Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Modoc Nation makes a bid for recognition…and to protect the Modoc Homeland.

A group of about 100 Modoc Indians has broken away from the Klamath Tribes and seeks independent federal recognition. Calling themselves the Modoc Nation, the group has drafted a constitution and established a government structure. The Modoc Nation opposes the KBRA – the Klamath Water Deal – which they say sells out part of their homeland – the Lower Lost River and Lower Klamath Lake areas – to agricultural interests.

As KlamBlog has pointed out, the Water Deal strongly favors those water users who obtain Klamath River water via the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project. The richest and most powerful of these water users control large acreage in and near the remnant of Tule Lake. This includes land where the main winter village of the Modoc People was located. Farmers still plow up Modoc artifacts in these fields.

According to Modoc Nation Secretary of State Perry Chesnut, the government of the federally recognized Klamath Tribes - which includes members of Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin origin - is dominated by Klamath people whose traditional lands lay to the North of Upper Klamath Lake. Modoc and Yahooskin people are numerical minorities in a tribal government which is one of the main promoters of the KBRA Water Deal.

Chestnut claims that the interests of the Modoc and Yahooskin have consistently been sacrificed by the numerically dominant Klamath members of the tri-tribal government and that the KBRA Water Deal was the last straw. This is why he and other Modocs broke away and formed their own tribal government.

Leaders of the Klamath Tribes negotiated the Water Deal in part in order to obtain federal taxpayer funds to purchase the Mazama Tree Farm which is located above Upper Klamath Lake. These leaders seek an expanded land and resource base for the tribe north of Upper Klamath Lake. The Modoc homeland lies south of Upper Klamath Lake.

It is too early to tell what impact this revolt will have on the Klamath politics. If they are able to secure federal recognition, the Modoc Nation could block key elements of the KBRA including those impacting Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges. Several environmental groups think the refuges will suffer continued dewatering and other negative impacts as a result of the KBRA Water Deal. 

Tribal issues can be complex and confusing. There are currently 6 federally recognized tribes in the Basin – the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk and Klamath Tribes, the Resighini Rancheria and the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation (QVIR). Other Indigenous groups – including at least two groups claiming to represent the  Shasta people – also seek recognition as federal tribes. Only three of the currently recognized federal tribes have signed the KBRA; the Hoopa Tribe and Resighini Rancheria oppose the Deal; the QVIR has not taken a position on it. According to the Hoopa Tribe, the KBRA attempts to involuntarily terminate tribal claims to Klamath River water originating in Upper Klamath Lake and the Upper Basin generally.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Along the Klamath: PR is no substitute for fair and honest dealing

Two of the chief promoters of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement –the KBRA or Klamath Water Deal – are calling for a public relations offensive. Craig Tucker, who works for the Karuk Tribe, and Glen Spain, who represents commercial salmon fishers, want to improve the image of the Deal and of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council (KBCC) which was established by the Department of Interior to implement it.

Tucker and Spain presented the proposal at a meeting of the Council held recently in Redding California. The Capital Press, which reported on the meeting, quoted Tucker on the purpose for the charm offensive:
           The emphasis is on sharing with the public what it is we're doing and allowing the public to provide feedback….We also want to take head-on some of the myths about who we are and what we're doing.

KlamBlog is skeptical. If this group really wanted feedback it would have released for comment the draft Drought Plan they have negotiated behind closed doors; or better still, they would develop that plan from scratch in public.

In the same interview in which he called for better communication, Tucker labeled those who do not support the Deal as opposed to compromise. That is precisely the sort of “gotcha” rhetoric which alienates those who honestly do not believe the Water Deal and the restoration arrangements embedded within it provide a real or durable solution to the Basin’s water conflicts. This is not new; for years now Tucker has been attacking anyone who does not fall into line with the Water Deal he supports.

If those agencies and interests pushing the KBRA really want to engage their critics, they should reach out one to one – not rely on a PR campaign. Tucker’s sound bite claiming that those who support the Water Deal represent the “radical center” of Klamath politics is yet another roadblock to real dialogue.

The Coordinating Council should hold its meetings within the Basin where most of its critics reside. Instead - like many important meetings impacting the Klamath in the past - the meeting at which Tucker and Spain made their PR proposal was held in Redding, California in the Sacramento River Basin. This is apparently to accommodate agency bureaucrats and others from places like Sacramento, Portland and Eugene.

A majority of those who negotiated the Water Deal do not reside within the Klamath River Basin; as KlamBlog has pointed out, the KBRA is really an agency initiative – not something which emerged from the grassroots.

That may have been appropriate for dealing with PacifiCorp’s dams. But a Klamath-centered effort to manage the Basin’s water and resolve conflicts over it would surely meet in the Basin where residents and local leaders could more easily participate. Such a process would not be dominated by agency bureaucrats and corporate lawyers flying in for meetings and then leaving just as quickly.

The restoration arrangement which Tucker and Spain want to promote is not based on science but on politics. It was negotiated in meetings from which key interests were excluded. It is not a plan but rather an agreement about where in the Basin to spend restoration money the deal-makers want taxpayers to supply.

Those who negotiated the Water Deal set up the so-called plan so that most restoration funding will flow to the tribes and interest groups which signed it. As KlamBlog has point out in the past, a Deal which in substance favors some water users, tribes and environmental interests over other water users, tribes and environmental interests - can only serve to exacerbate – not resolve - conflicts.

KBRA critics want a real restoration plan based on restoration science, developed in the light of day with the participation of ALL interests. Until they accede to that reasonable demand, all of the PR in the world will not improve the image of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Committee or of the Klamath Water Deal.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Armstrong v Pace - Myth and Reality in the Scott River Basin

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors chairperson Marcia Armstrong represents western Siskiyou County. This is a rugged country dominated by the deep canyons and rugged peaks of the Salmon Mountains. But some residents of the Klamath, Salmon and Scott River Canyons – which make up the bulk of Armstrong’s district – may wonder if the former Farm Bureau operative understands and represents their interests.

Armstrong typically acts as if she is the supervisor only for the Scott River Valley where she resides. She has been a vocal and consistent champion of agriculture, mining and logging. But Armstrong is never fiercer than when she is defending Scott Valley irrigators. In her weekly column in the Siskiyou Daily News she claims regularly that she is just telling it like it is in a world in which those who honestly work the land are mercilessly and unjustly attacked by those who hate and want to destroy agriculture, logging, mining and with them the best American traditions.

Armstrong is a fierce defender of what she identifies as the “traditional custom and culture” of Siskiyou County. But her love of tradition apparently does not extend further back than the 1850s when European Americans first penetrated the Northwest California “wilderness” to establish "civilization". Armstrong appears particularly hostile to local Indigenous life ways and to the federal Indian tribes which during the last 30 years or so have pushed their claims to the bounty of a river which for uncounted generations provide their ancestors with salmon, lamprey, mussels and a cornucopia of other foods and fibers.  

In her most recent Daily News column  (titled simply “Scott River”) Armstrong claims to deconstruct “old myths about the impact of agricultural irrigation on the Scott River” and to provide in response “the facts”. This Armstrong column from the December 9th edition of the Siskiyou Daily News is reprinted below. It is followed by a letter to the editor from the same newspaper which challenged Armstrong’s “facts”. That letter is by KlamBlog’s chief author, Felice Pace. Pace – who for many years directed the Klamath Forest Alliance -  lived in the Scott River Valley from 1975 until 2002 and he still owns a home there.

The two reprints speak for themselves. Together they tell a story of a river basin in which two diametrically opposed visions compete and contend. In one vision agriculture, mining and logging are the highest and best use of the Scott River and its water; in the other it is the natural capital of the basin – clean water, salmon, old trees – which matter most.

Which vision do you trust and why? Reader comments are just as important here as the reprints….maybe more important. Please share your views on the two Scott River visions and on the conflict of cultures which they represent.  

Here are the column and letter to the editor:

Ridin' Point: Scott River
By Marcia Armstrong

Siskiyou Daily News
Posted Dec 07, 2010 @ 09:18 AM

Scott Valley, Calif. —

A recent regional fisheries column has once again dragged out the old myths about the impact of agricultural irrigation on the Scott River. Here are the facts:

As a tributary, the Scott River provides only about 4 percent of the full natural annual flow to the Klamath River. According to the Siskiyou County Annual Crop Report, the Scott Valley experiences 22 inches of annual precipitation (30 inches of snowfall). This can vary widely, with the east side averaging 12-15 inches and the southern mountains receiving as much as 60-80 inches.

The Scott River has no dams or reservoirs. Historically, there was storage of cool water in 28 high mountain lakes located on the Klamath National Forest. As many of these are now located in Wilderness, they have fallen into disrepair as functional storage structures.

With 292 acres of surface, one foot of additional water storage in these lakes could provide 5 cfs of instream flow for a 30-day period in the summer. Storage for summer flows in the Scott is primarily in the form of natural snowpack. Snow can hold the water into late spring, when it melts to feed the streams.

Summer and fall flows in the Scott vary from year to year, but are largely controlled by the precipitation and snowpack of the prior 12 months (Drake, Tate and Carlson). From 1951-1998, there has been a decrease in the water content of the snowpack in the area, particularly in the western mountains. There has been a correlating decline in fall river flows over time.

The number of irrigated acres in Scott Valley has not changed substantially since 1950. (It was 34,100 acres in 1988 and 31,800 in 2000. The total watershed is 520,968 acres, so irrigated agriculture represents only 6 percent of the land.)

