Sunday, March 29, 2009

Klamath Basin Crisis responds to KlamBlog's March 16th post

Editor's Note:

Klamath Basin Crisis is one of the organizations which share KlamBlog's concern about secret meetings and back room deals when the PUBLIC's rights, interests and resources are on the table. Here is KBC's reaction to our post on Keno Dam and reservoir.

We will not respond to KBC today; instead we will wait to see if any of you care to respond. This is exactly the sort of exchange we think needs to happen often and not behind closed doors. Only through an open, public process of dialogue over time can we hope to truly understand each others and to achieve common understandings.

Here's the KBC response:

Felice Pace is affiliated with Klamath Forest Alliance, and formerly with the Yurok Tribe. KFA helped get Klamath Riverkeeper on it's feet, a group spearheaded by Craig Tucker from Friends of the River, international dam removal activists. Tucker presently is spokesman for the Karuk tribe and KBRA/dam removal advocate.

In the fall of 1851, long before the Klamath Reclamation Project was built, George Gibbs accompanied an expedition of Colonel Redick McKee through the Klamath River and up the Scott River into Scott Valley. Gibbs was a graduate of Harvard University and traveled West, when the California Gold Rush was in progress. George Gibbs’ Journal of Redick McKee’s Expedition Through Northwestern California in 1851. Gibbs reported the Klamath River was of poor quality. In one entry, he said, “In camping on the Klamath, it is necessary to seek the neighborhood of the brooks, especially that this season; as the water, never pure, is now offensive from the number of dead salmon.”

Gail Whitsett earned her master’s in geology from Oregon State University and worked in oil exploration and development. Her studies showed that millions of tons of phosphorus-rich sediment at the bottom of Klamath Lake are actually derived from phosphorus- rich bedrock, naturally eroded from mountains surrounding the lake.

Her husband, a retired Klamath Basin veterinarian, Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett, said, “As cattle develop, they convert vegetative phosphorus into muscle and bone. Ranchers are being blamed for polluting the waters with phosphorus while the cattle above the lake are removing as much as 300 tons of phosphorus out of the Upper Klamath Basin each year. What they said the cattle were doing to the lake is impossible.”

The Department of the Interior organized a science workshop in Klamath Falls February 3, 2004:

One speaker was Dr. William Lewis Jr., University of Colorado, Chairman of the National Research Council Committee on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in the Klamath River Basin.

Lewis was asked about making more wetlands for suckers, and he responded that there are 17,000 acres of restoration already. He cautioned that we shouldn't put too much faith into wetlands regarding the suppression of algae. Someone tried to compare algae bloom in Lake Washington. Lewis said they got Lake Washington turned around by ceasing to pour 90% of the sewage into it. He added that we should not count on retiring agricultural land for saving suckers.

Jacob Kann, ecologist and scientist for Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, insisted that timing and flows are related to the ph levels. Lewis responded that the water is always ph loaded, "the increase doesn't matter if it's always been saturated."

When asked if it would work to control the significant part of the ph load, Lewis responded that the lake is 140 square miles...that is not feasible to change. It is not like Lake Washington where they had sewage to cut off.
To date, more than 97,000 acres north of the Klamath Reclamation Project of agricultural land have been acquired by Government agencies and The Nature Conservancy with the stated goal of improving water quality and quantity, and storage. With evaporation of this shallow warm water, the water quantity available to the Klamath Lake has decreased, temperature has increased, and phosphorus level has increased.

So the nearly100,000 acres of relatively new wetlands has not helped water quality. So Mr Paces' 'solution' of acquiring more farmland will not work to help water quality. The gov't and environmental groups did that and everything got worse. Environmentalists seem to think the solution to growing fish and caretaking land is government is not working well here. Pace said the extensive marshes are almost gone. We have nearly 100,000 acres of extensive marshes. See our Refuge Pages.

Pace claims the water is "polluted agricultural wastewater." According to Ron Cole with Tulelake Fish and Wildlife Refuges, there is no smoking gun as far as agriculture harming wildlife. There have been dozens of studies with no ill-effect of our tightly controlled pesticides and fertilizers.

