Saturday, January 21, 2012

KlamBlog Report: The Brave New World of Klamath Water and Endangered Species Management

The KlamBlog Report which follows was written by Felice Pace. It is not casual reading. In the report, Felice focuses on what he calls "the federal agenda" in the Klamath River Basin and the water deal that agenda spawned - the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement or KBRA. Because the companion dam removal deal (the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement) has captured so much public attention, the KBRA Water Deal has remained largely in the shadows - a status its architects likely intended. 

Felice argues that implications of the KBRA for the future of the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon may be far greater than the more popular Dam Deal. By insulating the federal Klamath Irrigation Project and the irrigation interests it serves from "calls" for leaving more water in the Klamath River, the KBRA will focus efforts to increase salmon flows on private irrigators in the Upper Basin, Shasta and Scott Rivers. This stark political development has not been appreciated by reporters covering Klamath Water issues nor apparently by local politicians.

 The romance of Salmon, Traditional Native People, Dam Removal and "Peace on the River" 
has captured the public imagination obscuring implications of the complex KBRA Water Deal  

Our report delves deep into the relationships from which the KBRA emerged: the relationship between the federal government and irrigators on federally developed and subsidized irrigation projects; and the realtionship between federal Indian tribes and federal government agencies.It places those relationships within broader national and west-wide contexts. KBRA-type water deals have been done or are being negotiated in western river basins from Arizona to Montana. Felice explains why these high stakes water deals are happening and speculates on how historians of the future might view them. 

The report also explores the sensitive subject of how federal funding within the Basin - and the dependence of tribes on federal funding - intersects with tribal reaction to federal water policy. Some tribes may not appreciate seeing details of  their federal funding dependence revealed in the report. This aspect is sure to stir up controversy and motivate comment. 

Using PCFFA's Glen Spain as a foible and the words of the Irrigation Elite as his illustration, Felice proceeds to describe how the KBRA will impact tribal water rights and the federal trust relationship with the Basin's six federal tribes. He points out that altering federal trusteeship responsibilities is one among several aspects of the KBRA which can only proceed if federal legislation to authorize and fund the Deal passes Congress and is signed into law. 

While some aspects await legislation, the report analyzes how the KBRA is already having a "corrupting influence" on how the Endangered Species Act is being implemented in the Klamath River Basin. Finally, Felice draws two lessons which he suggests can be learned from the report's facts and analysis. 

In The Brave New World of Klamath Water and Endangered Species Management long-time Klamath River activist Felice Pace looks deeply into the meaning and implications of the KBRA Water Deal. The report attempts to demystify a complex and convoluted document written by water lawyers. The objective is to make clear what is at stake, who stands to benefit and who stands to lose out. If Felice is correct, the KBRA could make it virtually impossible to restore salmon abundance to the Klamath River Basin. The Report explains why he thinks that's the case. We hope you'll read it. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hoopa Leader Haley Hutt: Klamath Deals/Legislation have an Indigenous historical context

In an Op_Ed published in the Two Rivers Tribune, Hoopa Tribal Council member Haley Hutt has - for the first time we know of - placed the Klamath Deals and the Merkley-Thompson Bill that would authorize, implement and fund them - into an Indigenous historical perspective.

Hutt speaks of her recent visit to Washington DC where - among other things - she got to meet President Obama. Here are a couple of key quotes from Ms. Hutt's editorial:
  •    If the Klamath Bill becomes law, the United States will successfully terminate its trustee obligation to the Hoopa Valley Tribe for senior water and fishing rights on the Klamath River forever. For the first time in the 21st Century, termination of tribal trust rights will occur without Tribal consent.
  •   The DOI (Department of Interior) has become comfortable with offering up its Trustee Obligation as a bargaining chip as they reach settlements with corporations, states, and tribes under the pretense that it is in the best interest of the Tribe. Nothing could be more dangerous to tribal sovereignty than the Trustee, once again, deciding they know what’s best for Indians against the will of the Indians. The United States is chipping away at its trust obligations one deal at a time which is a slow termination and slow death to tribal sovereignty. Tribes, however, desperate to restore or protect a natural resource, or desperate to receive benefits they have been denied, often take a “the best deal they can get” even though what’s offered is not fair in the long run.
  •   The highlight of my trip was meeting the President. I believe that President Obama is unaware and would not support a termination bill. Although the moment was brief, as he passed through the crowd, I did get to shake his hand and say “The Hoopa Tribe loves you!”  He laughed. In his speech, he said “I’ve got your back.”  I was impressed by his sincerity, and I take him for his word.

 Hoopa Councilperson Haley Hutt meets President Barak Obama
(photo courtesy of Two Rivers Tribune)

KlamBlog thanks the Two River Tribune for publishing Councilmember Hutt's opinion. We republish it  below and we urge other news outlets to republish it as well. Because it puts the Klamath Deals and legislation to make them legally binding into a larger historical perspective we believe the editorial advances the healthy debate ongoing among the people of the Klamath River Basin concerning the Deals and the Legislation to make them legally binding.

Some promoters of the Klamath Deals will no doubt attack this editorial by suggesting that the Two Rivers Tribune is funded and controlled by the Hoopa Tribal Council. TRT is, in fact, partially funded by the Hoopa Tribal Council. It is, however, editorially independent. While Chairman Leonard Masten has at times called in the editor to listen and respond to his concerns, neither he not any member of the Council has attempted to censor or editorially control the publication.

The independence of the TRT contrasts sharply with the newspapers/newsletters published by other Klamath River Basin Tribes including the Klamath Tribes' Klamath News, the Karuk Tribe's Karuk Tribal Newsmagazine and the Yurok Tribe's Yurok Today. The smaller Quartz Valley Indian Reservation and Resighini Rancheria do not publish newspapers or newsletters.

These other tribal newspapers/newsletters are not editorially independent; content is closely controlled by tribal bureaucrats under the direction of the respective tribal councils. KlamBlog thanks and applauds the Hoopa Tribe and congratulates the Hoopa People on being confident enough to support and fund an editorially independent newspaper. We believe editorial independence best serves the Hoopa People, the River, and Klamath Salmon.