Methods of irrigation, (flood, wheel lines, pivot wheels,) have changed over the years. In 1968, when water was more commonly diverted for flood irrigation, 86 percent of irrigation was through diversion of surface water, 2 percent groundwater and 12 percent mixed. In 2000, 48 percent was surface water, 45 percent groundwater and 7 percent mixed.

Understanding the effects of irrigation on flows is complex. Flood irrigation diverts water directly from the stream. Other methods rely on water pumped from the wells. Summer in Scott Valley can see ambient air temperatures in the 90-100 degree Fahrenheit range. Different methods of irrigation can affect the amount of water consumed through evaporation, plant transpiration and how much is returned to the soil to feed subsurface flow and to recharge the aquifer.

For instance, pivot wheels are thought by the state of California to be the most efficient method of delivering irrigation water. They can have a high evaporation rate, while less-efficient flood irrigation returns water not directly consumed in evapotranspiration to the streams as tailwater. Groundwater use, although not taking water directly from the stream, can intercept subsurface flows.

Photos are often cited as documentation that irrigators are “sucking the river dry.” In many areas of the valley, heavy gravel sedimentation has raised the bed of the tributaries above that of the mainstem Scott. In some areas, historic mining has caused buildup of  gravels. In Kidder Creek, a historic fire upstream caused mass erosion, resulting in gravel deposits. In such cases, water passing through seeks its own level. The river will flow through the gravels where it has accumulated and resurface on the other side.  

In many areas of the state “conjunctive use” is the method of water storage. This is where water is injected or percolated down into the ground in concentration in order to recharge the aquifer as a storage receptacle. According to a presentation by Dr. Thomas Harter, the average annual discharge in the Scott Valley watershed is 615,000 acre feet of water. This is more than the groundwater basin can hold (400,000-acre-feet capacity – U.S. Geological Survey). Of this, the Department of Water Resources has estimated that agriculture uses only 70-90,000 acre feet annually. In general, any groundwater loss is recharged within a year.

It is reasonable to expect better system responses with a more sophisticated understanding of the groundwater in Scott Valley, renewed use of the historic mountain lakes, and downstream movement of some of the gravel buildup.

Scott Valley farmers and ranchers have been working on salmon “restoration” and conservation projects for decades. The Northern California coastal coho salmon is listed both on the federal and the state level as a “threatened species.” Preliminary Department of Fish and Game Spawning Run Estimates for coho from 2006/07-2009/10 illustrate that run counts in Scott Valley are, by far, among the highest in the state. Our farmers and ranchers are obviously doing something right.
                           Copyright 2010 Siskiyou Daily News. Some rights reserved


Armstrong's claims disputed
By Felice Pace

Daily News
Posted Dec 09, 2010 @ 08:52 AM
Klamath River —

Dear Editor,

Marcia Armstrong’s Dec. 7 column claims to dispel old myths about Scott River flows. That’s the pot calling the kettle black all right! Marcia’s column trots out the old myths and deceptions trumpeted here and across the state by Marcia’s previous employer – the Farm Bureau.

Let’s look at Marcia’s claims:

Claim #1: “Scott River provides only about 4 percent of the full natural annual flow to the Klamath River.”

This one may actually be true but it is irrelevant. Most of the Klamath River’s run-off is in winter, so using annual statistics is deceiving. If we look instead at the period of time when there is not enough water – late summer and early fall – we see that the Scott River is much more important.

Also, Marcia may be mixing apples and oranges. Notice that she compares Scott flows to “natural annual flow” of the Klamath. But is she using the natural unimpaired flow of the Scott or the impaired Scott flow? Comparing an impaired flow to an unimpaired flow is mixing apples and oranges. Mixing apples and oranges is a standard technique for those who practice deception.

Claim #2: “The number of irrigated acres in Scott Valley has not changed substantially since 1950.”

Marcia does not disclose where she gets her figures but they appear to be bogus. For example, prior to the ’60s all of the valley from Fort Jones north was dry-farmed. Now it is all irrigated. Where are these acres that once were irrigated but now are not irrigated? In truth there has only been a relatively small increase in the number of acres farmed, but the crops grown have shifted to more water-intensive crops – generally from grain to alfalfa – which use much more water. Did you notice that we even have a rice grower now?

Groundwater pumping has more than doubled since the 1950s – a fact that Marcia chooses not to mention. Did I mention omitting key facts as one of the tools of deception?

How much land area is in ag is irrelevant, Marcia; the issues are the amount of water used by irrigation per acre and in total!

Claim #3: “Summer and fall flows in the Scott vary from year to year, but are largely controlled by the precipitation and snowpack of the prior 12 months (Drake, Tate and Carlson).”

The study that Marcia is referring to by Drake, Tate and Carlson is a decade old and has been subsequently shown to have used improper mathematical regression calculations. Nevertheless Drake et al found that 20-25 percent of the decrease in Scott flow could not be explained by precipitation and snowpack. Nevertheless these ag advisors concluded that irrigation was having no substantial impact of flows – that’s why Marcia likes that study. I guess 20-25 percent is not substantial to farm advisors.

Marcia apparently does not like the more recent, peer-reviewed science study (Van Kirk and Namen, 2008), which you can read on-line.

Using superior mathematical techniques, this study found that over half of the decrease in Scott River flows since 1977 cannot be explained by changes in precipitation and snowpack and are most likely related to the doubling of irrigation pumping from groundwater since 1960, as documented by the California Department of Water Resources.

Marcia does say that “Understanding the effects of irrigation on flows is complex,” and here I can agree with her. I would only add that the complexity makes it easy for someone to either fool themselves or to fool other people about Scott River flows.

The bottom line is that fish need water. When the salmon come to the Scott in the fall there is often not enough water for them to make it to their spawning grounds. As Jim Denny pointed out in the 1970s, the Scott River is being destroyed. Marcia and her ilk remain in intentional denial.

Back in the early 1990s I went to the Siskiyou RCD and suggested that pressure for reform was coming with the decline in salmon stocks and that we needed to pull together in Scott Valley to proactively address the legitimate need for sufficient water of good quality to be left in stream. I told them we needed to work together to end the dewatering and destruction of the Scott River. The RCD and other leaders (supervisors) decided to take salmon restoration money but not to work on the flow problem.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The ag community has had 25 years and at least $25 million from taxpayers to make the changes needed to provide for the legitimate needs of salmon and the folks who depend on them. They took the money but did almost nothing to leave more water in the river. Instead, developments like those greenhouses near Fort Jones, the rice farm and all those new areas brought under irrigation – you know, the ones that Marcia can’t see! – have further depleted Scott River flows. And THAT basic breach of trust is why folks who really care about fish are no longer willing to work with the Scott River Basin ag community. Until they get themselves out of denial and decide to really address the legitimate needs of others, what is there to talk about?

Hey Marcia, what part of this don’t you understand?

Copyright 2010 Siskiyou Daily News. Some rights reserved

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The KBRA did not end Klamath Water User Litigation

Klamath River Basin citizens and others who pay attention to Klamath water issues continue to grapple with the controversial Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) also known as the Klamath Water Deal.  So many claims and counterclaims have been made about the complex Deal that even those who signed it sometimes appear confused about its provisions.

One of the claims most often made by Water Deal promoters is that those who have reached agreement have buried the hatchet and will no longer engage in litigation. Many in the media picked up on that assertion. For example, the widely-read High Country News magazine featured the KBRA in a front page story declaring “Peace on the Klamath”.

So it may come as a surprise to some that those irrigators who most support the Water Deal continue to seek money damages as compensation for the federal government cutting water deliveries in 2001 in order to protect Coho salmon and other endangered fishes. And while it is no longer covered by Klamath River Basin media outlets, Klamath Irr. Dist. v. United States continues to work its way through the courts. How that lawsuit is finally resolved may significantly impact the durability of the Water Deal.

The Klamath water users’ lawsuit could be precedent setting - which explains why it is being watched closely by those who follow western water law. If the irrigators win the case, it would be necessary to pay those holding federal water delivery contracts whenever water they ordinarily use is needed in stream to sustain fisheries and keep aquatic ecosystems healthy.

That likely explains why those in the fishing and environmental community who support the Water Deal are also still involved in the litigation. One of the chief promoters of the Water Deal – Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association’s Glen Spain – is the main spokesperson for those opposing money damages for the irrigators.

Here is how Todd True – the Earthjustice lawyer representing environmental and fishing interests – characterizes the litigation’s importance:
          Most people think the water flowing in our rivers belongs there and enough of it should be kept there to keep our rivers healthy and sustain wild salmon and other fish and wildlife. The irrigators in the Klamath Basin have a different idea. They think the water is theirs even if the river dries up and all the fish die. They want the government to pay them for the water it kept in the Klamath River in 2001 to ensure the survival of wild salmon and other fish. We think the law is clear and the government is not required to pay private parties to sustain our rivers and keep important and valuable wildlife species from going extinct.

The prospect of having to pay irrigators and other water users to maintain fish in a living river is a big deal for the environmental and fishing communities.  If the Klamath water users win this case, most western rivers will likely die because it will cost too much to keep them alive. That’s because agricultural interests control 80% to 90% of the water available in most western river basins during the summer dry season.

The Endangered Species Act and other public uses trump that control, however, and have been used to reallocate water from irrigation and other out-of-stream uses to in-stream use. A win for the water users would not change that but would require payment whenever water is reallocated to in-stream use. That in turn will means more dry western rivers and streams each summer and likely extinction for many Pacific Salmon populations unless taxpayers bear the cost.