According to the California Waterfowl Association, the Klamath Basin farms provide over 50% of the feed for wildlife, the rest coming from natural sources. There are 200 million waterfowl use days here, totaling over 70 million tons of food required by these birds. That makes 70 million tons of goose poop, or maybe more since poop adds water. That's a lot of nitrogen. Would Pace like us to kill off the birds to decrease the nitrogen?

A study by the University of California Davis found that the naturally ph loaded water from the water's source had less minerals after it was filtered through the farms.

The proposed tools to "clean up" the water that was "ph loaded" and "saturated" from it's source, Pace recommends more wetlands and treatment plants, although National Academy of Science Dr William Lewis said this saturated water was always that way. These are coincidently the same proposals of the California State Water Resources Control Board to make our water pristine. Go HERE for the agenda of the Control Board in their Cal/EPA Environmental Justice Action Plan.

We do agree with Mr. Pace on a few things.

* Negotiations by the elite group of "stakeholders" in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement should not be in secret and without transparency and community input when our environment, communities, economies, fish and farms are at stake.

* Ripping out dams won't 'clean up' the water, especially since it is naturally saturated from it's source.

While we're on the subject, written KBRA secret and later disclosed agenda: "Jon Hicks from Rec has been approached with this question before .PC has been having discussions with Reclamation re Keno and Link River dam going forward towards an ultimate dam removal."

There are groups within the KBRA "stakeholders" who have written the California Water Board proposing the removal of Keno Dam.

According to a water district manager, "Keno Dam maintains the water level in Klamath River from Keno to and including Lake Ewauna. If Keno dam is removed the water level in Klamath River would drop and there would be no irrigation for water users in the Klamath River. Some of those irrigators are: All with land adjacent to the Klamath River, KDD, Fish and Wildlife Service and TID."

If you do not think Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers should be required to make their naturally saturated water pristine, water which historically was never pure, write the folks in the left column. Some might venture to believe that this "phosphorus-rich" bedrock and sediment were from time immemorial meant to be that way for a reason.

Around 1900, Link River, between Upper Klamath Lake and Lake Ewauna, occasionally went dry before the Klamath Project was built. There was no hydropower, no hatcheries, occasionally no fish (fish need water), no artificially-raised river flows or lake levels. The KBRA demands salmon and fish parasites/lamprey are introduced in phosphorus-rich, shallow, warm, historically algae-laden Klamath Lake. Could it be that salmon weren't intended to live in this murky lake? Because if they indeed lived there, we doubt the Indians would have eaten suckers for their sustenance rather than salmon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Politics, Science and the Klamath Water Deal

Promoters of the proposed Klamath Water Deal (officially the "Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement" or "KBRA") are continuing to promote it – and the federal legislation which is needed to finance it – in spite of substantial opposition from inside the Klamath River Basin and beyond.

Recently that opposition has grown. The Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities (ICNU) represents big industrial power users like the Aluminium and Internet Industries. ICNU recently alerted FERC that it has an interest in the relicensing. On its face that interest is to keep the dams up and producing power. But what is really behind their involvement is the Water Deal which proposes giving Klamath Project Irrigators cheap power from Bonneville. ICNU currently uses a big chunch of that cheap power; if the Irrigation Elite succeeds in getting a piece of Bonneville power for themselves the ICNU members will likely get less.

But the most significant opposition to the Deal could come in the future. The Obama Administration, which has not yet made known its position on the Deal, has pledged publicly to use the best science when making natural resource decisions. And the scientific underpinnings for the KBRA are weak at best. Knowing this to be the case, the Deal’s promoters are doing what they can to ignore and downplay scientific studies and opinions which do not support the Deal. While some scientists in the employ of Water Deal promoters tell us it is based on good science and will allow salmon and other species to recover, no independent scientists have endorsed the KRBA . KlamBlog predicts that no independent scientist will endorse it in the future either. Here’s why:

The National Research Council (NRC) is one of the nation’s most prestigious scientific organizations. Here’s how it describes itself:

The National Research Council (NRC) functions under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The NAS, NAE, IOM, and NRC are part of a private, nonprofit institution that provides science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln that was originally granted to the NAS in 1863. Under this charter, the NRC was established in 1916, the NAE in 1964, and the IOM in 1970. The four organizations are collectively referred to as the National Academies.

