Thursday, January 27, 2011

Coordination, Consultation and Co-management: Behind the scenes maneuvering in the Klamath River Basin

While the public government processes which will lead to the removal of four of PacifiCorp’s five Klamath River dams grind on, public and closed door preparations to derail dam removal are also progressing. A glimpse into behind the scenes efforts in Siskiyou County to defeat the Dam Deal surfaced last week.

At the January 18th Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting, former school superintendent Frank Tallerico told the supervisors that his group - the Siskiyou County Water Users Association (SCWUA)  - wants the county to contribute $40,000 toward its lawsuit challenging the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement – the KBRA or Klamath Water Deal.

the KHSA or Klamath Dam Deal is not functionally related to the costly and controversial Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement - the Water Deal. Nevertheless, the KBRA has been politically joined to the KHSA in an attempt by federal agencies and other interests to tie their agendas to the dam removal train.  Dam removal is likely because PacifiCorp and its powerful chief shareholder Warren Buffet recognize that the Klamath Dam Deal they negotiated is in the company’s – and the shareholders – financial interest. In fact, the Dam Deal is sweet indeed for PacifiCorp since it relieves the company for all responsibility (and liability) for toxic legacies which may be lurking around powerhouses up to 100 years old.

The KBRA Water Deal is supported by powerful Upper Klamath Basin growers who control the Tule Lake Irrigation District. This Irrigation Elite got all they asked for in KBRA negotiations and now seek to consolidate those gains. Among numerous other efforts, Tulelake and the other Klamath Project irrigation districts are seeking declarations from California and Oregon courts that their actions in adopting the KBRA were lawful.

Upper Basin canals and pumps: The Irrigation Elite receive taxpayer subsidized water courtesy of the federal Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Project

The desire of the Upper Basin’s irrigation elite to firm up gains made through the KBRA Water Deal is understandable. The Deal puts them first in line for Klamath River water ahead of salmon and the health of the River itself. If the Deal holds, this will make the Irrigation Elite the Basin’s chief water brokers. Putting irrigators first in line for water ahead of fish and refuges animates much of the environmental and tribal opposition to the Klamath Water Deal.

There were signs at the January 18th Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting that the powerful Tulelake irrigators have the ear of most supervisors. As reported in the Siskiyou Daily News, county counsel Thomas Guarino told the supervisors that the SCWUA lawsuit “may not fit into the county’s overall litigation strategy with respect to the Klamath agreements and county finances.” Putting two and two together, KlamBlog suspects that the county’s “strategy” is to allow the KBRA to move forward - on behalf of the irrigation elite - while attempting to scuttle removal of the four PacifiCorp dams. 

Tallerico came away from the meeting empty handed.  His group (SCWUA) mostly represents water users in the Shasta and Scott Valleys. The irrigation elite are based in the Tulelake and Lower Klamath areas. All are in sprawling Siskiyou County. 

It has been clear to Klamath River Basin irrigation interests for decades that they will eventually be forced to allow more water to flow in the Shasta, Scott and Klamath Rivers. These water users have been maneuvering to delay that eventuality while jockeying for the eventual advantage, that is, control of water at the expense of some other users. The Irrigation Elite appear to have the upper hand in this game not only with federal and state agencies but with the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors as well. This is the local subtext to the Klamath Water Deal.

You must coordinate!

In spite of the fact that no one seems to be paying attention, the Siskiyou County Supervisors continue to insist that the federal government “coordinate” all Klamath River Basin federal actions with them. By this these local officials mean that they should have veto power over all federal decisions even when those decisions impact the citizens of other counties and states. At the same time, however, Siskiyou County Supervisors have not hesitated to exclude other counties from negotiations with federal officials. Siskiyou Supervisor Marcia Armstrong was, the individual who – on behalf of Siskiyou County - insisted that Del Norte County be excluded from closed-door KBRA negotiations. 

Consultation or Co-management?

Klamath Basin federal tribes also want the feds to clear all their Klamath River Basin decisions with them. The requirement for federal-tribal consultation emerges from the status of federally recognized tribes as dependent sovereigns. Many tribes – including the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes – want to co-manage federal lands within their ancestral territory. 

The Karuk Tribe would like to co-manage the Klamath National Forest and the Klamath Tribes would like to co-manage the Winema National Forest which was once their reservation. 

The Yurok Tribe recently caused a stir when they convinced Northcoast Congressman Mike Thompson to put their co-management desires into legislative language. The draft bill – which would transfer certain Redwood National Park lands to the Tribe – also calls for co-management of all national and state Redwood Park lands located within Yurok Ancestral Territory. Local environmental groups - which worked for decades to establish and expand Redwood National Park - expressed concern for the future of public access if the draft Thompson bill were to become law.

The ancestral territory of Yurok speaking people extends 25-30 air miles inland and from Little River on the South to False Klamath Cove on the North 

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility group (PEER) - which includes national park employees - raised alarm about the proposed legisation. PEER released the text of the draft legislation as well as leaked memos between Troy Fletcher and other tribal representatives and Redwood National Park Superintendent Steve Chaney.

The Eureka Times Standard pointed out that the proposed Thompson legislation is part of a larger vision which the Yurok Tribe seeks to implement. As part of that vision, the Tribe has been using public funds to purchase land within the boundaries of the Yuron Reservation which is controlled by Green Diamond (formerly Simpson) Timber Company . A copy of the Yurok Tribe's 2005 Tribal Park Concept Plan is available on line. 

What about the Public?

Whether we consider the Siskiyou Supervisors or the Yurok Tribe, the motivating impulse appears to be a desire to control federal bureaucrats and their actions. As KlamBlog has pointed out in the past, this is nothing new. Federal government bureaucrats and local interests have been vying for control of western river basins – and their resources – since whites first conquered the American West. Tribes came late to this game but they are working hard to catch up.

The fact that maneuvering for control of public resources is a western tradition, however, begs the question of whether secret deals disposing of public resources – whether labeled as coordination, consultation or co-management - are appropriate. KlamBlog can see no justification for holding coordination, consultation and co-management meetings behind closed doors when the topic is PUBLIC resources. And we challenge officials from Siskiyou County, Klamath River Basin federal tribes and federal agencies to explain and justify here on KlamBlog their desire for secrecy when dealing with PUBLIC lands and resources.

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