What is at issue in the lawsuit is known as the Public Trust Doctrine. Dating from the times of the Roman Empire, The common law PTD affirms that water is a public good which cannot be bought or sold for individual gain. The PTD was the basis for the Mono Lake Decision which forced the City of Los Angeles to stop draining Mono Lake. If successful, the Klamath water users’ lawsuit would redefine water as private property which can be bought or sold without regard to the public interest or the environment.   

KlamBlog has argued that the KBRA Water Deal itself would set the same precedent – although not through a court decision. That’s because the KBRA guarantees the same water users suing for damages in Klamath Irr. Dist. v. United States first rights to an amount of Klamath River water greater than those same water users have received in most recent years.  That in turn means that water would need to be purchased from those water users during drought years in order to provide the Klamath flows salmon and other fishes need to survive.

Many who oppose the Water Deal do so because requiring the leasing of water during droughts so that salmon can survive not only undermines the Public Trust Doctrine but is also fiscally unsustainable. How long will taxpayers be willing to pay water users so that salmon can survive during droughts?

Those water users who receive Klamath water via the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project agreed to the KBRA because that Deal brings them many benefits – including big subsidies and control of a lot of water. The subsidies, however, require federal funding which is looking increasingly unlikely. That leaves control of water as the main KBRA water user benefit. If they win their lawsuit, however, the water users will not need the KBRA to secure that control.

Is Klamath water user support for the KBRA solid or simply a hedge against a legal defeat? Unfortunately, we may have the opportunity to find out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Implementing the Klamath Agreements - Report #1

Behind the Klamath Curtain:
Managing Water and Endangered Species in the post-KBRA era

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement - the Water Deal - and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement - the Dam Deal - are done. Those who were going to sign have signed and those who were not going to sign have not signed. In the Klamath River Basin there has been a rearrangement of sides in what has always been a zero sum water game with winners and losers.

The federal agencies which provided motivation for the deal-making and who funded the effort have begun implementing many portions of the complex schemes which do not require Congressional action. Federal bureaucrats understand that consolidating the new management arrangements will return Klamath River Basin Water Management to their control and will allow them to conduct that management out of the public eye, that is, without interference from publicly elected officials and pesky citizen activists.

Indeed KlamBlog believes that was the federal family's agenda all along. The Klamath Deals are part of a long historical drama which has played out in the West since white Europeans first conquered the region. Because control of water gives the ultimate control in the water-limited western US, western water history has been dominated by the struggle to determine if the federal government, the states or local interests will control water and thereby the West’s destiny.

Congress may yet play a role in The Klamath's destiny. The Deals include plans for subsidies and restoration programs which require Congress to appropriate or redirect over a billion dollars in federal spending. That would be a tall order in these days of record deficits. Will our elected legislators give their blessing to the Deals; will they balance interests by giving both supporters and opponents some but not all of what they want; or will they take no action - leaving it to Obama Administration officials to implement the Deals within existing budgets? Only time will tell; KlamBlog will be watching and will report any indications that Congress is moving toward legislating for the Klamath River Basin.

In the meantime - in order to gain perspective on what the victory by federal agencies will mean on the ground - KlamBlog has been monitoring how water, fish, refuge and endangered species management are being implemented by federal and state agencies in the Basin in the post-Water Deal era. This is our first report on those investigations.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Implementing the Klamath Agreements - a new KlamBlog series

~ Implementing the KBRA ~
~ A series of reports from KlamBlog ~ Researched and written by Felice Pace ~

~ Series Introduction ~

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA or Water Deal) and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA or Dam Deal) are done. Those who were going to sign have signed and those who were not going to sign have not signed. In the Klamath River Basin there has been a rearrangement of the “sides” in what has always been a zero sum water game with winners and losers.

Two streams now diverge. On the one hand promoters are pursuing federal legislation; on the other hand they are moving aggressively to implement those portions of the Deals which do not require legislation.

The Deals' promoters want federal legislation to provide liability protection and other benefits to PacifiCorp during dam removal, to bless the KBRA's scheme for managing water and restoration, and to provide taxpayer funding for irrigator and other subsidies. Prospects for federal legislation are almost always uncertain - especially when it includes costly and controversial Deals which require new spending in an era of record deficits.  Congress may decide to duck the controversy and the cost and leave it to the Obama Administration to implement the Deals it negotiated within existing authorities and budgets. Whatever it does, however, Congress is unlike to act before the Secretarial Determination (the decision on dam removal) is final.

The legislative dance will play out far from the Klamath River Basin and only a few Basin residents will play a part in it. Meanwhile the Federal Family – the federal agencies which supported, funded and participated in the deal-making – have quickly begun implementing many aspects of the Deals which do not require Congressional action.

This series will track, report on and analyze implementation of the KBRA, the Water Deal. It will not focus on the Dam Deal because that will get plenty of attention elsewhere. The Secretarial Determination and related EIS/EIR are well advertised and reported. KBRA implementation, on the other hand, has not been publicized and is not being reported.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Siskiyou Supervisor Jim Cook waffled on the Klamath Dam and Water Deals

There is an apparent change among Siskiyou County’s political elite as revealed by recent actions of the County’s Board of Supervisors. As reported in the Siskiyou Daily News, the supervisors recently voted to join the Siskiyou County Flood Control and Water Conservation District in sending a letter to the water resources departments of California and Oregon, as well as the Klamath River Compact Commission. The letter expresses both boards’ opposition to the Dam and Water Deals formally known as the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).

The vote of the Flood Control Board was 4 to 1 with the South County's Ed Valensuela voting against sending the letter of opposition. The vote of the Board of Supervisors split differently with 3 voting to send the letter of opposition and 2 voting not to send it.

The strange thing is that both boards are composed of exactly the same five individuals: Grace Bennett, Marcia Armstrong, Ed Valensuela, Michael Kobseff and Jim Cook. Valensuela and Cook voted against the Board of Supervisors sending the letter.

Valensuela’s refusal to condemn the two Deals is well known. He represents the Mt. Shasta-Dunsmuir portion of the county which is a progressive enclave in otherwise ultra-conservative Siskiyou County. Previously Valensuela has been the lone vote against uncompromising opposition to the Deals. But Cook’s vote as supervisor signals a change in position; previously he has been one of the most vocal critics of the two Agreements.

Cook’s waffling appears baffling until one considers the district he represents. Siskiyou County’s sprawling first supervisorial district includes portions of the Shasta River Valley, the Copco Area (where opposition to dam removal is fierce among those who live near Copco Reservoir) and the richest portions of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project – the former beds of Tule and Lower Klamath Lakes.

Irrigators in the Tule Lake area in particular live in large houses or small mansions and control thousands of acres of farmland both on and off the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. There is so much land available for lease in the area that this small group of irrigators get to farm vast acreage at very little cost. All the irrigation water they choose to take goes with the lease. Those cheap lease rates and cheap water courtesy of the federal government are the foundation of the Irrigation Elite’s wealth.

With that wealth comes political power and the reach of that power extends to Sacramento, Salem and Washington DC where both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have typically been eager to do the bidding of the Irrigation Elite.

Supervisor Cook’s change of position on the Dam and Water Deals reflects the power of constituents who stand to gain tremendously if those Deals become law. In short, the Irrigation Elite has gotten to Cook and his desire to stay in office has overcome his ideological opposition to the Deals. Here’s how the Siskiyou Daily News reported Cook’s rationalization:
      Cook explained that while he continues to oppose dam removal, there were certain aspects of each agreement with which he does not find fault, explaining that he believes the restoration agreement has actions that can help the basin immediately.

It would be interesting to know which "aspects" of the Deals Cook now supports and we invite Supervisor Cook to enumerate those "aspects" here on KlamBlog. We strongly suspect that the "aspects" which directly benefit the Irrigation Elite at the expense of other irrigators and other interests are what Cook now finds can help the basin immediately.

Cook's new position may also indicate a change of position on the part of the Irrigation Elite themselves. The Elite is represented by the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA). As one of the Deals main beneficiaries, KWUA has taken the position that the Dam and Water Deals are indivisible and must be accepted in total.  Cook's new position may reflect that his most wealthy constituents realize that they can't get the whole package and are now positioning themselves and their supporters to secure those aspects which benefit them most.

The biggest prize for the Irrigation Elite is the Water Deal's allocation of a large amount of Klamath River Water to the federal irrigation project which serves them. If the Water Deal becomes law, the irrigation elite would have first call on a large amount of Klamath River water ahead of salmon and other irrigators. That water allocation would only be limited if Coho salmon were placed in jeopardy as a result. Cook can be expected to do what he can to deliver that prize in particular to the Irrigation Elite.

The problem for Cook is that a first-in-line water allocation to the Irrigation Elite is contrary to the interests of Shasta Valley irrigators who are also his constituents. If the Water Deal becomes law, those irrigators will likely be forced to curtail irrigation to provide Klamath River flows that now come from Upper Klamath Lake - the main source of water to the Irrigation Elite.

KlamBlog has previously opined that the Siskiyou Supervisors opposition to the Deals would likely evaporate if the payoffs to the county were sufficient; it now appears that the price for Supervisor Cook’s support - at least for some aspects of the Deals - has been paid.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Siskiyou County’s water war

In the latest in what will likely be years of legal wrangling, Siskiyou County has filed a motion in the case challenging groundwater pumping in the Klamath Basin’s Scott River Valley. The County wants the case moved from Sacramento Superior Court – where it was filed – to Siskiyou County Superior Court.