The mission of the NRC is to improve government decision making and public policy, increase public education and understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health. The institution takes this charge seriously and works to inform policies and actions that have the power to improve the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world.

Back in 2003 the federal Department of Interior requested that the NRC review the scientific underpinnings of the Biological Opinions for Coho Salmon, Kuptu and Tsuam (aka Shortnose and Lost River suckers). Subsequently the NRC was also asked to review two Klamath River flow studies that have been completed under the auspices of the Department of Interior.

The first NRC report concluded that the science underlying the biological opinions was weak; the second concluded that the two flow studies are fundamentally flawed and therefore "Not likely to contribute effectively to sound decision making…" The second report in particular – which examined both the Natural Flow Study completed by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Instream Flow Study completed by the Department of Interior (aka The Hardy Study) – has been all but ignored by the press and stakeholders. When a report is ignored there is likely a reason and that reason is usually that folks do not want to know – or for others to know – what it concludes.

KlamBlog believes that when facing important natural resource decisions we ought to consider and evaluate all information and all scientific opinions – not pick and choose based on whether we like the conclusions. So we publicize information which is being suppressed or intentionally ignored. Here then are excerpts from the NRC report which promoters of the Water Deal would rather see forgotten. The report is titled Hydrology, Ecology and Fishes of the Klamath River Basin. The full report can be read on line or downloaded for a price.

The NRC on the BOR’s Natural Flow Study ~
  • The committee concluded, however, that the Natural Flow Study was seriously compromised by several fundamental issues, including its choice of a basic approach for understanding natural flows, choices of the models for calculations, and serious omissions of factors likely to influence river flows at the Iron Gate Dam gauge site.
  • The calculations of the fate of water in the upper basin related to evapotranspiration were not done according to the best current methods, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) version of the modified Blaney-Criddle method. A more serious concern was the model behavior when a sensitivity analysis of its output concerning agricultural land was conducted. The results were not explained, and the apparent anomaly appears to be related to the component of the model that deals with reduction of evapotranspiration in the Upper Klamath Lake marsh when it is converted to agriculture.
  • The Natural Flow Study did not fully address the issue of changes in land use and land cover.
  • The study failed to adequately model the connection between the Klamath River and Lower Klamath Lake.
  • The study did not adhere closely enough to standard scientific and engineering practice in the areas of calibration, testing, quality assurance, and quality control.
  • The committee concluded that the Natural Flow Study includes calculated flows that are at best first approximations to useful estimates of such flows. The present version of the Natural Flow Study is less than adequate for input to the Instream Flow Study Phase II and does not provide enough information for detailed management of flows for the benefit of listed and other anadromous fish species in the Klamath River downstream from Iron Gate Dam.

