Saturday, September 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wyden's Klamath Bill: More welfare for the Irrigation Elite

One would have thought that benefits conferred on federal irrigators - and their captured agency, the US Bureau of Reclamation - by the the two Klamath Water Deals (The older KBRA and newer Upper Basin Agreement) would have been enough. After all, not only has Reclamation already used taxpayer funds to implemented many of the costly "benefits" for federal irrigators included in the KBRA, but Congressional backing for the Deals would essentially insulate federal irrigation, the growers it serves and 40% of the total diversions from the Klamath River Basin from tribal water rights claims. Additionally, if Wyden's Bill were to become law, the Klamath Tribes' claim to flows in the Klamath River would be relinquished. That claim is the only practical path to achieving restoration flows in the Klamath River.

Senator Wyden apparently did not believe the Deals benefited the Irrigation Elite quite enough, however. And so he added a new special interest tax break to the legislation he authored. Tacked on at the end of Wyden's Senate Bill 2727, the Klamath Basin Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act of 2014, is a section titled "MODIFICATION OF TAX EXEMPTION REQUIREMENTS FOR MUTUAL DITCH OR IRRIGATION COMPANIES." That part of the bill would amend Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code; section 501 is the part of the Code which defines which organizations "shall be exempt from taxation under this subtitle."
Here the substance of the new tax break:
           "In the case of a mutual ditch or irrigation company or of a like organization to a mutual ditch or irrigation company, subparagraph (A) shall be applied without taking into account any income received or accrued (I) from the sale, lease, or exchange of fee or other interests in real property, including interests in water, (II) from the sale or exchange of stock in a mutual ditch or irrigation company (or in a like organization to a mutual ditch or irrigation company) or contract rights for the delivery or use of water, or (III) from the investment of proceeds from sales, leases, or exchanges under subclauses (I) and (II),..."