rate of pesticide use in all of Siskiyou County.

James Dunlap, Yurok Indian and manager of
  •    As a Yurok I have an innate distrust of the federal government.
  •    Waiving of tribal rights in any manner is not acceptable. We don’t endorse any agreement that  gives away or waives any of our rights.

Merk Oliver, member, Yurok Tribe
  • The dams are no good for anyone; they are poisoning the fish and the people.

Felice Pace, KlamBlog
  •    The issue is not dam removal – the dams will come down because if relicensed they would lose money. It is not in the interest of the owner – PacifiCorp – to keep operating them therefore – one way or another – they will come out.
  •    What remains to be decided is: 1. when the dams will come down, 2. who will pay for removal, and 3. what other provisions for good or ill will catch a ride on the dam removal train.
  •    The environmental document makes numerous unsubstantiated claims not backed up by data or analysis. For example, the environmental document claims the KBRA will achieve water pollution clean-up goals more quickly than if it was not implemented. Yet there is no analysis in the environmental document or elsewhere to back up that claim.
  •    The proposed alternative would relieve PacifiCorp of responsibility for toxic legacies which may be lurking around100 year old powerhouses. The taxpayers should not be saddled with cleaning up PacifiCorp’s toxic legacies.

Robert Jackson, Yurok
  •    We need to focus on having water for the fish; we need water too.
  •    It is disgusting how they waste water up there (in the Upper Klamath River Basin).
  •    We need to manage the nutrients (coming from agriculture)
  •    In no way should we relinquish any of our water rights.

Klamath Teach-In

On October 19th a group of North Coast environmental organizations that strongly support dam removal but do not support or have reservations about aspects of the KBRA Water Deal, presented a teach-in on the draft environmental document intended to inform the Secretary of Interior’s decision on whether or not to implement the Klamath Dam and Water Deals in Eureka.

The teach-in was well covered in the press; a video of the event is available for viewing on Access Humboldt.

One member of the audience challenged the presentations. Peter Pennycamp said he had come to hear all sides of the issues but was disappointed that promoters of the Dam and Water Deals were not on the agenda. One of the presenters – fisheries biologist Pat Higgins – pointed out to Peter that the government is making the case for the Dam and Water Deals in 6 sessions around the region and that the teach-in is intended to provide a forum for those whose views are not being promoted by federal and state government officials and agencies.

Higgins represents the Resighini Rancheria - one of the three federal tribes located in the Basin which were excluded from negotiations that resulted in the Dam and Water Deals. He offered to debate promoters of the Deals anytime and anywhere.

This small controversy mirrors a debate going on in society generally: Are media outlets obligated to provide “balance” by providing all sides of an issue with equal time? Alternatively, is there a place for advocacy journalism, i.e. journalism which comes from a certain position other than feigned  “neutrality” and/or which seeks to balance voices in the public arena by giving voice to those interests and individuals who are marginalized or not considered at all by major media outlets?

One of the promoters of the Dam and Water Deals – Craig Tucker who works for the Karuk Tribe – was very active at the teach-in even though he was not a presenter. Tucker repeatedly interrupted and challenged both the presenters and those members of the public commenting after the presentations. Tucker has been known to “lose his cool” before; on this particular night he was in rare form, suggesting among other things that everything that had been presented was wrong or misinformed.

Tucker also took credit personally and organizationally for getting PacifiCorp to agree to the Dam Deal. He ignored the efforts of many tribal biologists and environmental activists who painstakingly built the case for dam removal for years before Tucker came to the basin. In KlamBlog’s view it is those biologists and activists who sealed the fate of the dams by getting an administrative law judge to order that fish ladders must be installed if the dams were to be relicensed. The cost of those fish ladders alone – not to mention the cost of mitigating the dams’ water quality violations – is what really doomed the dams.

In spite of the irascible Tucker, the presenters and audience for the most part remained calm and maintained an atmosphere of respect for the opinions of others.

Once it was clear that the relicensed dams would lose money annually, their fate was sealed. Dam owner PacifiCorp has since that time negotiated to get the best deal for shareholders. The KHSA or Dam Deal represents their complete success. If the Dam Deal is endorsed by Congress, PacifiCorp shareholders will be able to walk away from the Klamath Hydroelectric Project which they own and will be absolved from all liability not just for dam removal but also for all toxic legacies which may be lurking around the company’s 100 year old powerhouses.

Here are links to media coverage that reported what people said at Klamath Facilities Removal Draft EIS/EIR hearings:
The Two Rivers Tribune had excellent coverage of several of the hearings as well but at the time of this posting they were not available on the TRT web site.

Klamath Justice Coalition Pro Dam Removal protest outside the Yreka Hearing
(photo courtesy of the Two Rivers Tribune) 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Forum to Discuss Federal Dam Removal Process on Klamath River


ARCATA, CA -- Environmental organizations from Northwest California and Oregon are organizing a panel presentation to discuss the federal and State environmental impact reports on the proposed Klamath Hydroelectric Project dam removal. The event will be held at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka from 6:30-8:30 PM on Wednesday, October 19. Four speakers will present on various aspects of the draft environmental impact documents and explain their origins and relationship to the Klamath Basin Hydropower Agreement (KHSA) and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).

Keno Dam: Uppermost of 5 Klamath River dams owned by PacifiCorp. Four dams are proposed for removal; ownership of this one is proposed for transfer to the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Come to the panel presentation and find out why! 

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Facilities Removal on the Klamath River was released on Sept 22, 2011. The 60-day public comment period began with the release of the DEIR, and will close in mid-November. A series of public hearings to describe the DEIR and receive public comments will be hosted by the United States Department of the Interior, including a hearing in Arcata from 4:30 – 8:30 on October 26 at the Arcata Community Center. See the documents that are currently available for public review as well as information about the public hearings at the government website

The Klamath In The Balance forum at the Wharfinger Building on October 19 is intended to motivate the public to make informed comments and to actively engage on this globally relevant environmental issue.

The panel will feature Bob Hunter, a representative of Water Watch of Oregon who has studied the Upper Klamath Basin for over 30 years. He will briefly characterize the historic hydrology of the Klamath Basin and then describe water allocation under the agreement and implications for the National Wildlife Refuges. Also speaking on the panel is Andrew Orahoske, the conservation director for the Environmental Protection Information Center, who will discuss the legal framework for dam removal, and the requirements for recovering salmon and other native species in the basin.

