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North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense

California Trout and Trout Unlimited: Klamath Agreement Sets Stage for Dam Removal
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Jan 15th, 2008 2:50 PM
Severn Williams of California Trout, Chuck Bonham from Trout Unlimited, Steve Rothert of American Rivers and Brian Barr from the National Center for Conservation Science & Policy issued a press release this afternoon supporting the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. "The agreement marks a major stride forward in bringing peace to the Klamath River," said Brian Stranko, CEO of California Trout.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 15, 2008

CONTACT: Severn Williams
California Trout
510-336-9566, C 415-336-9623
Chuck Bonham, Trout Unlimited
510-528-4164, C 510-917-8572
Steve Rothert, American Rivers
530-478-5672, C 530-277-0448
Brian Barr, National Center for
Conservation Science & Policy
541-482-4459 x 304

COMPREHENSIVE AGREEMENT FOR KLAMATH BASIN RESTORATION PROPOSED, SETS STAGE FOR HYDROPOWER AGREEMENT AND DAM REMOVAL

Klamath Basin, California/Oregon Border - The details of a proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement were released today by the Klamath Settlement Group. The Group includes representatives from diverse Klamath Basin communities and officers from tribal, federal, state, and county governments that all have a stake in water and power management in the area. The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is the result of more than two years of negotiation among interest groups as varied as farmers who rely on irrigation water from the Klamath watershed system to conservation groups dedicated to improving habitat for fish and other wildlife.

Key provisions of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement include a program to rebuild fish populations sufficient for sustainable tribal, recreational, and commercial fisheries; reliable water allocation to sustain the needs of the agricultural community and national wildlife refuges in the basin; a program to stabilize power costs in the area; and a compensation program for counties that may be impacted by the removal of the identified hydroelectric facilities. Implementing the agreement as it is currently outlined is expected to cost approximately $400 million in new funding over 10 years.

"The Klamath River was once the third greatest Pacific salmon producing stream in the lower 48 states," said Brian Barr of the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy. "Decades of degrading habitat and blocking fish from 300 miles of stream have caused wild salmon populations to drop by 90%. We need to build a robust future for the Klamath River and the communities that depend on it."

The Klamath Settlement Group was first formed in 2004 after PacifiCorp applied to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for relicensing of five mainstem dams it currently runs on the Klamath River. The lower three dams block passage for salmon, steelhead and lamprey to over 300 of miles of spawning and rearing habitat. Under the federal relicensing process, parties can submit to FERC a preferred negotiated outcome. Negotiations with PacifiCorp on an agreement are still proceeding.

The groups still face one significant hurdle before the proposed agreement can be adopted and implemented and that is an agreement to remove PacifiCorp's lower four Klamath dams.

"The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement marks a major stride forward in bringing peace to the Klamath River," said Brian Stranko, Chief Executive Officer of fishing and water quality advocacy group California Trout, one of the conservation groups that participated in the Proposed Agreement. "This is, however, only half of the pie. We also need success in negotiations with PacifiCorp to remove four mainstem dams before this Basin Restoration Agreement can be signed and implemented-the two separate agreements make a non-severable package."

"It hasn't been easy; it was a tough several years putting this proposal together, but I've got new found respect for all the communities involved from Tribal to environmental and farming," said Chuck Bonham of Trout Unlimited. "I am also hopeful we can develop a good business deal that works for PacifiCorp and for the river too. We can and should do both."

The Proposed Agreement developed a series of priorities for water management that take into account the competing needs of farmers, fish, power users, and protected natural habitat in the area.

"Removing these dams makes sense," said Steve Rothert of American Rivers. "By releasing the proposed Basin Restoration Agreement today, we're saying that there is a better way, and that ongoing environmental degradation is no longer an option. It's time to bring disparate groups together and work out realistic solutions that will pave the way for a better, more responsible future."

The Klamath Settlement Group is working on two agreements: the Basin Restoration Agreement and the Hydropower Agreement. The Klamath Settlement Group will approve both concurrently after public review and completion of the Basin Restoration Agreement, and negotiations for the Hydropower Agreement are concluded. As a package, these agreements will create effective and durable solutions that will restore and sustain natural production of fish species throughout the Klamath Basin, establish reliable water and power supplies to sustain agricultural uses and National Wildlife Refuges, and contribute to the public welfare through responsible management practices.


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by O. Kisutch
Tuesday Jan 15th, 2008 3:21 PM
No Dam Deal In Klamath Settlement Talks

Proposed Settlement Deal Lacks Guaranteed Dam Removal, Guaranteed Water For Fish


Oregon Wild and WaterWatch respond to the release of a Klamath Settlement deal that doesn't include dam removal and fails to provide adequate water for endangered salmon.

Portland, Ore Jan 15, 2008

OREGON WILD * WATERWATCH

The Bush administration is expected to release today one piece of a “Klamath Dam Settlement Agreement,” the product of three years of secret negotiations over the future of PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River. Despite a $1 billion dollar price tag, the agreement does not include any provisions for dam removal. Additionally, the agreement fails to stipulate river flow levels for salmon consistent with what the best available science calls for, and contains language aimed at locking in commercial agricultural development on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges for the next 50 years.