The County argues that the lawsuit is a challenge to the Scott Valley Surface Water Adjudication because the Adjudication defined areas of “interconnected groundwater” outside of which groundwater pumping is unregulated. Since the Siskiyou County Superior Court retained jurisdiction over the Adjudication, Siskiyou County argues, the case should be heard by that court.

Those filing the lawsuit – the Environmental Law Foundation and commercial salmon fishing interests – argue that the State Water Resources Control Board has jurisdiction and therefore that Sacramento is the proper venue for the case.

However the County’s motion is decided, the case will most likely end up in the California Supreme Court or - at minimum - in the appellate court system. This will take years to play out; some predict decades.

Meanwhile folks in the Scott River Valley are being whipped up for an all out water war. Property Rights leaders portray the lawsuit, state ordered reporting of water diversions and related calls for water for Coho Salmon and Lamprey as threats to surface diversions, municipal water, all private wells and, of course, property rights.

In reality, any action to put more water into the Scott River will likely target groundwater pumping which has increased dramatically in the Scott River valley since the 1970s. Surface water diversions are unlikely to be affected. The reason is simple: under California Water Law first in time still means first in right; since the groundwater irrigators came last, they will have to curtail pumping in order for flows in the Scott River to improve.

The ELF-salmon fishermen’s lawsuit is aimed squarely at that increased groundwater pumping most of which is for irrigation. Irrigated agriculture has pushed up side valleys and onto the foothills surrounding Scott Valley and the process continues with new land coming under irrigation this year. All this has been totally unregulated.

The federal government has encouraged bringing marginal land under irrigation by funding irrigation infrastructure

Property rights hysteria aside, neither ELF’s groundwater lawsuit nor Klamath Riverkeeper’s challenge to Cal Fish & Game’s proposed Coho Permit for Scott Valley agriculture, are likely to put more water in the Scott anytime soon. Whether the State Water Board’s new emphasis on surface waster diversion reporting results in more water in Scott River remains to be seen. This blog has photographed and reported on Scott Valley diversions from Kidder, Etna and other streams which are run full year around. Reporting requirements should end that practice. But whether state regulators have the stomach to end lawless diversions remains to be seen.

The Dry Riverbed will return

As this post is being written, the USGS Gauge on Scott River below Scott Valley is reading about 34 cubic feet per second – better than the 30 cfs readings recorded during August. Cooler fall temperature and less sunlight mean natural vegetation, alfalfa and (new) rice fields are consuming less water; hence the increased flow.

Thirty cubic feet per second is the minimum Klamath National Forest riparian water right in Scott River. It is the minimum flow the Siskiyou County Superior Court found is needed in the Scott River to maintain Salmon and other fisheries. Although calibration of the USGS’s Scott River flow gauge is disputed, this year the official reading never dipped below 30 cfs.

Years of more normal precipitation and droughts, however, will return. When Scott River flow again falls below the legal minimum will those who champion Chinook Salmon, Pacific Lamprey and Coho Salmon take action to enjoin upstream water users? Those preaching water war in Siskiyou County apparently think so. With no government mechanism established to mediate such conflicts, the courts look like the only avenues open to those who want to stop the dewatering of Scott Valley.

Lack of governance fuels litigation

Government management of water in the American West has been a contentious topic since white Europeans first arrived. The result is an incomplete hodgepodge of water laws, confused and confusing jurisdictions which fuel constant streams of litigation. John Wesley Powell, western explorer and father of the US Geological Survey, suggested organizing western states along river basin lines. Similar calls have echoed from time to time around the West and recently in the Klamath River Basin.

A movement for whole-basin, all-interest Klamath River Basin water management did not make it into the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and has yet to catch fire in Klamath Country. Instead water issues in the Basin will continue to play out the way they typically have in the West – through litigation, side deals and piecemeal settlements.

Many before KlamBlog have pointed out that this is not a good way to manage the West’s most precious resource. But the sort of leadership needed to take us beyond this contentious, fragmented and litigious approach has not yet appeared…not on the Klamath…not in the West…and not in the wider world.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Report from the Scott River – Chinook Salmon and Property Rights Fanatics are doing well this year!

Last week KlamBlog was on the Scott River checking out conditions in the river and investigating what is being done to clean-up the Scott now that we have water quality clean-up plans adopted for that river as well as the Shasta and Klamath Rivers. For those who may not know, the Scott is major Klamath River tributary.

Along with the nearby Shasta River, Scott River both produced the bulk of Klamath River Chinook and Coho Salmon and Pacific Lamprey as recently as the 1960s. While they continue to produce most of the Klamath River's wild Chinook Salmon, Chinook production is a shadow of what it once was. Coho and Lamprey have declined precipitously in the two sub-basins to the point that they are now considered to be at high risk of extinction/extirpation.

The culprits in the decline of Scott River Salmon and Lamprey are well known through more than 30 years of study and assessment. Excessive nutrient loading (almost all from livestock and return irrigation flows), lethally high water temperature and especially the dewatering of large amounts of Salmon and Lamprey habitat are driving these fish to extinction/extirpation.

Poor water quality and severely reduced flows from the Scott and Shasta Rivers have also played a major role in promoting epidemic levels of fish disease in the Klamath River proper. Data from out-migrant fish traps indicates that many of the salmon produced in the Klamath River Basin die from these fish diseases before they can reach the Pacific Ocean. Mortality happens every year but increases in dryer years when flows from the Scott and Shasta Rivers approach zero. In those years virtually all the cold, clean water produced in national forest wilderness areas above these valleys is diverted, pumped and consumed by irrigation interests.    

To summarize, the progressive extirpation of Coho Salmon, Spring Chinook Salmon and Pacific Lamprey are well documented. The extinction process is in an advanced stage – especially on the Scott and Shasta Rivers. Unfortunately, we as a society appear to lack the will to reverse the slide toward extinction. Instead we watch it happen like voyeurs at a pornographic movie.

That is the background.....now for the good news:

This year, as a result of heavy snowpack and unusual late spring storms, fish habitat in the Scott River Canyon (lower third of the sub-basin) is in the best condition we’ve seen over the past 30 years. We dove at Gold Flat and near Kelsey and Canyon Creeks. The flows are good, water temperature is low and there are lots of juvenile salmon and steelhead present and well distributed. As a consequence, the Scott River Canyon will produce a large number of Salmon this year. Because water quality is also relatively good  in the Klamath River as well, disease rates should be lower and many of the young salmon rearing in the Scott should make it to the Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately the good flows and water quality in Scott River Canyon do not extend to the agricultural valley that occupies the middle third of the Scott River Basin. In spite of the fact that there was still snow pack in the mountains and lots of high quality water being delivered to Scott Valley from the national forest wilderness areas above, flows out of the Scott Valley are low. Flow readings at the US Geological Service’s gauge below Scott Valley showed flows of about 30 cubic feet per second last week. That is about half the 68 year average flows for this time of year.

While 30 CFS is a fraction of what would be flowing in the Scott if groundwater pumping had not doubled since the 1960s, KlamBlog estimates that the flows observed at the gauge are actually closer to 10 cfs than to the 30 CFS reported by USGS. The discrepancy is likely the result of failure by the responsible government agency to recalibrate the gauge after large winter and spring storms significantly shifted the bed of Scott River. KlamBlog has alerted the USGS to the problem but the "near real-time" readings for the Scott River continue to show an erroneous 30 CFS.   

Most of the Scott River Basin habitat for juvenile Lamprey is in the low gradient portions of the river that occur in and just below Scott Valley. But most streams in the Valley are once again completely dry this summer. Younger folks living in the Valley have come to think of this dewatered condition as normal. But the old timers know that this is not the way it was. It is also not the way it would be now if applicable laws were enforced and water was managed responsibly.

Lamprey juveniles spend up to 7 years in river bottom sediments. When these streambeds are dewatered by excessive irrigation pumping and stream diversion, the young Lamprey are wiped out. Some fisheries biologists believe that, among all the Klamath’s anadromous fish, Klamath Lamprey are at highest risk of extinction. The primary cause is dewatering of their Scott River Valley juvenile habitat as a result of unregulated irrigation withdrawal.

The demise of the Lamprey has real world consequences. In the not-to-distant days when the Scott River had good flows during June, Native folks living in the Scott River Basin would go down to the riffles with a sock on one hand and a burlap sack in the other hand. They would pick up migrating lamprey with the socked hand and put them into the burlap sack. Lamprey once provided a high protein food source for Native people throughout the Klamath River Basin.

When KlamBlog was in the Scott Valley last week the center pivot irrigation systems which have sprouted around the Valley in recent years were in full operation in the middle of the day. Air temperature was about 100 degrees. Because they are rated by engineers as more efficient as compared to wheel line and flood irrigation, irrigation interests maintain that these center pivot systems use less water to irrigate the same amount of crop or forage land. In 2002 that reasoning persuaded Congress to provide $50 million dollars from taxpayers to buy and install these more efficient irrigation systems for Ag folks in the Klamath River Basin. The promise was that this would mean more water for fish.

But the increased flows never materialized. We wonder whether the center pivot systems - which put out a fine mist rather than a spray of water drops - save water when they are run in the middle of a hot, summer day. Does enhanced evaporation wipe out the water savings? KlamBlog has sent the Natural Resource Conservation Service a query on the question and will report if they respond. You can contact them too; here’s contact information for Yreka NRCS office chief Jim Patterson:
               215 Executive Court, Suite A, Yreka, CA 96097 
               james.patterson@ca.usda.gov, (530) 842-6123

One of our questions for NRCS is why - in exchange for government funding for center pivots - those receiving them were not required to agree to irrigate only during the evening and nighttime hours. We suspect that just that simple change in irrigation practices would cut irrigation water use significantly and consequently keep more water in the Scott River.