The NRC on the Hardy Report ~

  • As a general perspective, the Instream Flow Study Phase II followed steps outlined in the Instream Flow Incremental Methodology (IFIM), which has seen wide application in studies of this type. The authors of the Instream Flow Study Phase II applied the IFIM properly. They also used bioenergetics and a fish-population model to test their results, and they tested model output by comparing observations of fish with predicted fish locations.
  • Despite these strengths, the committee found important shortcomings in the Instream Flow Study Phase II and its use of various models and data. Two major shortcomings—use of monthly data and lack of tributary analyses—are so severe that that they should be addressed before decision makers can use the outputs of the study to establish precise flow regimes with confidence……the shortcomings resulted from constraints imposed by the US Bureau of Reclamation, which indicated that lack of time and resources prevented them from providing additional calculations that would produce daily flows for the ecological modeling.
  • The elimination of consideration of tributary processes apparently resulted from an agreement reached by basin managers not to include tributary processes in the habitat studies to simplify the engagement of stakeholders in the process. Since only the main stem of the Klamath River was subject to analysis, stakeholders with interests in tributary locations would not have to deal directly with the study.
  • The Klamath River is not a confined gutter for rainwater, and therefore analyzing the river without considering its tributaries is akin to analyzing a tree by assessing only its trunk but not its branches. In addition, the study did not include important water-quality attributes, such as dissolved oxygen levels, nutrient loadings, contaminants, and sediment concentrations, although each has important implications for the vitality of the fish populations of the Klamath River. Second, high flows are especially important to the physical and biological processes of the Klamath River, and further analysis of their frequency, duration, and timing is essential in understanding the dynamics of the river’s hydrologic, geomorphologic, and ecological processes. Reliance on monthly flow data, as outlined above, made analysis of high flows impossible within the scope of the study.
  • There are three major shortcomings in the experimental design of the Instream Flow Study Phase II: a fundamental beginning assumption about limits on salmon habitat, a lack of thorough assessment of the representativeness of the reaches used for detailed study, and the statistical approach to analyze the calculated set of instream flows did not use normalized data and did not have provisions for identifying serial autocorrelations.
  • Despite these limitations, and in the absence of any better information currently available, the committee concludes that the recommended flows resulting from the Instream Flow Study Phase II probably represent an improvement for the anadromous fishes in the Klamath River over the current flow regime.
  • To the degree that the studies conclusions are followed, it should be on an interim basis, pending the improvements the committee outlines below and a more comprehensive and integrated assessment of the science needs of the basin as a whole.

The NRC on Implications for anadromous fishes in the Klamath ~

  • The internal workings of the model in the Natural Flow Study include several computational shortcomings that limit its use. These issues imply that the natural flow model produces results that probably cannot be used as a precise replication of natural flows and that the individual numbers generated by the study are not firm, irrefutable values. The study’s shortcomings imply that managers of the biological resources of the basin may use the results of the model in a general way as a form of guidance for the broad characteristics of the natural flow regime, but they cannot use the exact values produced by the study as a template for developing a flow regime with much confidence.
  • The model does not treat the tributaries of the Klamath River, although they are and have been an essential part of the environments of the anadromous fishes. Without understanding the ecological and hydrological condition and dynamics in the tributaries, it is not possible to understand the ecological and hydrological condition and dynamics of the river.
  • The most important outcome of the Instream Flow Study was that it indicated that increases in existing flows downstream from Iron Gate Dam probably would benefit fish populations through improved physical habitat associated with more water and through reduced water temperatures. If these conclusions were borne out by studies incorporating experimental flows and monitored responses, managers would be able to have greater confidence that decisions to increase flows would have a beneficial effect on anadromous fishes in the lower river.
  • Despite various concerns about the study, it is extremely unlikely, in the committee’s judgment, that following the prescribed flows of the Instream Flow Study Phase II would have adverse effects on any of the anadromous fish species. Based on general principles and the information developed in that study, following its prescribed flows probably would have some beneficial effects on the suite of anadromous fishes in the Klamath River considered as a whole, although not necessarily for every species.