Patrick Higgins is a fisheries biologist with an intimate knowledge of the Klamath River who will describe the need for ecological restoration to solve water quality problems. Higgins will also discuss the ecological imperative to recover endangered suckerfish of the Upper Basin, as well as salmon. Hayley Hutt, a Hoopa Valley Tribal Council member, will elaborate on concerns about the ramifications of the federal process for Indian Tribes that did not sign the KHSA and KBRA; Hutt will also discuss Hoopa perspectives on the federal legislation that would authorize and fund the agreements. A trained facilitator will moderate a question and answer period with the presenters assembled as a panel.

Co-sponsors of the forum include the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC), the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the North Group and the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club, Redwood Region Audubon Society, Water Watch of Oregon, and Ancient Forest International (AFI). The event will run from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, Wednesday, October 19. The Wharfinger Building is located at 1 Marina Way along the waterfront in Eureka. There is no cost for admission, and refreshments will be served. For more information about the event, call the NEC at 707-822-6918, or EPIC at 707-822-7711.

Background websites:

Water Watch of Oregon--

Official Federal and State Government website--

Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath Tribes website--

Resighini Rancheria--

Independent perspective on Klamath Issues--

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Facilities Removal EIS/EIR: Key Issues, Proposed Actions, Realistic Alternatives

The most important thing to understand about the EIS/EIR, the decision of Interior Secretary Salazar it is meant to inform and the federal legislation needed to implement the Interior Department’s proposed Klamath Dam and Water Settlements is that it is not about whether or not 4 dams will be removed. That decision has already been made. Four dams owned by PacifiCorp – Iron Gate, Copco 1, Copco 2 and J.C.Boyle – will come down and a fifth dam - Keno - will be transferred to the Bureau of Reclamation because required fisheries and water quality mitigation requirements render them uneconomical. If PacifiCorp’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project were relicensed, the company would lose an estimated $20 million each year.

For PacifiCorp’s electric customers and shareholders the obvious decision is to decommission the project and remove the dams. When the political noise is stripped away the dams will come down for economic reasons. The only real questions which remain are:
  • Who will pay for removing PacifiCorp’s aging dams and powerhouses? and
  • What other decisions and provisions will catch a ride on the popular dam removal train?

 Copco Dam: The Klamath Dams are old, obsolete and will loose money if relicensed

Friday, September 23, 2011

War of Words #1: Congressman McClintock and the Karuk Tribe on the "Klamath Facilities Removal Draft EIS/EIR"

This is the first in a series. In the weeks ahead we will publish statements about the Dam and Water Deal EIS/EIR from a wide variety of sources and perspectives. KlamBlog invites you to submit an opinion as well. Submissions should be sent to 

Map of the Klamath River Basin showing location of dams slated for removal; a fifth PacifiCorp dam - Keno - (not labeled) would not be removed. Under the proposed Secretarial Decision, Keno would be transferred to the US Bureau of Reclamation and operated to serve irrigation interests.  

from RedState ~

House Floor Remarks
Congressman Tom McClintock
September 22, 2011
Mr. Speaker:

  This generation is facing spiraling electricity prices and increasingly scarce supplies.  Californians have had to cut back to the point that their per capita electricity consumption is now lower than that of Guam, Luxembourg and Aruba. 
What is the administration’s solution?

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday that the administration is moving forward with a plan to destroy four perfectly good hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River capable of producing 155,000 megawatts of the cleanest and cheapest electricity on the planet – enough for 155,000 homes.
Why would the administration pursue such a ludicrous policy?

They say it’s is necessary to help increase the salmon population.  We did that a long time ago by building the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery.  The Iron Gate Fish Hatchery produces five million salmon smolts each year – 17,000 of which return annually as fully grown adults to spawn.  The problem is, they don’t include them in the population count!

And to add insult to insanity, when they tear down the Iron Gate Dam, we will lose the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery and the five million salmon smolts it produces every year.

Declining salmon runs are not unique to the Klamath.  We have seen them up and down the Northwest Pacific Coast over the last ten years as the result of the naturally occurring Pacific Decadal Oscillation – cold water currents that fluctuate over a ten year cycle between the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.  During the same decade that salmon runs have declined in the Pacific Northwest, they have exploded in Alaska.  We’re at the end of that cycle.

The cost of this madness is currently pegged at a staggering $290 million – all at the expense of ratepayers and taxpayers.  But that’s just the cost of removing the dams.  Consumers will face permanently higher prices for replacement power, which, we’re told, will be wind and solar.
Not only are wind and solar some three times more expensive, but wind and solar require equal amounts of reliable stand-by power – which is precisely what the dams provide.

We’re told that yes, this is expensive, but it will cost less than retro-fitting the dams to meet cost-prohibitive environmental requirements.  If that is the case, then maybe we should re-think those requirements, not squander more than a quarter billion dollars to destroy existing hydro-electric dams.  Or here’s a modest suggestion to address the salmon population: count the hatchery fish!

We’re told this is the result of a local agreement between farmers and other stakeholders.  Mr. Speaker, everybody knows that the Klamath Agreement was the result of local farmers succumbing to extortion by environmental groups that threatened lawsuits to shut off their water.  And obviously the so-called stakeholders don’t include the ratepayers and taxpayers who would pay dearly for the loss of these dams.  Indeed, local voters have repeatedly and overwhelmingly repudiated the agreement and the politicians responsible it.  The locally-elected Siskiyou Board of Supervisors vigorously opposes it.

Finally, the administration boasts of 1,400 short-term jobs that will be created to tear down these dams.  Just imagine how many jobs we could create if we tore down the Hoover Dam.  Or Duluth, Minnesota.  

Mr. Speaker, amidst a spending spree that threatens to bankrupt this nation, amidst spiraling electricity prices and chronic electricity shortages – to tear down four perfectly good hydro-electric dams at enormous cost is insane.  And to claim that this is good for the economy gives us chilling insight into the breathtakingly bad judgment that is misguiding our nation from the White House.

The President was right about one thing when he spoke here several weeks ago.  Fourteen months is a long time to wait to correct the problem.

Fortunately, the President will need congressional approval to move forward with this lunacy, and that will require action by this House.  Earlier this year, the House voted to put a stop to this nonsense.  I trust it will exercise that same good judgment as this administration proceeds with its folly.

# # #

Iron Gate - one of four PacifiCorp dams slated for removal

from YubaNet ~

Klamath Stakeholders Seize Momentum on Heels of Salazar Comments, Study Results
Restoration plans jumpstarts major economic benefits adding 4600 jobs to regional economy

By: Karuk Tribe

SACRAMENTO, Sept. 21, 2011 - Today, a diverse group of organizations working to balance water use in the Klamath River basin reacted to the positive findings in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released by the Department of Interior, and to comments made earlier this week by Interior Secretary Salazar. The Secretary will use this DEIS to make his final determination in March of 2012 as to whether or not removal of four Klamath River dams in accordance with the Klamath Restoration Agreements are in the public interest.

