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”.