The NRC on what needs to happen now ~

  • The committee found that science in the basin was being done by bits and pieces, sometimes addressing important questions, but not linked to other important questions……The committee found that the most important characteristics of research for complex river-basin management were missing for the Klamath River: the need for a "big picture" perspective based on a conceptual model encompassing the entire basin and its many components. As a result, the integration of individual studies into a coherent whole has not taken place, and it is unlikely to take place under the present scientific and political arrangements.
  • To address science and management in the basin, the committee first recommends that the agencies, researchers, decision makers, and stakeholders together define basin-wide science needs and priorities. One method of achieving success in this effort would be through the establishment of an independent entity to develop an integrated vision of science needs. The body that defines this vision must be viewed by all parties as truly independent for it to be effective.
  • The Trinity River basin experience, despite some difficulties, provides a good example to follow in many aspects of the overall basin-wide effort.
  • Connecting effective science with successful decision making for delivering water to users, sustaining downstream fisheries, and protecting the populations of protected species has been problematic in the Klamath River basin. The Natural Flow Study and the Instream Flow Study Phase II are not likely to contribute effectively to sound decision making until political and scientific arrangements in the Klamath River basin that permit more cooperative and functional decision making can be developed.
  • The employment of sound science will require: A formal science plan for the Klamath River basin that defines research activities and the interconnections among them, along with how they relate to management and policy; An independent mechanism for science review and management that is isolated from direct political and economic influence and that includes a lead scientist or senior scientist position occupied by an authoritative voice for research; A whole-basin viewpoint that includes both the upper and lower Klamath River basins with their tributary streams; A data and analysis process that is transparent and that provides all parties with complete and equal access to information, perhaps through an independent science advisory group; An adaptive-management approach whereby decisions are played out in water management with monitoring and constant assessment and with periodic informed adjustments in management strategies.
  • The committee recommends that the researchers, decision makers, and stakeholders in the Klamath River basin emulate their colleagues in the Trinity River basin in connecting science and decision making and that the two units coordinate their research and management for the greater good of the entire river basin.

Those who crafted the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (aka The Water Deal) used flawed studies to develop recommendations for Klamath River flows, ignored calls by independent scientists for a whole basin approach and did not propose using the sort of independent science process that the National Research Council recommended. Essentially the proposed Deal seeks to substitute its political calculations for good science. Klamath history teaches that when good science is ignored bad things happen. That may be the future to which the Klamath River Basin is headed if promoters of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement get their way.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Siskiyou Supervisors Trash Fishing and Cal Trout

The Siskiyou County Supervisors have a reputation in government circles; discussion of their antics usually provokes laughter and the shaking of heads. That was the case recently when a newspaper report on the Siskiyou Supervisors March 10th meeting revealed the supervisors' attitudes toward salmon and the fishermen’s group Cal Trout.

Siskiyou County Supervisors never miss an opportunity to posture and rant about how this or that environmental protection is destroying the county economy. The latest opportunity was a report by the firm of McBain and Trush on a Shasta River flow study. Marcia Armstrong, who represents western Siskiyou County, including the Scott River Valley, complained that “everything is for fish, and everything else is going to the john!” She then proclaimed that fishing is no longer a vital activity in the county.

Supervisor Armstrong was expressing her hope rather than describing reality. Numerous economic studies document the benefits that steelhead and salmon continue to contribute to Klamath River Communities. Those economic benefits could be much larger however. A report from the United States Geological Survey estimated the economic benefits of restored Klamath River fisheries to local and regional communities in the billions of dollars. While even the current depressed fisheries bring significant revenue to Klamath River communities, Armstrong only recognizes mining, logging and agriculture as contributing to local well being.

Supervisor Jim Cook agreed with Armstrong. He also expressed his opinion of Cal Trout: “This is the first time I’ve seen anything that Cal Trout has been involved with that wasn’t a piece of crap,” he concluded. He was referring to the flow study which the Department of Fish and Game contracted with Cal Trout to complete. The fishing organization hired McBain and Trush to do the work.

The ideological positions adopted by the Siskiyou Supervisors have sometimes harmed the interest of their citizens. The March 18th edition of the Siskiyou Daily News, for example, reported the purchase of Big Springs Ranch by The Nature Conservancy, including this statement: The conservancy hopes to alleviate regulatory pressures on ranchers along the rest of the river system…..She explained that this can hopefully be achieved with the improvements on the land now owned by the conservancy.