"This news comes on top of recent official findings by both the Oregon and California Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) that dam removal under the Klamath Settlement Agreement is not only in the public interest but far less costly for utility customers than relicensing. Implementing the Settlement Agreement is the obvious next step in building a sound recovery for both the Klamath agricultural and fisheries based economies and restoring thousands of regional jobs," said Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA).

In a thorough review comparing the impacts of river restoration to current conditions, the DEIS shows that implementation of the Agreements would provide significant economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits to Northern California and Southern Oregon. One of the key findings stakeholders applauded is that the projected cost of removing four dams on the Klamath River falls well within the range of the budget agreed to by Tribes, irrigators, fishermen, and dam owner PacifiCorp.

"It's important to understand that this is about more than dam removal. This effort will restore fisheries while creating and protecting thousands of jobs in both fishing and agricultural communities. We have the diverse grassroots support that should spur congress to act," said Jeff Mitchell, Councilman for the Klamath Tribes.

The Klamath Agreements were signed in February 2010 by over 40 stakeholder organizations from a broad-based coalition that includes irrigators, Tribes, fishermen, conservation groups, state and local governments – all groups seek to get beyond the endless litigation and fighting that preceded the Settlement Agreements.

Key features of the Agreements include reintroducing salmon to over 400 miles of historic habitat, increasing water storage and flood control by expanding Upper Klamath Lake, and improved water security for 1400 farm families on the Klamath Irrigation Project.

"What interests us most is that Basin agriculture will receive increased certainty of water deliveries, which helps protect an industry that is vital to all of the local communities in the Klamath Basin, " said Klamath basin farmer Steve Kandra. "We believe that implementing these Agreements will benefit agriculture even more than the federal studies indicate. Our research shows that agricultural production in Klamath County and Tulelake Irrigation District contributes more than $600 million to the Klamath economy annually and 4,890 direct and indirect jobs are supported each year in Oregon and California. These jobs will be at risk if the Agreements fall through."

The DEIS makes several key findings that proponents of the Agreements hope will prompt Congress to pass the legislation necessary for implementation. Stakeholders emphasize the economic and health benefits, cost savings, and jobs creation that the restoration plan includes:

The most probable estimate for dam removal and associated mitigations is $290 million (in 2020 dollars). Partial removal would cost $247 million, this assumes leaving some structures in place such as old powerhouses and selected abutment structures. Note that $200 million would come from ratepayers (who would otherwise foot the $500 million plus price tag for dam relicensing) and the balance would come from California.

The one-year dam removal project is estimated to result in 1,400 jobs during the year of construction.

Commercial fishing jobs were estimated in five Management Zones. Estimated jobs stemming from improved fishing conditions range from 11 average annual jobs in the KMZ-OR Management Area to 218 average annual jobs in the San Francisco Management Area.

- Dam removal would immediately alleviate massive blooms of toxic algae that plague the river each summer and pose health risks

Salmon dependent Tribes would benefit from increased abundance of salmon and improved water quality.

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges would receive additional water and for the first time in more than 100 years, receive a certainty of water delivery. This water supply could improve hunting and wildlife viewing, which could attract more visitors to the refuges. There would be an estimated additional 193,830 fall waterfowl and 3,634 hunting trips over the 50-year period of analysis.

Combined, the Settlement Agreements invest over $700 million in the Klamath Basin over the next 15 years, and proponents stress that the restoration plan protects and enhance a regional natural resources economy that is worth over $750 million each year when healthy.


For more on the most recent federal and state dam removal environmental analysis and federal and state decision-making process, see:

All the four Klamath hydropower dams combined have generated only a very small amount of power – only about 82 Megawatts (MW) on average over the past fifty years. According to estimates by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency that licenses dams, after expensive retrofitting to meet modern standards, these dams would then only generate about 62 MW of power on average, or about 27% less than they do today. FERC itself estimated in its 2007 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on relicensing that even if fully FERC relicensed, the required retrofitting would be so expensive that these dams would then operate at more than a $20 million/year net loss (see FERC FEIS, Table 4-3 on pg. 4-2). The November 2007 FERC Final EIS is available online at:

It can also be found by a FERC docket search at through their eLibrary, Docket No. P-2082-027 posted November 16, 2007, Doc. No. 20071116-4001.

# # # 

Who's being robbed? - The proposed Secretarial Decision will place private irrigators who get subsidized water courtesy of US Taxpayers first in line for Klamath River water ahead of salmon and the majority of Klamath River Basin irrigators who get shafted in the proposed Secretarial Decision. 

KlamBlog's Comments:

KlamBlog agrees that relicensed PacifiCorp dams would be money losers: "FERC itself estimated in its 2007 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on relicensing that even if fully FERC relicensed, the required retrofitting would be so expensive that these dams would then operate at more than a $20 million/year net loss (see FERC FEIS, Table 4-3 on pg. 4-2)." That means the dams will be removed one way or another; that's a done thing . The two big questions which will be answered in the weeks and months ahead are:
  •  Who will pay for dam removal? We don;t agree with the Karuk Tribe that the ratepayers (PacifiCorp electricity customers) would bear the full cost if dam removal were pursued through FERC. We think it is likely that the PUC would order that PacifiCorp shareholders would have to come up with some of the facilities removal funds. After all, those shareholders have been pocketing profits from operating those facilities for many, many years.  

  • What other subsidies, benefits and other provisions will get a ride on a dam removal train that will lead to dam removal? Federal Agencies, the Irrigation Elite and those federal tribes which have signed the agreement - the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes - all stand to gain if the KBRA Water Deal is included - as is - in Klamath Dam Removal Legislation and the Secretarial Decision. Those who stand to stand to lose include the majority of private Klamath River Basin irrigators, the Hoopa, Quartz Valley and Resighini Tribes and - we would argue - prospects for restoration of the Klamath River and the recovery of Klamath Salmon. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Before the storm – Behind the scenes

The Coming Storm

In Klamath Country the late summer lull is about to end.  As light wanes and nights become chill the Klamath River – and its controversial Dam and Water Deals - are about to be in the national headlines again. Soon after the Fall Equinox the environmental report needed to “inform” a decision on the Deals by Secretary of Interior Ken Salizar will come out in draft form.  That will kick off a round of review, hearings, teach-ins, newspaper reports and attempts by promoters, opponents and those who favor key improvements to promote their different views on the Klamath Dam and Water Deals. 

