Saturday, September 27, 2014

There's a new PacifiCorp-Reclamation Water Deal - will salmon pay the price next spring?

Flows in the Klamath River will likely be lower next spring because of a short-term water agreement between utility PacifiCorp and the US Bureau of Reclamation. Under terms of the deal, PacifiCorp is drawing down its Klamath River reservoirs this fall to meet ESA flow requirements in the Klamath River. Reclamation will return the water to PacifiCorp's reservoirs sometime after November 1st.

Drawing down PacifiCorp's reservoirs to meet minimum river flows will allow Reclamation to divert more water from Upper Klamath Lake to the irrigators it serves in California and Oregon. According to officials at the Tulelake Irrigation District, ninety percent of the highest yielding agricultural lands within the 210,000 acre federal irrigation project - those located within the bed of the former Tule Lake - are receiving full irrigation water delivery this drought year.  

 90% of the former Tule Lake has been drained, diked and converted to agriculture.

High spring flows help juvenile salmon survive poor water quality and predators; consequently more salmon reach the ocean and more return 3 and 4 years later. Klamath fisheries managers also want higher spring flows to flush fish parasites from the river, reducing disease morality. 

Higher spring flows are one of the "bargained for benefits" which helped persuade the Yurok and Karuk Tribes to sign the long-term KBRA Water Deal. However, in spite of the fact that higher spring flows have not materialized, the two tribes continue to support the KBRA.

If a series of big storms come soon to the Upper Klamath River Basin, or if the coming winter's precipitation is well above average, spring flows may not be cut. However, the federal Drought Monitor operated by NOAAi forecasts below average precipitation in the Upper Klamath River Basin through March of 2015. If the forecast turn out to be accurate, spring flows will be cut to the minimum and more young salmon will die before reaching the Pacific Ocean. Once again Klamath Salmon will have been sacrificed in order to maximize water delivery to federal irrigators, the Basin's Irrigation Elite

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed defenders of Klamath Salmon - the Dam Slayersii - have neither condemned nor questioned the deal. One of them, California Trout, even claims on its website that the draw-down of PacifiCorp's reservoirs is being done "to protect" Klamath salmon! KlamBlog can't tell if Cal Trout is naive, confused or intends to mislead visitors to its web site.

There is also confusion about how the PacifiCorp-Reclamation Deal came about. In late June Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that "PacifiCorp has offered to draw down two of its reservoirs on the Klamath River this summer to try to help ranchers facing a water shutoff in Oregon’s Klamath basin."  PacifiCorp's press release announcing the beginning of reservoir draw-down, however, claims that it is being done "in response to a request from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation." 

PacifiCorp's does, however, give a hint at what may really be going on. It's press release ends with the announcement that "after the irrigation season has ended, PacifiCorp and Reclamation will meet to discuss the timing of returning the water to the reservoirs..."

KlamBlog can confidently predict that PacifiCorp and Reclamation will agree to refill the reservoirs sometime after December 31st. The company has a rate increase pending with the California Public Utilities Commission. If the increase is granted, which is likely, electricity generated by PacifiCorp after December 31st will cost California customers more. By delaying until 2015 when Klamath water arrives from upstream, PacifiCorp will increased revenue received on power generated with the water. Profits will increase.

One Upper Basin irrigator (inadvertently) tells it like it is.

The term "greenwashing" refers to the common corporate practice of spinning actions taken to increase profits as if they were motivated by concern for the environment, the community or, in the case of utilities, electricity customers. Government agencies are also known to engage in greenwashing.

The PacifiCorp-Reclamation Water Deal is being done to increase profits for PacifiCorp and water delivery to the Irrigation Elite at the expense of Klamath Salmon. The rest of the noise is greenwashing. 
iNOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, is home to the National Weather Service which is responsible for short and long term weather forecasting.

iiThe term Dam Slayers refers to those tribes and fishing groups which are "parties" to the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement or KHSA. Those organizations claim that the fastest and surest way to remove four of PacifiCorp's five Klamath River Dams is the KHSA. Others, including KlamBlog, think the KHSA is a sweetheart deal to transfer responsibility for removing PacifiCorp's aging Klamath Hydroelectric Project from PacifiCorp shareholders, including Warren Buffet, to taxpayers and that the proper path to dam removal is via the normal Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process currently being held in abeyance.

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