Big Springs on the Shasta River

This is not the first time that the Big Springs Area was targeted for restoration. The BLM tried to purchase the wetlands and springs in the area a decade ago for the same purposes and was blocked by the Siskiyou County Supervisors. The Supervisors are ideologically opposed to new public ownership. The private entity that subsequently purchased the land diverted more water from Big Springs – harming Coho, other fisheries and downstream irrigators. Had the BLM been allowed to purchase Big Springs Ranch in exchange for selling more acreage elsewhere in the county, the Coho would likely not be as imperiled as they now are in the Shasta River. The current burden on landowners to provide for fish and water quality would also likely be lower if the Supervisors' opposition had not blocked the project.

As in the case with the BLM and Big Springs wetlands, the Siskiyou Supervisors’ ideological stances have consistently and persistently delayed restoration and encouraged degradation of salmon habitat. Ignored problems don’t go away, they just get bigger and require bigger changes and dislocations when they are finally faced. By refusing to recognize problems and to support real solutions, the Siskiyou Supervisors contribute to conditions which result in ESA designations, Clean Water Act impairment listings and environmental litigation.

There is an old saying that some folks would rather curse the darkness than light a light. To KlamBlog that adage describes the Siskiyou Supervisors to a tee.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keno Reservoir and Interim Dam License Conditions – A Klamath Sleeper Issue

While it has been intentionally mystified and ignored, what will be included in Interim License Conditions for Klamath River Dams is likely one of the most important issues which will impact the fate of Klamath Salmon, the health of the River and its communities for the next 20 years or more. Interim Conditions refers to changes in operations and other actions which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can require PacifiCorp to take between now and when the dams are either relicensed for 50 years, removed or transferred to other ownership. This could take a long time and during that time the fate of Klamath River Coho and Spring Chinook could be sealed… way or the other.

Several environmental and fishermen’s organizations and at least two tribes supported PacifiCorp’s recent attempt to get California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to “suspend” consideration of whether the dams can meet water quality standards established to protect the Public Trust and the beneficial uses of water. These organizations argued that PacifiCorp was making a good faith efforts toward a dam settlement which would remove four of the five mainstem dams and transfer a fifth dam – Keno – to the Bureau of Reclamation. Because of PacifiCorp’s good faith, these groups argued, the company should not be required to participate in a water quality study which would be moot if the dams are removed.

However, these PacifiCorp apologists failed to mention that the water quality studies which PacifiCorp wants “suspended” will also recommend the Interim Conditions which PacifiCorp will be required by FERC to implement until the dams are finally licensed, removed or transferred. The apologists also failed to mention that the state water quality studies and Interim License Conditions are the only way that California can get PacifiCorp to do its part in cleaning-up Klamath River pollution under a plan currently being developed by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board.

How do self-proclaimed Klamath Defenders become apologists for the interests of PacifiCorp and Warren Buffet? The answer has a lot to do with ego, funding and future career prospects: the removal of Klamath River Dams will advance the careers of those who can claim credit whether or not Klamath Salmon and the future health of the River are compromised in the process.

With several of the Klamath’s most prominent Defenders so committed to dam removal that they will work for PacifiCorp’s interest in order to facilitate a dam removal deal, it falls to others to take up the slack. The Hoopa Tribe is doing its share – focusing on Interim Conditions for dam operations. But so far the Hoopa have only pushed for interim flows within the Klamath Hydroelectric Project Area. While this issue is important (see KlamBlog’s January 27th post), the most important issue which needs to be addressed in Interim Conditions is the poor water quality behind PacifiCorp’s Keno Dam, i.e. in Keno Reservoir.

Also known as Lake Ewana, Keno Reservoir consistently contains water of the worst quality found anywhere in the Klamath River Basin. Fish kills occur in the Reservoir nearly every year. The water quality related die-offs are downplayed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and local media. For example, a recent news article in the Klamath Falls Herald and News gave the impression that the fish kills are normal because they happen nearly every year. But these fish kills include endangered Kuptu and Tsuam (sucker species) and they are in no way natural.

Keno Reservoir makes the polluted agricultural wastewater it receives much worse because the extensive marshes which once rimmed the area are now mostly gone – replaced by irrigated agriculture, a plywood mill, a power plant and livestock operations. If it is not cleaned up, Keno Reservoir could be a death trap for salmon and steelhead trying to navigate to and from the Upper Basin once the other four dams are removed.