“The Bush administration’s settlement agreement is a billion dollar Christmas tree with money in it for every special interest in the Klamath Basin,” observed Steve Pedery, Conservation Director for Oregon Wild, a non-profit fish and wildlife conservation organization. “What began as an effort to help salmon and remove dams has turned into a plan to farm American taxpayers.”

The Klamath settlement talks began over three years ago as part of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process to re-license four PacifiCorp-owned dams on the Klamath River. While PacifiCorp initiated the talks, in 2007 the Bush administration and Klamath agribusiness interests disbanded the original settlement group and started a new process, excluding the only two state-based Oregon conservation organizations Oregon Wild and WaterWatch. The deal that these Bush-backed talks have produced is contingent upon dam removal, but that deal is nowhere in sight.

The talks have instead centered on Bush administration guarantees to politically powerful agribusiness interests in the Klamath Basin. Included in the deal are generous water guarantees for the Klamath irrigation project, with no guaranteed flows for fish. Even if met, the predicted flow levels in the Klamath River under the agreement would fall well below the levels the National Research Council (NRC) has endorsed to aid the recovery of salmon, particularly during the critically important late summer and early fall months. The risk of insufficient water is again being placed on salmon, most likely in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

“In September of 2002, the Klamath River suffered one of the worst fish kills in US history because too much water was diverted by irrigation interests in a drought year,” said Bob Hunter, Senior Staff Attorney of WaterWatch. “Instead of learning a lesson from that tragedy, the Bush administration has produced a sweetheart deal that continues to favor a handful of politically powerful agribusiness interests over the health of the Klamath River.”

The Klamath Basin once had the third largest salmon run on the Pacific coast. Today, salmon populations have dwindled to a fraction of their size as a result of irrigation development, dams, and water pollution. In 2005 and 2006, commercial fishing communities in Northern California and along the Oregon Coast suffered devastating closures in an effort to protect what remains of the once mighty Klamath Chinook run. The 2002 Klamath River fish kill, an event that the California Department of Fish and Game has linked to low river flows and excessive irrigation diversions, claimed as many as 70,000 fall Chinook before they could spawn and brought national attention to the plight of the river.

The new settlement agreement does little to permanently reduce the demand for water in the Klamath Irrigation Project, and may lead to extensive groundwater pumping-a scheme which would likely make matters worse. Included in the $1 billion price tag is a $92 million allotment for the Klamath Water Users Association-a commercial agricultural organization-to use federal tax dollars to establish their own plan for water management in the basin.

“Giving agribusiness interests almost $100 million dollars to develop their own water plan is like putting the fox in charge of coming up with a plan to manage the hen house,” noted Pedery. “Water allocation should be determined by scientists, not agribusiness.”

“The claim that the agreement will “resolve long standing disputes ” is just not credible when the agreement does not include a dam removal deal, does not guarantee river flows for fish in the lower river, and institutionalizes large-scale commercial agriculture on 22,000 acres of the nation’s premier National Wildlife Refuges,” stated Hunter. “Why the rush before there is even a dam removal deal? We believe that is because time in running out on the Bush administration’s ability to deliver special interest giveaways to its political allies.”

The $1 billion settlement deal comes at a time of tight federal budgets and a worsening economy. Oregon’s Congressional delegation has been struggling to secure $400 million to support rural schools and law enforcement through the renewal of the popular “county payments” program. Given this fiscal reality, the billion-dollar price tag of the settlement agreement seems far-fetched at best. In addition, while the basin is in need of public funding for restoration and water demand reduction, unfortunately a significant portion of the billion dollars would go to private agribusiness interests and not to solving the basin’s problems.

“The Bush administration and agribusiness have come up with a deal that costs a billion dollars, fails to provide enough water for endangered salmon, continues to harm National Wildlife Refuges and doesn’t contain any provision for dam removal,” said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director with Oregon Wild. “They are putting forward an impossible plan and when it fails they are going to try and blame the Oregon and California Congressional delegations for not passing it.”

“While the package has important fisheries restoration components that are needed in the basin, the total package is so loaded up with special interest giveaways to agribusiness that it is hard to see how it could credibly move through Congress,” stated Hunter of WaterWatch.

Contacts:

Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild (503) 283-6343 x 212

Bob Hunter, WaterWatch (541) 826-4399
by Harry Surtees
( hssbladerental [at] hotmail.com ) Tuesday Feb 23rd, 2010 10:00 PM
I fully believe it unconscionable that anyone could build an obstruction to migrating salmon for any reason. The salmon is the most majestic of all fish. He travels for miles in the ocean to return to the river he was concived in and then fights his way up stream against mighty currents and poluted waters to find where he was hatched and gives his life after spawning. He was one of the lucky salmon to have made it full circle. As an eggs, he risked being eaten by stone flies, leaches, and crawfish. And as the little salmon grew a tail and started swimming there were dangers all around, from bigger fish below and skilled hunters from above. And as he made his way to the sea, there were diverted channels leading to farmers fields. Odds are he will never make it to the Ocean. And if he does, and learns to survive three years in the salt water, he is a mighty fish. Theres seals, salmon sharks, and orcaes, not to mention bears and eagels as he accends his home river. And then finds himself running into a dam. There, hes done, finished, kapoot, game over, he lost, eveything for nothing. We as humans are no better than the mighty salmon. At the very least, we certainally have not suffered like he has. And now that we have the power to tear down that dam, let us not fail. To me, salmon reperasent life, and if the salmon die, then so do us humans.