For these extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented* Deals to work, however, and before the Secretary makes his decision, Congress must pass a bill authorizing the unusual Deals. According to at least one of the tribe’s promoting them (the Klamath Tribes), Congress will have to come up with the full price tag for the KBRA or Water Deal. That price tag is nearly $1 billion dollars over ten years.

It is hard to imagine that legislation with a billion dollar price tag could make it through a divided and cash strapped Congress even if powerful forces were not opposed.  And powerful forces are opposed including Northern California congressman Tom McClintock (R), the Hoopa Tribe, the basin’s Tea Party groups and (presumably) other federal tribes across the nation whose budgets would be raided to provide the tribal share of the ten-year price tag. 

Strange things can happen in Congress, however, when powerful interests stand to gain. In the Klamath case the big winners in the Deals are members of not one but three of the West’s most powerful interests:
           --    A Power Utility and its major investors
           --    Large private irrigation interests receiving taxpayer subsidized water from federal agencies
           --    Federal Land and Resource Agencies

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Whales, Worms and Water - A month on the Klamath

For much of August a female Gray Whale nicknamed Momma took up residence in the Lower Klamath River. Staying in the vicinity of the Highway 101 bridge, the behemoth became such a tourist attraction that CalTrans had to put up signs warning of pedestrians on the two lane bridge. The bridge provides limited space for a single pedestrian, much less the crowds that sought a glimpse of the creature.  The whale has now passed away and, after being studied by scientists, has been respectfully buried on land.

"Momma" the gray whale in the Lower Klamath River

As reported in the Two Rivers Tribune, Indigenous natives consider such unusual behavior to be a warning to humans. Yurok ceremonial leader Chris Peters summarized the traditional view:
           This is perhaps a message of something still more foreboding yet to come. A signpost in time—when the ocean is polluted with human waste and the sonar sounds of US Navy testing invade the oceans,” he said. “As I think about the spiritual significance of such a large mammal—a very close relative—choosing to give her life in the Klamath River, I can only assume that it’s a sign—a very important sign that we all need to take note of and prepare for change to come.

While it would be tempting to interpret the message as a judgment on how the Klamath River is being managed, no one has apparently made that claim. That’s a sign the respect Momma received in life continues after her passing.

Worms and Water

Flows in the lower Klamath River remain more substantial than those we’ve seen in many summers. Thanks go to the Hoopa Tribe which fought the long fight for more water in the Trinity and to the weather gods which favored us with the best Klamath Mountains snowpack in decades.  The higher flows are expected to decrease the prevalence of fish disease in the Klamath River. Epidemic levels of disease related to poor water quality in the Klamath, Shasta and Scott Rivers have been responsible for an annual, mass die-off of juvenile Coho and Chinook salmon and Steelhead on their way to the ocean. This year’s higher flows are expected to reduce the worm-like stage of one of the parasitic diseases which annually destroy young Klamath Salmon en route to the ocean. For more on Klamath fish diseases and what is being done to combat them see this link.  

Meanwhile PacifiCorp has used the KHSA’s dispute resolution process to negotiate a deal with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) which will allow the company and Reclamation to cut Klamath River flows below “minimum” flows set out in the 2010 Biological Opinion. The decision to further lower minimum flows - which were already cut in the 2010 Biological Opinion in order to conform to the KBRA Water Deal - is hidden in the body of letters exchanged by PacifiCorp, Reclamation and MNFS.

In its February 4th letter to NMFS and Interior/Reclamation PacifiCorp states:
           Reclamation will request written concurrence from NMFS that compliance with minimum flows specified in MNFS’ 2010 Biological Opinion for Reclamation’s operation of the Klamath Irrigation Project may be accomplished with actual flows falling within a reasonable range above or below the target minimum flow. The reasonable range and target minimum flow will be established by NMFS after further consultation among PacifiCorp, Reclamation and NMFS.

On February 7th NMFS responded to PacifiCorp. The wording is (intentionally?) confusing but the effect is to authorize lower flows than those contained in the 2010 Biological Opinion:
           NMFS anticipates some deviation from the proposed ramp down rates may occur due to PacifiCorp’s operational constraints…

While the letters quoted above have been published, the actual setting of “target minimum flow” was deferred. That critical step has likely now been completed in closed door meetings. This is the sort of mischief which occurs when backroom dealing becomes the norm as it has on the Klamath under the Dam and Water Deals.

KlamBlog challenges NMFS leaders to publish on the Klamath Restoration website a comparison of the new target minimum flow they’ve set with PacifiCorp and Reclamation, the target minimum flow from the 2010 Bi-Op and the target minimum flow from the 2002 Bi-Op.  We believe that comparison will make it clear that promoters of the KHSA and KBRA continue to use backroom dealing to cut the amount of water available for Klamath River Salmon.

A different species of water

The Two Rivers Tribune recently reported that Oregon Senator Jeff Markley is prepared to “carry water” for PacifiCorp and other Klamath Deal “parties” in order to implement the Klamath Dam and Water Deals. Markley has circulated draft legislation to Deal “parties” - those who have signed on to the KHSA and KBRA) for comment. Because they deviate from normal government procedures, the Dam Deal and key aspects of the Water Deal cannot be implemented without federal legislation.

It is widely believed that legislation to implement the Deals will face a tough road in the House of Representatives where California Congressman Tom McClintock has signaled strong opposition. McClintock was recently able to get a provision blocking funding for studies related to the Deals through the House. However, his funding prohibition did not survive in the final legislation.

Recently Oregon Wild circulated a letter to Senator Markley which dealt exclusively with the impact of the Deals on the complex of Klamath Wildlife Refuges.  That has fueled speculation that the Oregon group is willing to accept other Water Deal provisions if it can get what it wants for the refuges. 

Fall on Tule Lake NWR. 
The complex of Klamath Refuges hosts 80% of Pacific Flyway birds during migration.
Many environmental groups oppose commercial farming on the Klamath Refuges

Oregon Wild’s action is one indication that environmental groups which oppose aspects of the Dam and Water Deals have not coalesced into a coalition or offered coherent, comprehensive alternatives to the Dam and Water Deals. Those groups include Oregon Wild and Water Watch in Oregon, the Northcoast Environmental Center, EPIC and Friends of the River in California and the Sierra Club in both states.

