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 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.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What will Mr. Thompson do for the Klamath River and his constituents?

The following opinion by long-time Klamath River Activist Felice Pace appeared in the Eureka Times Standard on Friday April 2nd and is reprinted here for non-commercial purposes. The opinion and comments on it can be read on the Times Standard's web page:

The individuals chiefly responsible for bringing protracted Klamath dam and water negotiations to a conclusion deserve our congratulations and our appreciation. These individuals worked tirelessly for many years on a complex and difficult endeavor. Those who have signed onto the resulting agreements believe they have negotiated the best possible deals for their organizations, for the Klamath River and for Klamath salmon.

But while we appreciate the dedication and hard work of those who created the agreements, it is our responsibility as the citizens who actually own the public resources involved to judge what these folks have produced -- not on whether or not we like and respect them as individuals and organizations, but rather on the merits of what they have produced.

The KBRA (Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement) and the KHSA (Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement) must be judged on whether they serve the public interest in the Klamath River and Klamath salmon. That judgment is debatable and the public deserves a chance to hear the debate and to weigh in BEFORE deals negotiated behind closed doors are locked in through federal legislation.

Much of what is best in the deals is already taking place (e.g. marsh restoration on Upper Klamath Lake) or does not require legislation. But several of the most controversial aspects do require federal legislation because they seek to go around established provisions of law and regular legal processes. And this is where the public -- ALL citizens -- can finally participate in deciding the fate of these PUBLIC resources.

The question now is: what will our congressman -- Mike Thompson -- do? Will Mike simply take what he is given by the federal Interior Department (which is now drafting Klamath Legislation in conformance with the deals) or will he afford the public -- including those who were excluded from Klamath deal negotiations -- a real opportunity to give him their input and ideas for Klamath solutions prior to putting his name on Klamath legislation?

We have had years of negotiations from which the public -- and significant stakeholders -- have been excluded. Will the public also be excluded from deliberations on what is in Klamath legislation? Our congressman should hold hearings here in the northern portion of his district BEFORE he puts pen to paper drafting Klamath legislation. Hearings here -- where those who will have to live with the consequences of Klamath legislation for many years to come can truly participate -- are the right thing to do. If you agree please let Mike Thomspon know.

Felice Pace has been an advocate for the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon since 1977 soon after he moved to the Scott River Basin. He now resides in Klamath Glen. Felice publishes KlamBlog ( on Klamath River Basin issues.