Government Funded Water Waste in the Scott River Valley

Irrigating in the middle of hot summer days is only one aspect of government funded water waste in the Scott River Valley. But several organizations are hard at work trying to persuade the public that the irrigators who dewater the river and irrigate in the middle of very hot summer days really care about salmon. The Scott River Water Trust is one such organization. It has issued press releases claiming that Scott River irrigators are working hard to provide for Scott River Salmon.

But if these irrigators really care about fish why don’t they wait until the cool of evening to turn on their irrigation pumps? How much water could be saved for fish and flows if this simple practice were followed? Instead the Scott Valley Water Trust pays irrigation interests for the water it puts into Scott River Basin streams. Is irrigator concern for fish in the Scott River Valley just a matter of money? Those middle of the day misters unnecessarily evaporating precious water provides the real answer.

KlamBlog also believe it is bad policy and unfair to taxpayers to pay for water to which the fish have a first right under the Public Trust Doctrine and California Water Law. The approach of the Scott River Water Trust -leasing water to provide minimum or marginally better conditions for salmon - undermines the Public Trust Doctrine.

According to the Water Trust's web site, the Scott River Watershed Council (SRWC) is one of the Trusts two “partners”.  In a recent commentary by Council Chairperson Marilyn Seward,  published in the Scott Valley View (the Siskiyou Daily News’ new weekly publication), the Council disclosed its core purpose and function: Here’s part of what Seward wrote about the SRWC:

          The most recent project has involved laying the groundwork for the creation of a Scott Valley Groundwater Advisory Committee, which would work with the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors (in an advisory capacity only) to create a plan which would continue to keep groundwater protection and management under county jurisdiction..……In recent years, several hard-working local groups and the farmers/ranchers themselves have been criticized by state and federal agencies because they “aren’t doing anything.” The Strategic Action Plan tells a different story, but it has become obvious that this information isn’t being disseminated to these critical groups, to county/state/federal groups who partner with Scott Valley ranchers in dozens of conservation/restoration projects, even to Scott Valley citizens themselves. A chief objective of the Scott River Watershed Council will be to rectify this oversight.

In other words, the newly reorganized Scott River Watershed Council’s function will be to promote the fiction that it is OK for Scott Valley irrigation interests to progressively dewater the Scott River thereby driving Coho Salmon and Pacific Lamprey to extinction in the watershed because these folks are taking federal money to do feel-good projects which benefit them more than they benefit fish. Good luck Marilyn - convincing folks that fish can do fine without water or a living river is going to be a hard sell!

In recent decades, Watershed Councils have been formed by diverse stakeholders to help salmon and steelhead survive by cleaning-up pollution and restoring adequate flows. The Scott River Watershed Council is a different animal entirely. By public admission of its chairperson, its mission is “local control”. Like the Water Trust's other "partner" - Siskiyou Resource Conservation District - the Scott River Watershed Council’s function is to keep taxpayer funds flowing to farmers and ranchers while obscuring the fact that these same farmers and ranchers are driving Coho Salmon and Pacific Lamprey to extinction in the sub-basin. 

The reorganization of the Scott River Watershed Council so that it is a more effective propaganda tool for irrigation interests is part of a drive by Siskiyou County property rights fanatics – led by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors – to gear up for what they are projecting as a new “water war” focused on groundwater. Siskiyou County’s water war hysteria is in large part a response to a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Law Foundation and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) challenging groundwater exploitation in the Scott River Valley. But that lawsuit could take 30 years to complete. Water war hysteria may be more geared to securing funds from right wing foundations than a genuine need to counter an immanent threat of water reallocation.

And, as if it does not already have a sufficient number of organizations ranting about property rights, Siskiyou County has spawned yet another. Scott Valley Protect Our Water – or “POW” is conducting a “Restore Honor Water Rally” at the Siskiyou Fairgrounds on August 28th. There will likely to be plenty of out-of-county lawyers and consultants attending; it will be interesting to see how many Siskiyou citizens show up.

POW joins SOSS, the Siskiyou Farm Bureau, Siskiyou RCD, the Scott Valley Watershed Council as organization whose self-appointed mission is to prevent enforcement within the county of those provisions of the California Constitution which are supposed to guarantee fish the water they need to survive and to assure that the public interest in water is not infringed in the course of meeting private needs. It appears that Siskiyou County’s property rights fanatics each need their own organization!  They must all be leaders and probably desperate for a few followers.

POW is also taking credit for placing “dam removal” on the November ballot in Siskiyou County. KlamBlog suspects the property rights fanatics may be surprised when those votes are counted.

The recognition that those who embrace “restoration” in the Scott River Basin are ripping off the taxpayers for private benefit while driving the very species they are being funded to restore to extinction has finally begun to sink in with those downstream as well as with those who control restoration funding purse strings. It is just a shame that it has taken so many agency and elected officials 30 years to realize what is really going on up on the Scott. Let's hope that recognition, while belated, has come in time to prevent Coho Salmon and Pacific Lamprey from being driven to extinction in the Scott River Basin.

Federal and state agencies which continue to fund these cynical and wasteful operations should be taken to task. If we are going to prevent the looming extinction of Klamath Coho and Lamprey we can’t afford to waste more scarce restoration funds on efforts which on balance hurt the very species they are intended to restore.    

Saturday, August 14, 2010

No Klamath Legislation This Year!

KlamBlog has learned that prospects are slim to none that legislation will be introduced this Congress to authorize and implement aspects of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) – the Klamath Dam and Water Deals. It appears that members of Congress from Oregon and California who are involved in things Klamath or who represent portions of the Klamath River Basin can not agree on what such legislation would and would not contain

That should come as no surprise. Once proclaimed a comprehensive solution to the Basin’s water conflicts based on solid science and supported by the vast majority of interests, the Dam and Water Deals have proven to be none of what was claimed. The Deals’ promoters – who just happen to be the entities which would gain from them at the expense of other interests and the American Taxpayer – claimed that the whole package was necessary in order to get the dams down. But just like the California Water Bond that has now been pulled, federal legislation is not needed to remove PacifiCorp’s Klamath River Dams. A process for doing that already exists and has been used many times in the past to remove aging and environmentally destructive dams.

The dams will come down because it is in the interest of PacifiCorp – and its Berkshire-Hathaway shareholders – that they come down. Legislation is only needed for certain interests to get the large payoffs, water and land allocations and releases from liability which promoters of the Deals still hope to tie to the dam removal train.

PacifiCorp, however, has Warren Buffed and that brings with it a lot of political juice. That means, that while legislation to ratify the complex, controversial and costly KBRA may never see the light of day, we may yet see legislation to give PacifiCorp what it wants most, that is, release of liability not only for dam removal but also for toxic legacies that may be lurking in or near PacifiCorp’s aging powerhouses. If PacifiCorp has its way liability for those toxic legacies will be shifted to the American Taxpayer.

While legislation appears unlikely this year, much of what is in the KHSA and KBRA do not require legislation. Those portions are already being implemented by federal and state agencies. Restoration doesn't require legislation either. Water qualities clean up plans are in place for the Klamath and key tributaries including the Shasta and Scott. All that is needed now is for the responsible agencies to step up and actually enforce provisions of the clean-up plans. The agencies also already have salmon, water quality and other restoration funds. Funding for unmet restoration needs can be sought through federal and state budget and appropriation processes as was done recently to provide funding for Klamath fish disease studies.

Water management is a different matter: In the absence of legislation water management will remain fragmented and fraught with conflict. It is clear, however, that many Basin citizens, governments and interest groups reject the undemocratic back room water management proposed in the KBRA.

Klamath River Activist and KlamBlog’s principle author, Felice Pace, has proposes a different approach. In an opinion published Wednesday in the Siskiyou Daily News, True-leadership-seeks-justice-fairness  Pace rejected both the KBRA and Siskiyou County’s local control fantasies. Rather than legislating the complex KBRA which seeks to lock in and micromanage the Basin’s water future, Pace suggests establishing a process for coordinating water management and restoration under existing authorities and in full public view.

A new Klamath River Compact and Compact Commission with seats for tribes and counties as well as states and the federal government would avoid legislating complex technical issues. It would also sidestep the KBRA proposal to lock in flows and water allocations based on scientific studies which have been criticized by the National Research Council (NRC). Independent NRC scientists stated that flow studies done to date treat the Klamath River as if it were “the Upper Basin and a gutter to the sea.” As KlamBlog previously pointed out, the decision to exclude from flow studies tributaries with major water diversions – the Shasta, Scott and Trinity -  was wholly political. The California Department of Fish and Game insisted that a federally supervised flow study NOT address the Shasta and Scott which the Department thinks is its exclusive “turf”.

While Klamath Legislation appears dead this year it would be foolish to believe it could not rise again. Attempts to tie the KBRA’s generous subsidies to dam removal will not end.. Irrigators who get Klamath River water courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project are rich, powerful and well connected. They are also the ones who stand to gain most financially and politically if they can tie KBRA funding, public land mandates and water allocations to dam removal.

Because they have so much to gain, the irrigation elite will not give up. They and their lobbyists will be looking for ways to get from Congress and the American Taxpayer the subsidies and other benefits they negotiated behind closed doors. 

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Klamath Confusion: Are Interior and Cal Fish & Game on the same page?