Less Water

As this KlamBlog is being published the last patches of snow are melting in the mountains above the Scott River Valley. When those patches are gone, flows in the national forest streams feeding Scott River will drop dramatically. There will not be sufficient flow to maintain hundreds of stream diversions, keep groundwater levels high and still provide wet habitat for young Coho, Chinook and Steelhead living in Scott River and major tributaries in the Scott River Valley.

It remains to be seen whether Scott River itself – which this year is full of young salmon – will go dry this fall or whether there will be sufficient flow when adult Chinook spawners begin arriving in late September. But the fact that some streams have already dried up does not bode well for salmon and steelhead.

Meanwhile the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) was in Scott Valley a week ago asking irrigators to voluntarily put water into Scott Valley streams to keep Coho, Chinook and Steelhead from dying as the streams go dry. The meeting provided an opportunity for more government bashing by Tea Party folks. The actual irrigators in attendance appeared unwilling to lend a helping hand to Coho. As KlamBlog has pointed out, CDFG would not need to beg for water if it were willing to enforce provisions of the California Constitution which provide fish with a first right to streamflow sufficient to keep them “in good condition”.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Siskiyou County is a special place

Browbeating the feds

Fresh from having browbeaten two national forest supervisors into presumed submission, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors set their sights on the National Marine Fisheries Service last week.  Backed by right wing consultants and middle-level timber company executives, a dominant faction on the board- professes to believe that the federal government must “co-ordinate” its policies with county policy as defined by the supervisors.  They appear to believe that in the case of policy conflicts, county policy must prevail.

Flood Irrigation, Scott River Valley, October 30th, 2007
By law irrigation is supposed to end on October 15th
Out-of-season irrigation is a common, illegal practice in the Scott River Valley

In the case of the National Marine Fisheries Service what these supervisors want is likely something akin to the “special” treatment they got in the California State Coho Recovery Plan. In a move which infuriated other stakeholders, the California Fish and Game Commission designated Siskiyou County’s Scott and Shasta Valley a recovery “Pilot Project” where the “voluntary approach” to compliance with California environmental laws favored by farmers and ranchers will be followed.  So far that “voluntary approach” has facilitated the progressive dewatering of these valleys, hidden “take” at diversions via bogus “fish rescue” and tried to justify it all with special valley-wide  ”take” permits which California courts quickly threw out because they don’t follow the very laws state officials swear to uphold.

California state government’s rancher-dictated approach to salmon recovery in the Scott and Shasta River Valleys amounts to using taxpayer money to lease the water fish need to survive. Now that taxpayer dollars have become scarce, the Department of Fish & Game (CDFG) has resorted to begging for a little water. KlamBlog was on hand last week in Fort Jones to witness DFG’s pleas on behalf of the fish.

Many salmon advocates oppose paying for the water they say fish have a right to under California law.  The plain language of Fish and Game Code 5937 appears to back them up. 

As for the national forests, the supervisors’ strategy appears to be to keep the pressure on federal decision makers to tow the county line on forest transportation decisions and logging projects while working for legislation that would give the county direct management control. The legislative scheme – along with other strategies – is detailed in the recently-adopted Siskiyou County National Forest Accountability Project – which was cooked up with the help of a couple of timber companies. Supervisor Michael Kobseff will lead an effort to enlist Senator Diane Feinstein and Congressman Wally Herger to sponsor legislation giving the county management control of the entire Klamath and portions of the Shasta National Forests.   
A special history

When it comes to county chutzpa there are few counties in the USA which can compare with the Klamath River Basin’s Siskiyou County. Usually counties concern themselves with issues like crime and whether to let that new box store in. But most Siskiyou County politicians appear to be obsessed with what other government are doing and with the idea that they have the right to dictate policy to those other governments. In essence, Siskiyou County attempts to stand the government pyramid you learned about in civics class on its head. As they see it, they are closest to the people and so should tell other governments what to do.

The Siskiyou County obsession with control goes back to the days just before and after statehood. When Federal Agent Redick McKee tried to provide the Indigenous Shasta inhabitants with a treaty and a reservation stretching from Scott Valley to the Oregon border, white miners, ranchers and politicians protested loudly and whittled it down to a fraction that size. When McKee left the area they immediately began demanding that the treaties not be ratified by the Senate. As in other places in California, a campaign was organized to “exterminate” the Indians. These white citizens figured that if there were no Indians there could not be a reservation. While some looked the other way or even protested, the public campaign to "exterminate" all remaining Indigenous inhabitants dominated and nearly succeeded.

Most California counties have moved beyond the sort of racism that led to campaigns of extermination; some have undertaken truth and reconciliation processes. In Humboldt County, for example, the renaming and return of the island where a bloody massacre of native women and children occurred was not too long ago the occasion for healing and reconciliation. But Siskiyou County seems stuck in a sordid past which is officially denied but which haunts county politics and social relations.  Hostility toward the two tribes based in the county – the Karuk Tribe and the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation – and toward Indigenous natives generally is never far from the surface in this rural county and sometimes finds open expression.               


Over the past 15 years, Siskiyou County boards have adopted several documents mandating federal and state coordination with county policies. And while it would be tempting to dismiss the documents as rhetorical political statements without force of law, they would not be replicated if they had not proven effective at some level.  The success in getting the “special” treatment they believe they deserve via California’s Coho “Pilot Project” has apparently encouraged the Siskiyou Supervisors to pursue the same sort of approach in other venues.  

A long line of Siskiyou County supervisors – not to mention school superintendents, DAs and sheriffs - have been rewarded for demanding that other governments and their officials tow the local line. KlamBlog previously documented how California CDFG officials kowtow to county policy on fish, water and stream access issues.  Appeasing such bullying simply encourages more demands.

The dominant faction among Siskiyou County Supervisors (Ed Valenzuela who represents the Mt. Shasta-Dunsmuir area does not appear to approve) have now set their sights on the federal recovery plan for Southern Oregon Northern California Coast Coho (SONCC Coho).  The SONCC Coho “evolutionary significant unit” or ESU spans two states and all or parts of three counties in Oregon and five counties in California. The Siskiyou Supervisors’ faction has not indicated how it intends to "coordinate" with these other governments.

Will Siskiyou County again be recognized as “special” in the federal Coho Recovery Plan?

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cal Fish and Game goes to the Scott River Valley...with its hand out

Officials from the California Department of Fish and Game have scheduled a meeting next Tuesday evening at Fort Jones in Siskiyou County. At that meeting CDFG officials will ask Scott River Valley irrigators to please let some water past the dams and diversions they operate so that young Coho and Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout will not be stranded and die. Even in this wet year - one of the best water years on record - irrigators who divert streams and also pump groundwater from numerous wells near the river are collectively dewatering key Scott River tributaries. In average and dry years, Chinook and Coho salmon have trouble accessing any of their spawning grounds in or above the 30 mile long agricultural Scott River Valley.