It is essential to recovery of Klamath Salmon and to the restoration of the Klamath River that the pollution at Keno Reservoir is addressed now – through Interim Conditions for PacifiCorp’s continued operation of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. For one thing we may have to wait more than a decade for dam removal to even begin. Most importantly, if we don’t address Keno pollution now the mandate for cleaning it up will pass with the transfer of Keno Dam and Reservoir to the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). With its powerful irrigation clients opposed to clean-up, it would likely take years of litigation to get the BOR to clean-up Keno Reservoir.

Cleaning-up Keno is feasible but it will not be cheap. Decades of tree bark which has accumulated on the Reservoir’s bottom as a result of log storage must be removed and the ongoing storage of logs in the Reservoir must end. Either treatment plants or treatment wetlands must be put in place on the Klamath Straits and on the outflow from Upper Klamath Lake and the Lost River Diversion Channel. All three discharge polluted agricultural wastewater into Keno Reservoir.

The most cost effective method for cleaning up Keno would involve the restoration of Lower Klamath Lake whose extensive wetlands once stored and cleaned high winter and spring flows for later release to the River. Studies of existing permanent and seasonal wetlands in the Lower Klamath area demonstrate that they effectively remove phosphorus and other nutrients from water which passes through them. Restoring Lower Klamath Lake would provide many other benefits including to waterfowl, Bald eagles, duck hunters, bird watchers and the local economy. But it is fiercely opposed by the Irrigation Elite who want to maximize the amount of public and private lands which they can lease at low rates and then farm with high profit margins.

What this all means is that the decision of the SWRCB to continue the water quality studies and to recommend Interim Conditions for reservoir clean-up to FERC is a victory for the River and Klamath Salmon. But that victory is partial at best. Will the SWRCB focus on Keno and tell FERC to require that PacifiCorp develop and implement a clean-up plan BEFORE it is allowed to transfer the dam and reservoir to the Bureau of Reclamation? With many Klamath Defenders preoccupied with dam negotiations or shilling for PacifiCorp, it may be necessary for ordinary citizens and new organizations to step up and demand the clean-up. This may already be happening. An action alert on Klamath water quality issues was recently circulated by an entity calling itself Klamath First Advocates – a name which has not been seen before. The entity has yet to define itself publicly.

Citizens who want to support the clean-up of Keno Reservoir before it is transferred to the BOR should let the SWRCB, NCWQCB and FERC know that this is a priority. Tell them that Interim Conditions for operation of the Klamath River Dams must include a requirement that PacifiCorp develop a clean-up plan, time-lines and clean-up financing plan for Keno Reservoir before it is transferred to the BOR. Contact information is provided below.

Tam Doduc & Jennifer Watts
California State Water Resources Control Board
P.O. Box 2000
Sacramento, CA 95812-2000
Via e-mail:

Ms. Catherine Kuhlman, Executive Officer
North Coast Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd.
Santa Rosa, CA. 95403
Via e-mail:

Magalie Roman Salas, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Project P-2082-027
888 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20426

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Will a new Klamath Clean-Up Plan Restore Klamath Water Quality?

What would you think if someone told you that PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams are NOT the most important issue for those who want to restore the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon? You’d say that someone is either misinformed or crazy right? That’s because we’ve all been barraged by press coverage of Dam and Water Deals crafted behind closed doors while other Klamath issues and happenings have for the most part been ignored. But the plain truth is that pollution - the lack of water quality conducive to recovery of Klamath Salmon and restoration of the Klamath River - is the #1 factor preventing recovery and restoration. The dams are part of the problem but they are not the largest polluter.

Right now the North Coast Water Quality Control Board (NCWQCB) – the entity charged with assuring water quality on the Northcoast and Klamath – has begun the process of developing a Water Quality Restoration Plan for the Klamath River. This is a critical part of what is called the TMDL Process. The Restoration Plan is where the rubber of science hits the road of enforcement. A good plan will provide for the corrective actions and enforcement mechanisms needed to (finally) clean up the Klamath.