The California Department of Fish & Game and the US Department of Interior are working together to produce an environmental impact report and statement in support of a determination by the Secretary of the Interior on what to do with PacifiCorp’s five hydroelectric dams located on the mainstem of the Klamath River. It is widely believed that Secretary Salazar will decide to remove four of the five dams and transfer a fifth dam and reservoir - Keno - to the US Bureau of Reclamation. Close examination of the official purpose for the environmental review is crystal clear: the review is narrowly focused on whether removal of four dams is in the public interest and will advance restoration of Klamath River Salmon. It must also address what to do about the fifth PacifiCorp dam and reservoir – Keno.

But information provided to the public at scoping meetings - and contained on the federal government web site created for the environmental review - gives the distinct impression that the environmental review will not be limited to the fate of the dams – nor even only to the whole Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) – but will also analyze the costly and controversial Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). For example, the PowerPoint Presentation found on the web site and used at scoping meetings states that the purpose of the meetings is to:
             Provide you information about the environmental review process for the two connected  Klamath Agreements (KHSA and KBRA) and how you can be involved and informed.

Have NEPA and CEQA already been violated?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) each require that the impacts of a proposed action which could significantly affect the natural and human environment must be analyzed and the impacts disclosed. Other actions which are materially connected to the proposed action must also be analyzed and disclosed.

There are connections between the KHSA (Dam Deal) and the KBRA (Water Deal). The connections, however, are mainly political rather than material. The one substantive issue where there is a connection is Keno Dam and Reservoir. PacifiCorp owns Keno but the Bureau of Reclamation and its water users want the dam and reservoir to stay in place. Keno Reservoir currently has the worst water quality in the entire Klamath River Basin; it kills fish every year. That water quality and Keno Dam are major barriers to the restoration of Klamath Salmon. Both the KHSA and KBRA will impact Keno and its future management and that future management must be addressed in the EIR/EIS. Most of the other issues and decisions in the KBRA, however, are not materially related to the fate of PacifiCorp’s dams.

By providing conflicting information on the scope of the environmental review being undertaken, it is likely that the Department of Interior and Cal Fish & Game have already violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Policy Act (CEQA). While the official statements of purpose are narrowly limited to consideration of dam removal and “connected actions”, the interaction of the agencies with the public has given the impression that the entire KHSA and the entire KBRA are up for review. Statements made by the public at scoping meetings consequently reflect confusion about whether the environmental review is just about dam removal or whether it is about the full scope of the KHSA and KBRA. Interior and Cal Fish and Game are responsible for this confusion.

Why this is important

Dam removal on the Klamath River has many supporters but also significant opponents. It can be confidently assumed that opponents will use any means at their disposal – including lawsuits – to block dam removal. By muddying the NEPA/CEQA waters with conflicting and confusing information, Interior and Cal Fish and Game have handed opponents of dam removal the means to frustrate – or at minimum significantly delay - removal efforts. The KBRA is a heavy anchor that may yet sink dam removal.

If KlamBlog wanted to block dam removal we would now just sit on our hands until the EIR/EIS is complete and then we would challenge the process in court as fatally corrupted because the responsible agencies provided the public with confusing information about the scope of the environmental review.

Opponents of dam removal include groups and governments with close ties to the Pacific Legal Foundation. Lawyer there must be licking their chops at prospects for blocking dam removal using NEPA and CEQA. Responsible federal and state officials have already given them a winning case on a silver platter.

Will they fix it?

What needs to happen now is for the federal Department of Interior and California Department of Fish & Game to decide what this environmental review is really about. If federal and state officials are serious about implementing dam removal they must narrow the focus of the EIS/EIR to the purpose stated in the Federal Register Notice and NOP. This means only considering KBRA impacts where they have a material connection to that EIR/EIS purpose.

Interior and Cal Fish & Game must restart the environmental review process and clearly tell the public what the review is about….as well as what it is not about. If they choose not to restart the process, KlamBlog predicts a successful legal challenge down the line.   
Should the KBRA be considered?

Mangers could choose to analyze the myriad of complex issues and impacts likely if the long, complex and scientifically-controversial KBRA is adopted and implemented. Such an EIS/EIR would likely also provide opponents of dam removal with opportunities to successfully block not only KBRA implementation but also dam removal. That’s the case because the KBRA ignores the best available science on the river flows it seeks to lock in. Recommendations of the second Klamath Report by the National Research Council - Hydrology, Ecology, and Fishes of the Klamath River Basin - are even omitted from the official government web site’s Bibliography of (Klamath) Science Studies.

The KBRA is a legal and political anchor capable of bringing down the KHSA and frustrating the hopes of those who want to restore the Klamath River and its fisheries.

An invitation

Is the EIR/EIS and the decision to be made what to do with PacifiCorp’s Klamath Dams or is it about whether or not to adopt and implement the costly and controversial KBRA? The Department of Interior and Cal Fish & Game appear confused themselves as to the answer. We invite both government agencies to clarify the question on this blog.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yurok Tribe funded to help Cal Fish & Game get it right!

KlamBlog has learned that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded Yurok Tribe $25,000 to “provide assistance to the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) for the development of an adequate Environmental Impact Report for the analysis of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) in support of the Secretarial Determination called for in the KHSA.”
The discretionary, non-competitive grant was awarded at the end of June and will allow senior fisheries biologist Mike Belchik and other Yurok staff to review and comment on all draft documents produced by the contractors hired to write the environmental report and conduct related studies. The grant announcement directs the tribe’s staff to “focus their efforts on assuring accuracy of the technical elements of the environmental documents.”

Curiously, the Yurok Tribe’s tasks as defined in the grant announcement put more emphasis on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement - the Water Deal – as compared to the Federal Register Notice of Intent (NOI) and accompanying Press Release issued jointly by Cal Fish & Game and the Department of Interior.

In the NOI  Interior and Cal Fish & Game define the scope of the EIS/EIR to include “the nature and extent to which the potential environmental impacts of implementing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) should be analyzed in this EIS/EIR.”  The Yurok Tribe’s grant announcement on the other hand seems to assume that the question of whether the KBRA is analyzed in the EIS/EIR has been settled!

The Dam and Water Deals are, of course, joined politically. But it is not clear that there is a significant nexus between the two that extends beyond politics. Environmental Impact Reports are supposed to be about environmentally related actions and impacts. That includes economic and social impacts but politics is supposed to be non germane. Furthermore, the KBRA is already being implemented by the federal agencies which are – contrary to what the press reported – the real driving force behind it and among those who gain the most through it.  

There is one place, however, where the KHSA and KBRA – the Dam and Water Deals - do potentially share environmental, economic and social impacts. That place is the former bed of Lower Klamath Lake - including Keno Dam and Reservoir and the Keno Reach of the Klamath River. Under the Dam Deal both Keno facilities are transferred from PacifiCorp to the US Bureau of Reclamation which will maintain them for the benefit of irrigators. That transfer could have significant environmental, economic and social impacts. Most importantly, it is not clear whether the KBRA will delay or even prevent effective clean up of Keno Reservoir which is regularly so choked with agricultural wastewater that fish kills occur. The quality of the water in Keno Reservoir is in turn likely the main stumbling block to restoration of salmon to the Upper Klamath River Basin if and when the dams are removed.  

More on that in a future post.

Now, however, we want to point out that the Yurok Tribe is not alone in receiving recent, non-competitive grants from the US Fish & Wildlife Service:
  • On July 5th the Klamath Tribes received a $25,000 discretionary, non-competitive grant to “assist with drafting of the EIS and EIR ethnographic sections pertaining to the Klamath Tribes” and to “review and comment on drafts of the EIS and EIR and studies used to prepare them, as appropriate.”  Here’s a link to the full announcement.
  • Back in May the Sacramento-based Water Education Foundation  received a $42,000 grant to develop “a comprehensive booklet in order to advance the public’s understanding of the various issues related to the Secretarial Determination (SD) on Klamath River dams. The educational poster map of the Klamath Basin will help give the public’s understanding of the various issues related to the SD on Klamath River dams. The poster map will help the public to foster a greater understanding of the complex water issues associated of the Klamath Basin. The map will be printed and distributed to the public and will be a major piece in the overall effort to ensure meaningful public involvement in the Secretarial Determination process, a top priority of Secretary Salazar.”  This grant was justified as non-competitive because the WEF “(1) understands and has pervious experience in writing about the Klamath Basin water issues and who is aware of the sensitivities and positions of the stakeholder parties in the Klamath Basin; (2) has a reputation and strong track record of developing nonpartisan education materials about complex Western water issues, and (3) is local to members of the Communications Team so frequent, in-person meetings can be arranged as this project carried out; and (4) has experience publishing education material for federal sector clients.”  Here is a link to the full announcement on the grants.gov web site.
By comparing the official federal grant numbers for the three awards summarized above, it appears that there have been 17 other non-competitive grants quietly awarded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for tasks associated with the Secretarial Determination for PacifiCorp’s Klamath Dams. KlamBlog has requested information on those 17 other grants and will pass it along when it is received.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Critical Planning Process For Klamath Refuges Gets Underway

Below is an alert from Waterwatch of Oregon concerning the planning process for Klamath River Basin Wildlife Refuges. That process is just getting underway.

The refuges are a big part of the Klamath River water supply, provides critical habitat for 80% of Pacific Flyway birds and host the largest wintering population of Bald Eagles in the USA outside Alaska. Their are few environmental issues in the Klamath River Basin more important to our water and wildlife future.