The dewatered Scott River near Fort Jones, October 2, 2009
The irony is that the State of California has the right – clearly stated in its constitution - to flows below those dams and diversions that are adequate for fish.  As a matter of policy, however, CDFG managers have decided that the State’s right to keep rivers alive should not be exercised in the Scott River Valley….or in the Shasta River Valley….or in just about any other stream in California.  The decision to allow irrigators to dewater streams below dams and diversions is arguably an abrogation of CDFG managers’ sworn duty. It is also one key reason Klamath River Coho – and so many other salmon stocks in California - remain on the brink of extinction.

But don’t take KlamBlog's word for it. Read the Fish and Game Code section 5937 which is part of California’s Constitution. And then read the SF Chronicle article at this link which is also reprinted below. The Chronicle report by veteran reporters Glen Martin and Tom Steinstra details CDFG’s (mis)management policy on the Scott and Shasta Rivers. These two Klamath River tributaries should be the production breadbasket for Klamath River Salmon, but they have instead become salmon basket cases. Diversion of salmon restoration funds to benefit irrigators and willful refusal of government officials to champion the species they are sworn to protect are key reasons the Scott River and its salmon are dying.

Twenty-eight years ago when the famous Mono Lake Decision issued from California’s Supreme Court, salmon advocates thought the future would be different. Armed with a decision strongly affirming the ancient Public Trust Doctrine, salmon folks expected the California Department of Fish & Game to use the Mono Lake precedent to keep irrigation interests from dewatering our salmon streams.

We have been bitterly disappointed.  Instead of using the Public Trust Doctrine to protect salmon streams, the California Department of Fish & Game is standing by while irrigation interests dewater our streams and destroy the salmon. The best this corrupt department can muster is to politely request that irrigators let a little water pass the dams and diversions so that the streams don’t completely dry up.

It is unlikely Scott River Valley irrigators will budge; why should they when CDFG has for so long been a paper tiger threatening regulatory action but never taking a violation there to court? Even when an irrigator killed hundreds of thousands of salmon and steelhead a few years back by dewatering a section of the Upper Scott River, CDFG did not prosecute.

Bogus restoration project on the Scott River. This is where hundreds of thousands of fish died a few years back when the Farmer's Irrigation Ditch was turned on dewatering the River. 

There is, however, new leadership in Sacramento. In the governor’s office; down the street at the Resources Agency and across the street at the Department of Fish & Game there are new leaders who are to this point untainted by the deep-rooted malfeasance which has infected CDFG management for far too long.

Governor Brown, Resource Secretary Laird and CDFG Director McCamman have an opportunity to make a new start. They should begin with the Klamath. For the sake of Klamath River Salmon, they should sweep the stables clean - providing new leadership and new policy direction at the Northern Regional Office.

If they are going to survive, Klamath River Salmon need CDFG managers who will enforce the laws which should protect the Scott and Shasta Rivers from dewatering.  Politely asking irrigators who for years have been dewatering rivers to please change course will not work; when laws are being systematically and intentionally disregarded, law enforcement is the only effective way forward. 

An Irrigation Ditch in the Scott River Valley on December 25, 2009. Several Scott River ranchers run diversion ditches full year around. The practice is illegal but CDFG and State Watermasters refuse to end the practice .                                                     

Young fish die as water laws go unenforced: Ranchers' cooperation threatened

SF Chronicle
Glen Martin, Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Staff Writers
Friday, June 22, 2001

Irrigation by ranchers is decimating salmon and steelhead populations on California's second biggest river system, and Department of Fish and Game officials acknowledge they are not implementing a tough state law that could stop the diversions.

Ranchers have diverted most of the flow of the Scott and Shasta Rivers in Siskiyou County to irrigate alfalfa fields and pastures, leaving thousands of young salmon and steelhead without enough water and facing imminent death.

State game wardens generally are disposed to citing the diverters under Fish and Game Code 5937, which requires dam owners to maintain water in state streambeds sufficient to keep fish healthy.

But agency officials say they are being told not to cite offenders out of concern that cooperative restoration projects between the state and ranchers on the Scott and Shasta Rivers would end instantly if the law were enforced.

The controversy points out difficulties with cooperative programs between government agencies and private parties.

Though such agreements can help resolve thorny environmental problems, they may also inhibit agencies from cracking down on private sector partners.

Warden Renie Cleland said he was told to back off from citing ranchers on the Scott and Shasta rivers.

"This has gone all the way to Sacramento," said Cleland. "It's extremely politically sensitive. I was told to take no enforcement action on it. These fish are dying. We've got five or six thousand steelhead trout dead on the Scott, and (dead juvenile steelhead) everywhere on the Shasta."


The Scott and Shasta are major tributaries of the Klamath River, which is second only to the Sacramento River in its dimensions and the number of fish it supports.

The Klamath and its tributaries once supported hundreds of thousands of chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout. Their numbers began declining in the mid-20th century from dams, agricultural irrigation and timber harvesting. By the mid-1980s, only a few thousand fish were left -- mostly on the Scott and Shasta.

During the past decade, efforts to screen agricultural pump intakes, reduce soil erosion, restore riparian forests and transport fish trapped in "dewatered" streambeds have bolstered the fish populations somewhat.


But conflict between environmentalists and ranchers over diversions has simmered for years. Ranchers exercising water rights adjudicated in the 1930s typically lower the rivers through irrigation during the summer.

This year, a severe local drought has greatly increased the degree of the problem. The Scott has been sucked dry, and the Shasta reduced to a trickle at its juncture with the Klamath.

Temperatures in the river have reached or exceeded the level considered lethal for salmon species, which favor cold water. Thousands of fish have died, and thousands of others face imminent death, making the pumping a clear violation of Code 5937.

"Everything has died," said Fish and Game Captain Chuck Konvalin of the Scott River. "The system has been dried up."

Konvalin, who heads a team of wardens who operate in the north state, says their superiors are reigning them in.

"This thing is out of whack," said Konvalin. "I get my orders."

Gary Stacey, a fisheries program director for Fish and Game who oversees projects in the Klamath area, said enforcing Code 5937 would "slam the door" on meaningful restoration programs along the Scott and Shasta, which cost $25 million a year.

"All our current programs depend on landowner cooperation," he said. "That would all stop immediately if we pulled the trigger. And the process involved in filing and prosecuting a case like this could take years -- years the fish don't have.