The NCWQCB is currently conducting “scoping” for the Water Quality Restoration Plan including five workshops where the Water Board’s staff will present the Plan and receive written and oral comments from the public. The five workshops are as follows:
  • March 3, 12:30 PM, Yurok Tribal Office, Klamath, CA.
  • March 3, 6:30 PM, Humboldt State U., BSS Building, Room 162, Arcata, CA
  • March 4, 6 PM, Tulelake-ButteV. Fairgrounds, Floriculture Rm., Tulelake, CA.
  • March 5, 6 PM, Willow Creek School, Montague, CA.
  • March 12, 2 PM, Hearing Room, NCWQCB Office, Santa Rosa, CA
TMDL and background documents and information is available at the NCWQCB’s web site. Comments can be submitted until 5 PM on March 27th to:

The Klamath River is listed as “impaired” as required by the Clean Water Act because its waters will not support the “beneficial uses” of that water - as expressed in water quality standards established for the River. The Klamath is impaired by excessive amounts of nutrients and organic matter, high water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen concentrations, and the blue-green algae toxin microcystin. These impairments are damaging beneficial uses including salmon and other fisheries, Indigenous cultural uses and recreation.

Livestock polluted water from Johnson and Crystal Creeks enters Patterson Creek, Scott River, 3-06

The #1 source of these impairments is well established but not well known: it is the agriculture industry. Water being released from the Klamath Straits and Keno Reservoir in the Upper Basin is highly polluted and most of that pollution is agricultural waste water. The Shasta and Scott Rivers are also polluted and the main source by far is agriculture – both direct deposit of manure by livestock and agricultural waste water released to the river. The temperature, low dissolved oxygen and microcystin toxin impairments are directly related to this agricultural pollution. PacifiCorp’s dams and reservoirs – both the 4 that are proposed for removal and the one that is proposed for transfer to the Bureau of Reclamation – make the bad water quality they receive much worse. But they are NOT the main source of Klamath River’s water quality problems.

If it is going to succeed the clean-up plan adopted by the North Coast Water Board will need to learn from the failures of past water quality and fisheries restoration efforts. It must also assure that – unlike clean-up plans developed for the Shasta and Scott Rivers - it will get the job done now and not years in the future. Water pollution is the main cause for epidemic disease levels in the Klamath and certain tributaries which are wiping out salmon and steelhead production before the young fish can reach the ocean. It is unclear whether Klamath Salmon can survive if clean-up is long delayed or is ineffective.

Overgrazing and unfettered access to streams

Johnson Creek Watershed, Scott River Sub-basin, 3-06

The laws and regulations which govern the development of water pollution clean up plans require that those plans:
  • Identify where all pollution is coming from (who is responsible) and what each source of the pollution (responsible party) needs to do to clean up or eliminate the pollution it is discharging to the River or tributaries
  • Contain methods to enforce pollution limits that will be effective.
Past efforts to clean-up pollution which comes from agricultural operations have failed when they have relied upon voluntary approaches or upon agencies – like the Resource Conservation Districts – which are controlled by polluters. A 25-year effort to clean up pollution in Chesapeake Bay has been declared a failure because the voluntary approach to agricultural and other pollution has not worked. Chesapeake Bay advocates are now calling for effective enforcement.

The 20 year effort to restore Klamath Salmon under the 1986 Klamath Act which used similar “collaborative” methods also failed. Wild Klamath salmon stocks have continued to decline in spite of expenditure of $40 million and more on “restoration” projects. Too many of those projects delivered benefits to landowners and organizations but not to salmon and watersheds.

Will the “Klamath River Water Quality Restoration Plan” being developed by the North Coast Water Board again choose “voluntary” and “collaborative” approaches which have failed in the past here and across the nation?

Stay tuned……or, better yet, get involved!