Below the alert is background information on refuge issues also from Waterwatch. Please add your voice to those advocating that Klamath Refuges be managed for wildlife and not held hostage to commercial agriculture. Restoring Lower Klamath Lake is also the best option for cleaning up the Klamath while providing improved flows. This is ONE river basin!

The alert provides contact information - including the e-mail address - for submitting a comment or letter. The deadline is June 28th. Please do it!

Take Action to Support Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges

The Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) process has just begun for the Klamth Basin National Wildlife refuge Complex, including two of the nation’s most important national wildlife refuges, Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge (LKNWR) and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge (TLNWR).  The CCP that is developed will guide refuge management on each refuge for the next 15 years. See the following links for more information: http://www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/KBNWRC_PlanningUpdate1.pdf  .

In developing the CCP, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to review all refuge activities to ensure they are compatible with refuge purposes and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  This gives the public a tremendous opportunity to participate in the future management of these refuges, to explore the best opportunities for securing the water that the refuges need, and to push for phasing out the extensive and harmful commercial farming that occurs on these refuges.

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service is gathering ideas and suggestions concerning long-term management of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and is accepting scoping comments until June 28, 2010.

Please send or e-mail comments to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service by June 28, 2010 to:
          Michelle Barry, Refuge Planner
          U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
          Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex
         4009 Hill Road
         Tulelake, CA 96134
         e-mail: R8KlamathCCP@fws.gov

Let the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) know you support:

   * Managing these important refuges for conserving and restoring migrating birds, fish, wildlife, and their habitats first above all other uses.

    * Restoring the historic lake beds of Lower Klamath Lake and Tule Lake within the boundaries of the refuge.

    * Phasing out commercial farming on the refuges and using those refuge lands to store winter water and manage for refuge purposes.

    * Curtailing commercial farming on the refuges in any year that the refuges are not receiving their full water supply and requiring the water rights associated with the refuge lands farmed for commercial agriculture be delivered to refuge wetlands rather than for irrigating 22,000 acres of refuge land for commercial farming.

Request USFWS to:

    * Identify the affects that commercial farming has on the populations and habitats of fish, wildlife, and plants in the refuges and the actions necessary to correct such problems.

    * Assess whether this commercial farming program is consistent with refuge purposes under the Kuchel Act and compatible with refuge purposes and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System under the National Wildlife System Improvement Act of 1997.

    * Develop a plan to secure the water needed for maintaining refuge wetlands that considers water right acquisitions with willing sellers, storage of winter water for refuge use, and curtailing water use for irrigating commercial farms.

    * Consider managing the refuges consistent with a more natural hydrological regime.

    * Consider routing commercial traffic off of Stateline Road, a lower speed limit, and more pull over areas for the public.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Primary election In Upper Klamath River Basin seen as referendum on the Dam and Water Deals

Primary election results in Oregon are being trumpeted as a defeat for promoters of the Klamath Dam and Water Deals. In the Upper Klamath River Basin an incumbent who opposed the Deals won while another incumbent who publicly supported the Deals was defeated. The Klamath Fall’s Herald and News and the regional Capital Press agricultural weekly both interpret the results as indicating that a majority of Upper Basin citizens do not support the costly and controversial Deals.

The Herald and News reports that Oregon State Representative Bill Garrard handily won the Republican Primary with 65 percent of the vote; challenger Karl Scronce got 35 percent. Garrard cited both his experience and his opposition to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (the KBRA or Water Deal) as playing a part in the size of his victory. Karl Scronce is an irrigator who supports the Water Deal.

Another elected Republican, Klamath County Commissioner John Elliot, lost in the Republican Primary to challenger Dennis Linthicum. Linthicum describes himself as a fiscal conservative who favors private sector solutions and opposes both the KBRA and dam removal. Linthicum got 63% of the vote to Elliot’s 37%.

Opponents of the Dam and Water Deals were quick to interpret these results as indicating that the vast majority of voters in the Oregon portion of the Klamath River Basin reject both the Water Deal and dam removal.  Others say that Republican opposition was predictable and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the majority of Upper Basin citizens. It remains to be seen if the Deals will be an issue in the general election this fall.

While there is clearly substantial opposition to the Klamath Deals among residents of the Klamath River Basin it is not clear what motivates that opposition.

In the Upper Basin racism may play a part. Opposition to the Klamath Tribes receiving funding to purchase forest land for a reservation has been expressed regularly in the press…including letters to the editor. Funding for the land purchase would come from the federal government and would be in exchange for settling some of the tribe’s water right claims in a manner that favors those who receive water via the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project. When sociologists from Oregon State University interviewed Upper Basin residents during the 2001 “Water Crisis” they reported that an “undercurrent of racism” was pervasive.

But opposition may also have to do with perceived winners and losers. Many Upper Basin residents understand that the KBRA favors the Bureau of Reclamation and its customers over other water users. For example, the Deal targets irrigators off the federal project for “demand reduction” while forbidding water right retirement within the federal project. That favors the wealthiest irrigators who lease and irrigate vast acreages on federal and private lands at low prices. Maintaining maximum irrigated acreage within the Klamath Project keeps the per acre cost to lease land low and profits for the wealthiest irrigators high.  

Water interests within the Klamath Project will also receive large power and other subsidies if federal legislation to implement the Deals is enacted. It is unclear which if any of these subsidies will trickle down to irrigators outside the Klamath Project. Opposition to the Deals could reflect opposition to this aspect on equity grounds; rank and file Republicans are among those Americans who favor a level playing field when private interests compete.

For some opposition to the Water Deal may focus on  the10% to 20% of Klamath Project water users who are not engaged in agriculture but will none-the-less receive subsidies. Non-Agricultural water users receiving water from the Klamath Project include a golf and country club, a particle board mill, a hunting lodge, a community college and other schools. Some Upper Basin residents may balk at targeting real farmers and ranchers for demand reduction while providing scarce water to non-agricultural commercial and government water users.

Whatever the reasons it is clear that many folks in the Upper Basin do not favor dam removal. Without a referendum, however, it is impossible to tell if these folks are the majority or only more vocal than Upper Basin dam removal supporters. It is also unclear what motivates opposition to dam removal. Is the opposition philosophical or does opposition reflect fear that taking down the dams will lead to additional constraints on water use as salmon and steelhead return to the Upper Basin?

Whether the majority of Klamath River Basin residents support or oppose dam removal is, however, irrelevant to whether or not the dams come down. Klamath Basin residents may think of the dams and reservoirs as public resources but in law they are privately owned.  As PacifiCorp spokespersons have consistently stated the company’s decision to take down the dams is purely a business decision. PacifiCorp’s owners-investors will benefit more from dam removal than they would from relicensing the Klamath dams. 

It is also becoming clear that federal legislation is not essential to the Water Deal. In fact, bureaucrats in the federal agencies are already implementing both Deals and will continue in this manner whether or not federal legislation is passed. Federal legislation is needed, however, to secure close to a billion in desired funding. Most of that funding would go to Klamath Project irrigation interests and tribes; about a quarter of the money would go to restoration projects already selected by deal-makers and detailed in an appendix to the Water Deal

Propaganda battles between supporters and opponents of the Dam and Water Deals are likely to continue at least until federal Klamath legislation is either passed or defeated. Under these circumstances any development – in the present instance an election – becomes an opportunity to engage in spin. KlamBlog will continue to disclose who is spinning and for what purpose.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Klamath Legislation Goes To Congress

KlamBlog has learned that legislation intended to implement aspects of the recently completed Klamath Dam and Water Deals has been forwarded to members of Congress. The proposed legislation was drafted by employees of the US Department of Interior which includes the Bureau of Reclamation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Beginning during the Bush Administration, Interior officials orchestrated the Klamath Deals and were actively promoting them even before they were completed.  Now it is up to Congress whether or not to accept costly and controversial provisions which require federal legislation.

Three elected tribal governments – those of the Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe and Karuk Tribe – support the Deals and claim they are the best path to dam removal. They are joined in that opinion by Trout Unlimited, California Trout and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association. But environmental groups – including Oregon Wild, Water Watch of Oregon and The Northcoast Environmental Center - which were locked out of the negotiations or dropped out because their issues were ignored, claim the Water Deal shortchanges salmon and wildlife refuges. The Hoopa Tribe, the National Congress of American Indians and others are also concerned because the Interior Department wants Congress to terminate certain rights of Klamath River Basin federal tribes even if those tribes do not agree to termination of those rights.

Although they are linked politically, The Dam Deal (or Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement) and the Water Deal (or Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement) were negotiated separately. Congress could choose to move the two Deals forward together, separately or not at all. Because the Water Deal includes nearly a billion dollars in federal spending and would require even more taxpayer spending during droughts to provide the water salmon and other fish need, it will have a hard time making it through a Congress which faces huge deficits and a freeze on new discretionary spending.  The Water Deal will also be closely scrutinized because it favors some irrigators – those who are supplied water by the Bureau of Reclamation – over other Klamath River Basin irrigators who are not linked to the federal government.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fish Kill Flows – a KBRA collaboration

Those who are promoting the Water Deal – also known as the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement or KBRA - claim that it represents unprecedented collaboration among government agencies, tribes and private irrigation interests. That collaboration has now produced Klamath River flows which in previous years have killed millions of juvenile salmon as they pass through lethal waters in the Klamath River below PacifiCorp’s dams.

Lethal Klamath River flows this Spring are the result of a new Biological Opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Bi-Op as it is popularly known was released shortly after the Water Deal was signed and closely mimics the lower flows negotiated in that Deal in order to provide more water to the sub-set of irrigation, recreation and industrial water users which receive water from the Bureau Of Reclamation’s Klamath Project.