"By taking strong law enforcement action, we could simply be assuring that the (fish) populations would wink out."


Ranchers confirm they would scrap all cooperative ventures with the state if they were cited by game wardens, and say they are guaranteed diversion rights by court rulings made decades ago.

Gary Black, who diverts Scott River water to irrigate alfalfa and wheat on his 240-acre farm, said ranchers would respond to voluntary incentives to improve fish populations but would resist government fiat.

"We're looking for win-win situations," said Black, who helps direct a local resource conservation district that promotes fish-friendly agricultural methods. "I've worked with more than half the farmers in the Scott Valley.

Everyone is willing to do their part for fishery protection -- the question becomes how far is too far."

Still, "flows remain the number one issue, and this is a good time to sit down and talk," Black said. "That will work better around here than getting out the citation book."

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

Monday, August 1, 2011

Klamath Propaganda: Who do you believe?

Across the US, July and August are notoriously slow months for news. So too on the Klamath – with the exception of the whale visit (What could that mama be trying to tell us?), there is a dearth of Klamath River news.

Behind the scenes, of course, those who have “access” to federal and state “decision makers” are busy jockeying for position. They want scientific views which they favor to hold sway in the EIS/EIR being prepared to “inform” a decision on whether the Klamath Dam and Water Deals are in “the public interest” and will restore salmon runs. The Public Draft EIS/EIR is scheduled for release in September. 

The EIS/EIR is intended to inform a decision by the Secretary of Interior on the fate of both the Klamath Dam Deal (the KBRA) and the Klamath Water Deal (or KBRA) . KlamBlog is taking the opportunity presented by the lull to reflect on the war of words being waged in the region’s opinion pages concerning these Deals.  Depending on who you choose to believe, the Deals are either the best thing to come along since penicillin or a threat to local “custom and culture” which will flood riverfront property and destroy the local economy.  All sides claim their science is “good” and the other guy’s science is hogwash.  This post is an opportunity to learn who is writing the commentaries and the claims they are making.

But first a word about our decision to label these commentaries and opinions “propaganda”: The word “propaganda” is popularly taken to mean deliberate falsification in order to influence public opinion. The dictionary definition , however, recognizes that propagandists may use either facts or falsehoods - or a combination of both - as suites their purpose. Even when no falsehoods are stated, most propaganda presents facts selectively. This is sometimes referred to as “lying by omission”. What distinguishes propaganda from other communication is intent - propagandists seek to influence those receiving the information to act or believe a certain way.    

Immediately below is a list of those who have published recent Klamath commentaries or editorials. Their commentaries/editorials follow in that order.

     John Spencer is a retired lawman and an avid fisherman. For many years John lived on the Shasta River where he angled for Steelhead and worried over poor water quality and low flows. He now lives in Anderson, California and writes a fishing column for the Redding Record Searchlight.

     Mark Baird is a Scott River Valley hobby rancher and a leader of the Siskiyou County Tea Party. He recently purchased a radio station in Yreka.

     Craig Tucker runs the Karuk Tribe’s Klamath River Campaign. Tucker previously worked for Friends of the River and Green Corp.

     Ani Kame'enui is Washington, D.C., legislative coordinator for Oregon Wild. Alexandra Borack is conservation advocate for Friends of the River.

     Dean Brockbank is vice president and general counsel for PacifiCorp Energy – owner of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. PacifiCorp is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Investment Company.

     John Menke is a retired range professor who with his wife owns and operates a ranch in the Scott River Valley. The Menkes have adopted the practice of running their irrigation ditches full year around even though their irrigation rights are limited to only a portion of the year.

     Patrick Higgins is a Northcoast fisheries biologist who has been working on Klamath science and restoration since 1986. These days he represents the Resighini Rancheria on Klamath River issues.

While it probably does not qualify as “propaganda” we should mention a scholarly article published recently in the Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy. Dewatering Trust Responsibilities: The New Klamath River Hydroelectric and Restoration Agreements is by Thomas Schlosser – an attorney who represents the Hoopa Tribe. "The article argues that the agreements prioritize the water rights of non-Indian irrigation districts and utility customers over first-in-time Indian water and fishing rights.”

KlamBlog wants to know your opinion on the veracity of these individuals and the worth of their opinions. Read the seven commentaries-editorials reprinted below and then leave a comment.

Please remember to be honest and respectful.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Science, Secrecy and Salmon Restoration

News that an independent panel of scientists has serious reservations about prospects for successful salmon restoration to the upper Klamath River Basin once four Klamath River Dams are removed was broken by the LA Times in late June and spread like wildfire across the Basin.

The concerns of the scientists focused on the KBRA or Klamath Water Deal which has been politically connected to dam removal. They pointed out that large, politically brokered restoration programs have a consistent record of failure. Whether we consider Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades, the Great Lakes, the Columbia River or the Klamath River Basin, large scale restoration projects have not achieved what the politicians, advocates and bureaucrats who brokered them promised.

In 2006 a national team of scientists led by the University of Maryland’s Margaret Palmer examined thousands of restoration programs across the US and found widespread failure. The scientists pegged ineffective restoration to failure to apply restoration science resulting in projects which do not address key factors degrading rivers and lakes. The scientists also noted that less than 15% of the projects reviewed had been evaluation to determine their effectiveness.  Palmer subsequently identified the specific ways in which restoration practice has failed to correctly apply restoration science.

Lack of restoration standards and accountability is a key defect of the Klamath Water Deal. Like salmon restoration under the 1986 Klamath Act before it, the KBRA would divide restoration funds based on political considerations. During the 20-year Klamath Act Restoration Program, wild Klamath-Trinity Chinook Salmon – the focus of that restoration effort – continued to decline. If that trend continues, extirpation/extinction will occur during this century.  Restoration under the KBRA will be similarly ineffective; addressing several key factors limiting wild salmon production is specifically precluded by Water Deal provisions.

The independent salmon scientists focused on water quality in the Upper Basin as the main impediment to successful Chinook restoration there and throughout the Basin. In particular, they singled out a fifth PacifiCorp dam and reservoir – Keno – as a major barrier to migrating salmon. Keno has the worst water quality found anywhere in the Basin and regular fish kills occur there during summer. Under the Dam and Water Deals, however, Keno Dam and Reservoir would not be removed; instead they would be transferred from PacifiCorp to the US Bureau of Reclamation.  

