Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meet the Klamath River Basin’s Irrigation Elite

KlamBlog has been criticized for identifying the group of irrigators who receive water via the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project as The Irrigation Elite. One critic – Deal promoter and commercial salmon fishermen representative Glen Spain – recently accused KlamBlog of “demonizing” folks who are “family farmers”.

The image of the family farmer toiling away in the fields with dirt under his fingers is carefully promoted by the Agricultural Industry which – as per the recently released Census of Agriculture - continues to be more dominated each year by very large, corporate farms. The number of farms in the US has reversed and is going up because of an increase in retiree and other small farms that sell less than $1,000 in farm product each year. Meanwhile the number of very large farms, the value of agricultural land and the income generated from those large farms continues to increase as well while medium sized farms - those we usually think of as "family farms" - continues to decline. Many of the corporate farms are also (technically) family farms; they are owned by corporations comprised of one or more family members. They are “family farms” in the same sense that DuPont is a family company.

Irrigation Elite mansion - and message - in the Lower Lost River Basin

But maybe the Klamath Basin is different. Maybe within the federal Klamath Project, farmers are struggling to survive. To investigate further – and to find out if Glen Spain’s critique is justified – we’ve done a bit of research. The income and profits of farms – like any other private business – are not public information. Payments received from the federal government, however, are public and are available from the US Department of Agriculture.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has obtained the information and placed it in a searchable database. We used that database to look at payment of taxpayer funds to leaders of the two principle political organizations based in the Klamath River Basin which represent agricultural interests:

           •    The Family Farm Alliance (FFA) is a national organization based in Klamath Falls which lobbies the federal government on behalf of agricultural interests. 
           •    The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) is a local organization also based in Klamath Falls. It represents irrigation interests which obtain water from the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project.

What we found is presented and summarized below.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The McClintock Factor - Conservative California Congressman declares war on Obama’s western water initiatives

This post was originally published at on the Range blog and is reprinted here for KlamBlog readers. 

When Republican Congressman John Doolittle was implicated in the Abramowitz Scandals and forced to retire from Congress, California Democrats figured they had a good chance to win the 4th US Congressional District for the first time in modern history. The sprawling 4th district extends along the eastern side of northern California. Lead by growth in towns like Nevada City, Grass Valley and Quincy, the district is steadily becoming more liberal. Democrat’s hopes were dashed in 2008, however, when a veteran conservative Republican Tom McClintock won a narrow victory over Democrat Charlie Brown.

Prior to election to Congress, the 55 year old McClintock spent 22 years in the California legislature and ran on the Republican state-wide ticket twice. During that time McClintock never lived in or was elected from the 4th district. In California it is only necessary that a candidate for Congress resides within the state, not the district. Tom McClintock won in northeast California in 2008 as a carpetbagger.

Republicans took over the House this year and McClintock was appointed chairperson of the Committee on Water and Power – part of the House Natural Resources Committee. He is also a member of two other Resource subcommittees – one on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands and the other on Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs. And he is on the powerful Budget Committee.
In early March the brash congressman threw down the gauntlet on Western water policy. In remarks opening the first oversight hearing under his chairmanship, McClintock laid out an ambitious agenda for the committee he heads:
With today’s hearing, the Water and Power Sub-Committee will begin the process of restoring abundance as the principal objective of America’s Federal water and power policy.  We meet today to receive testimony from the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Service on their plans for the coming year.  We do so in conjunction with our responsibility under the Federal Budget Act to provide guidance to the House Budget Committee as it prepares the 2012 budget and with our responsibility under House Resolution 72 to identify regulations and practices of the government that are impeding job creation and burdening economic growth.
 he continued:
In my opinion, all of these hearings and all of the actions stemming from them must be focused on developing the vast water and hydro-electric resources in our nation.  The failure of the last generation to keep pace with our water and power needs has caused chronic water shortages and skyrocketing electricity prices that are causing serious economic harm.
In addition, willful policies that have deliberately misallocated our resources must be reversed.
McClintock went on to cite California’s Central Valley, Northern Arizona and the Klamath River Basin as prime examples of those “willful policies” and he hinted at how he will attempt to derail such initiatives:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bureaucratic Drought in the Klamath River Basin - Are federal water managers violating the ESA?

According to managers from the federal Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service there is a drought in the Klamath River Basin. Or at least that is the logical conclusion one would draw from the amount of water these bureaucrats are allowing to flow down the Klamath River.  The managers have cut Klamath River flows; they are only sending downriver the amount of water required during a moderate to severe drought.

The US Geological Service and western weatherpersons see it differently. As of March 1st precipitation and snowpack in the Klamath River Basin and in most of the West is reported at about average. Streamflow in the Upper Klamath River Basin is predicted to be average. Based on the data, the USGS and the states say there is no drought this year in the Klamath River Basin or in most of the West. Here’s the March 1st Drought Monitor Map:


These conditions contrast sharply with water conditions last year when there really was a drought in the Klamath River Basin. Below are the 2011 and 2010 March 1st streamflow forecasts from the US Geological Survey. Comparison makes it clear that 2011 is much wetter than 2010; average natural stream flows can be expected in 2011 in the Klamath River basin and much of the West.

Under the 2010 Biological Opinion for managing the impact of the Klamath Irrigation Project on ESA listed Coho Salmon, in years of average precipitation (like 2011), Coho should be provided with the following flows in the Klamath River below Iron Gate dam:



But flow measurement data from the State of California indicate that, since January 1st, actual Klamath River flows at Iron Gate have usually been far below what they should have been during a year of average precipitation.