Proponents of the Water Deal have claimed that the new negotiated flows would be better for salmon because there will be higher flows in Spring. As it turns out, however, Spring flows are higher under the 2010 Bi-Op in wetter years but lower in drought years as compared to the flow regime it replaced.

Table 18 from the new Bi-Op is reprinted below. It shows the flows which the Bureau of Reclamation are supposed to release to comply with the Endangered Species Act. Actual flows for different climactic conditions are expressed as “exceedance rate” percentages at the left.  Flows on the top line are what will be allowed to flow in the Klamath River in the driest years; flows on the bottom line are for the wettest years. Flow values in italics are the times when flows will be higher than flows under the 2002 Bi-Op; flows in bold font are times when flows will be lower as compared to the 2002 Bi-Op.

In general, river flows for salmon during the driest and wettest years have been reduced; spring flows in wet and average rainfall years have been increased. August flows – the time period of the adult salmon kill - will be lower under the new Bi-Op during drier years.

Here is Table 18:

          Oct    Nov   Dec    Jan     Feb   Mar  April  May  June   Jul    Aug 1  Aug 16 Sept
95%  1000  1300  1260  1130  1300  1275  1325  1175  1025  805    880     1000    1000
90%  1000  1300  1300  1245  1300  1410  1500  1220  1080  840    895     1000    1000
85%  1000  1300  1300  1300  1300  1450  1500  1415  1160  905    910     1001    1000
80%  1000  1300  1300  1300  1300  1683  1500  1603  1320  945    935     1005    1006
75%  1000  1300  1300  1300  1300  2050  1500  1668  1455  1016  975     1008    1013
70%  1000  1300  1300  1300  1300  2350  1500  1803  1498  1029  1005   1014    1024
65%  1000  1300  1300  1300  1323  2629  1589  1876  1520  1035  1017   1017    1030
60%  1000  1300  1300  1309  1880  2890  2590  2029  1569  1050  1024   1024    1041
55%  1000  1300  1345  1656  2473  3150  2723  2115  1594  1056  1028   1028    1048
50%  1000  1300  1410  1751  2577  3177  3030  2642  1639  1070  1035   1035    1060
45%  1000  1300  1733  2018  2728  3466  3245  2815  1669  1077  1038   1038    1066
40%  1000  1300  1837  2242  3105  3685  3485  2960  1682  1082  1041   1041    1071
35%  1000  1300  2079  2549  3505  3767  3705  3115  1699  1100  1050   1050    1085
30%  1000  1434  2471  2578  3632  3940  3930  3225  1743  1118  1053   1053    1089
5%    1000  1590  2908  2627  3822  3990  4065  3390  2727  1137  1058   1058    1097 

20%  1000  1831  2997  2908  3960  4160  4230  3480  2850  1152  1066   1066    1135
15%  1000  2040  3078  3498  4210  4285  4425  3615  2975  1223  1093   1093    1162
10%  1000  2415  3280  3835  4285  4355  4585  3710  3055  1370  1126   1126    1246

5%    1000  2460  3385  3990  4475  4460  4790  3845  3185  1430  1147   1147    1281

This graph makes it clear that Water Deal promoters have been making false and misleading claims for the KBRA. What else are these promoters of the Klamath Deals not telling us or spinning in ways that obscure the realities?

The five PacifiCorp mainstem Klamath dams are responsible for making highly polluted water flowing from Upper Basin farms and ranches toxic and lethal to vulnerable young salmon. The deal with PacifiCorp which may result in dam removal after 2020, limits what PacifCorp must do before 2020 to address the salmon killing water emanated from its dams and reservoirs. Direct treatment of toxic algae discharges is prohibited by the Deals. Instead PacifiCorp will pay farmers and ranchers above the dams to reduce the pollution they release. What is actually done will not be monitored or reported to the public. It is unknown whether this will be sufficient to prevent the annual die-off of juvenile salmon and steelhead due to bad quality water extending from the dams to the River’s mouth. However, similar marsh restoration above Upper Klamath Lake has (so far) failed to result in measurable improvements in Klamath Lake water quality.

If past years are an indication, the toxic brew this year – exacerbated by low flows allowed by the new Bi-Op - will wipe out most of the salmon produced by the nearly 30,000 adult salmon which escaped tribal and sport fishers to spawn naturally in the Klamath River and tributaries (this does not include the Trinity and its tribs which had over 23,000 natural spawners in 2009). Flows in late Summer and Fall under this new Bi-Op will mimic those which produced the die off of over 60,000 adult salmon in 2002. 

Here’s a Klamath flow comparison table from Oregon Wild’s Steve Pedery:

Flow Plan           Oct   Nov   Dec   Jan     Feb    Mar    Apr    May   June   July     Aug       Sept
90% 2010 BiOp 1000  1300   1300  1245   1300   1410   1500   1220   1080    840  895/1000 1000
90% 2002 BiOp 1300 1300   1300  1300  1300   1450 1500   1500  1400  1000  1000    1000
90% Hardy II    1415 1545  1380 1245   1485  1410  1530  1220   1080     840     895    1010

The table compares flows in the recently released 2010 Bi-Op (line 1), the 2002 Bi-Op which it replaced (line 2) and Hardy Phase II flows (the river flows which the only peer reviewed flow study in the Basin prescribe in order to minimally provide for Klamath River salmon) (line 3).  Months in which flows are higher under the 2002 Bi-Op and Hardy Phase II flow study are in bold. There are no years when the 2010 Bi-Op 90% exceedance flows are higher than the 2002 Bi-Op or Hardy II.

The expected die-off of young salmon and steelhead in the Klamath River this Spring will be documented by tribal, state and federal agencies. But because the tribes and agencies doing the documenting are promoters of the Klamath Dam and Water Deals, KlamBlog does not expect the die-off to be reported to the press and public as in past years. One of the typical casualties of back room deals is the public’s right to know; those who make back room deals always suppress subsequent information that conflicts with or discredits the deals.

KlamBlog will attempt to fill the gap and let you know how Klamath flows negotiated in the Klamath Deals and reflected in the 2010 Bi-Op actually perform in real life.

Here's a comment from Glen Spain that got inadvertently deleted:

Dear KlamBlog....

While we should all be reading -- and trying to understand -- the new Coho BiOp issued 3/15/10, your analysis mixes here up a WHOLE lot of separate issues. Here are some of the problems:

(1) The BiOp is not the KBRA. Nor does the BiOp incorporate all the KBRA recommendations, especially for higher spring flows. In fact, the KBRA flows, once fully implemented, would likely provide MORE water for salmon than the BiOp during many times of the year and most water years, especially spring time when it matters most to out-migrating juvenile salmon.

(2) Now you are mad at the ESA (BiOp), saying it does not provide enough water for salmon? Yet previously you and other critics of the KBRA have said that the KBRA was unnecessary because the ESA would protect the fish! Are you now saying the ESA alone cannot adequately protect the fish? If so, then obviously the KBRA is the way to go. You cannot have it both ways! Which do you support -- reliance on the ESA alone to force water reforms or trying something more through the KBRA? Your analysis is self-contradictory.

(3) Steve Pedery's comparison between the now void and discredited 2002 BiOp Injunction flows and the new 2010-2018 BiOp may be interesting but IS SCIENTIFICALLY MEANINLESS. The 2002 BiOp was thrown out of not one, but THREE Courts as "not based on the best available science." Harkening back to a BiOp clearly invalid as a baseline is clearly improper. The science has also progressed a lot since 2002, including the Hardy Flow Study finalized in 2006. The only legitimate scientific comparison is between Final Hardy Flows (based on science) and the 2010 BiOp recommendations (based on science). If there are differences they need to be justified. In most places they track pretty well, and in fact during Sept. are generally HIGHER in the new BiOp SPECIFICALLY to prevent future adult fish kills. They are also at or very near Hardy flows during the dryest April conditions (90%-95% exceedence) which is very good. Other April dry year numbers are not as good as they would be under the KBRA, also falling short of Hardy flows, but at least as good as the 2002 BiOp.

(4) All that we can be sure of providing under the ESA is enough water for salmon to prevent extinction. The word "recovery" is not even used in the ESA, which can only provide sufficient "conservation" of a species to have it delistable, not fully "recovered" as most biologists would understand it. This is why relying on the ESA alone is not going to get Klamath salmon to true recovery. The purpose of the KBRA is to get WELL ABOVE that low ESA bar in most years, as needed for true recovery. If you are not backing the KBRA, then your only fall back is the ESA -- and what you see in the 2010-2018 BiOp is what you are going to get without the water reallocations and demand reduction the KBRA is aimed at providing. The shortfalls in the ESA as exemplified in this new BiOp are why we are supporters of the KBRA and working toward more water for salmon than the barest minimums to avoid extinction -- which is all the ESA can legally provide.

--- Glen Spain, for PCFFA
April 12, 2010 11:27 AM

And here is KlamBlog's response:

    Glen Spain is good with words. He can set up a straw man and knock it down with the best of them.....

    ..... but the numbers do not lie. This talk of KBRA higher flows in the future is just that...talk. We heard that talk before about Klamath EQIP. $50 million spent and where is the water Glen?

    KlmaBlog published the ACTUAL flows under the new Biological Opinion. Table 18 of that new Bi-Op demonstrates what the KBRA sacrifices: Salmon get less water during the most critical months of the most critical years, that is, the driest and the wettest years.

    Glen Spain knows that truncating the natural hydrograph in this way is not good science and not good for salmon...he just doesn't want to admit it.