Soft censorship on the Klamath

Federal and tribal bureaucrats did not like the Draft Report from the independent scientists because it criticized aspects of the KBRA Water Deal in strong terms. As they have in the past, displeased KBRA promoters worked hard to convince the independent scientists to change their report. This can be seen in comments submitted on the panel’s draft summarized in Appendix C of the final report.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Diana Hartel: An artist/writer tackles Klamath Restoration

For the second time High Country News - whose motto is "for those who care about the West" - has done a major feature on the Klamath River. The new article is by the multi-talented - Diana Hartel - who spent her youth in the Klamath River Basin, built a career in New York City and now lives in Ashland, Oregon. Hartel provides a fresh perspective linking the current conflict over water, dams, agriculture and fisheries to local and US history, including her personal family history, as well as to the diabetes epidemic affecting Indigenous Native communities in the Klamath River Basin and nation-wide. Here are three excerpts:

      ...My relatives and their neighbors were against dam removal. Their arguments had a lot to do with settler pride of place, how we took this wild river and made it useful -- building cheap hydropower, irrigating onions, growing potatoes for Frito-Lay, watering livestock.  My family's arrival in California in 1870 was an oft-told tale that gave us our rightful place in the West. But the land had changed since then. In summer, the river was too warm, its color a neon yellow-green. In some years, stretches of the Shasta and Scott tributaries dried up...

     ...By the 1870s, when my great-grandmother came to California, the indigenous population on the Klamath had already declined by 75 percent. A century later, diabetes, once virtually unknown in the tribes, stalked the descendants of the survivors...  
     ...Much as all Westerners, Native and non-Native, might wish this history away, we have to face it together. We live in one watershed. In these times, we are easily disconnected from life rhythms millions of years old. And once disconnected, we can wreak havoc on everything around us.The diabetes epidemic that robs us of vitality, making us crave hollow substitutes for the true sweetness of life, is an indiscriminate killer. On the tribal elder's scored war staff, we need to include the uncounted lives lost to diseases in our disrupted landscape.....

The full article is well worth the read. 

And here's one of Diana's paintings:

 Klamath Cove Dawn

Hartel's hope is that the Dam and Water Deals will provide impetus to the impulse for restoration in the Klamath River Basin. That may or may not pan out. But whatever becomes of the KBRA and KHSA, she has pointed to aspects of Basin society which need attention. Hartel speaks of the connections between personal, social and ecosystem health and of the history of this Basin. Her approach suggests that - if the goal is restoration - we have a lot more work to do and not just on the River. As a river basin society we have yet to come to terms with our history and that failure continues to poisons inter-group relations - and restoration - today.

Diana Hartel is a major force behind Madrona Arts which "is an Oregon-based nonprofit dedicated to ecological awareness through art. The organization was founded in 2008 by Diana with a group of artists participating in a community multi-arts project called Inner Geography that began in 2004." A current project - Freeing the Klamath River - includes interviews with individuals active in Klamath River Basin issues as part of the Over the River Oral History Project.

The idea that the Klamath River is one of the few major rivers in America that can still be substantially restored has captured the imagination of activists, writers, politicians and artists. Each has in the past and will in the future play a role in whether the idea of restoration becomes a reality. Diana Hartel's work is proof that integrating art and activism is possible and can be an effective tool to promote ecological awareness and restoration of the natural world. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Feds come to Orleans: focus shifts to Keno Dam and Reservoir

The federal team coordinating studies, assessments and environmental reviews to inform the upcoming  Secretarial Determination on the fate of PacifiCorp’s five Klamath River dams was in Orleans on June 16th to share their findings so far and to receive input from one of the communities which will be most affected by the decision.  

The meeting came on the heels of public release of new studies and reports by panels of scientists asked to assess likely impacts of removing four of the dams and transferring a fifth PacifiCorp dam and reservoir – Keno – to the Bureau of Reclamation.  Those reports and other completed assessments have focused attention on Keno Reservoir which currently has the worst water quality found anywhere in the Klamath River Basin.

 Keno Reservoir receives polluted wastewater from over 200,000 acres of irrigated agriculture. The reservoir is so polluted that ammonia, which is directly toxic to all aquatic life, is sometimes produced

Why did the Orleans meeting focus not on the four PacifiCorp dams proposed for removal but rather on the one dam and reservoir which would stay in place? For one thing, removing the four dams but leaving Keno as is will mean that water quality in the Klamath River below will remain poor. In some months Klamath River water quality would be worse than it is now with the four other dams in place. Furthermore, a panel of independent fisheries scientists do not believe salmon restoration in the Upper Klamath River Basin will be successful unless the severe water quality problems in Keno Reservoir and Upper Klamath Lake are effectively addressed. 

If Keno Dam and Reservoir were relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – that is, if PacifiCorp had decided to retain ownership - the company would have had to obtain 401water quality certification from the State of Oregon. That in turn would require that PacifiCorp develop and commit to a plan to clean-up pollution in the Reservoir. If Keno is transferred to the Bureau of Reclamation, however, no 401 certification is planned. Furthermore, the KBRA Water Deal would put dealing with water quality in Keno Reservoir in the hands of the Basin’s Irrigation Elite. But it will be difficult to get the Irrigation Elite to take the action needed to clean up Keno pollution. That’s because clean-up would likely require restoring some current farmland to marshes; the Irrigation Elite has adamantly opposed marsh restoration in the area.

Klamath River advocates and organizations who are not bought into the KBRA Water Deal insist that Keno clean-up must be assured before any deal on the Klamath River dams receives legislative backing. The Resighini Rancheria – a small federal tribe located wholly within the external boundaries of the Yurok Reservation – was among those who focused on clean-up of Keno pollution at the Orleans meeting. Rancheria representatives appear to understand that failure to secure a commitment to Keno clean-up as part of a larger dam removal deal will at best delay Klamath River restoration and could frustrate salmon recovery.

Tribal, fishing and environmental interests who are “parties” to the KBRA  claim they are for Klamath River restoration; there is no reason to doubt them since restoration is where their interests lie.  With the new studies and opinions focused on problems at Keno, these “parties” should now recognize that Keno clean-up must be hard wired as part of a larger dam agreement and legislation to implement such an agreement. However, their KBRA Deal with the Irrigation Elite could prevent these “parties” from taking a strong position on Keno clean-up.

On the other hand, Keno clean-up could be the issue which reunites those traditional Klamath River partners who have been divided by the KBRA Water Deal. Will KBRA environmental, tribal and fishing “parties” follow their own interests and support hard-wired Keno clean-up or will they defer to the Irrigation Elite and support legislation which facilities removal of four PacifiCorp dams but transfers Keno to the Bureau of Reclamation without assuring that the polluted reservoir will be cleaned-up?

Stay tuned.