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.
- 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."
- “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 www.YurokVoices.com
- 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.
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:
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)