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Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense

Fishermen Vote to Support Klamath Dam Removal, Oppose Arnold's Water Bond
by Dan Bacher
Monday Nov 9th, 2009 4:20 PM
The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations today announced their vote to support Klamath dam removal. They also announced their opposition to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's $11.1 billion water bond, a pork festival that will lead to the construction of the peripheral canal and more dams.

Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor for fish and the environment in California history, cynically manipulated the water bond measure to include $250 million for Klamath dam removal in an attempt to trade dam removal on one river system for two new dams and a peripheral canal on another river system.

Photo: Governor Schwarzenegger held a press conference on Friday to discuss the passage of a water package that will clear the path to the construction of a peripheral canal and more dams. From left to right: San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Assemblymember Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), Assemblymember Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Audra Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks).

NEWS RELEASE
from the
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations
Southwest Regional Office
PO Box 29370 San Francisco, CA 94129-0370
(415)561-5080 Fax: (415)561-5464

Distribution: ALL MEDIA
Release Date: 11/09/09

Contact: Zeke Grader, Executive Director
(415)561-5080 x 224 or Cell: (415)606-5140

Glen Spain, NW Regional Director
(541)689-2000 Email: fish1ifr [at] aol.com


Commercial Fishermen Votes to Support Klamath Dam Removal
But PCFFA Nixes Support for Bond Act, Tells State to Look Elsewhere for Funds

San Francisco, CA, November 9, 2009 –The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), the west coast’s largest commercial fishermen’s organization on the West Coast, formally endorsed and indicated its preliminary support for the Klamath Basin’s dam removal deal released September 30th, the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA), now out for public review. The vote, which took place Thursday, 5 November, after weeks of review, was announced today.

This Hydropower Agreement, now released for public review, targets four-dam removal in the Klamath by 2020, subject to: 1) environmental impacts analysis, and; 2) a decision by the Secretary of Interior by March 31, 2012 on whether dam removal will benefit the Klamath’s damaged salmon fishery and be in the public interest.

The PCFFA Board also endorsed and supported the parallel Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), which was released in Draft form on January 15, 2008. The Restoration Agreement is now being revised in light of the newly negotiated Hydropower Agreement which it accompanies. That KBRA Restoration Agreement would put more water in the Klamath River for salmon as well as launch a 50-year Klamath Basin salmon restoration program to recover the Klamath’s economically important salmon runs.

PCFFA’s endorsement of both Agreements is preliminary, pending the completion, release and final review of the whole Klamath Settlement package, which is likely within the next few weeks. However, PCFFA is the first organization to formally endorse both Agreements. PCFFA has been a participant in negotiations with PacifiCorp, which owns the dams, since 2000.

“These may not be the best conceivable agreements, but I believe they are the best agreements we could have gotten in the less-than-perfect world we live in,” said Dave Bitts, President of PCFFA. “During the twelve years I spent on the Klamath Basin Task Force, we accomplished many good things in the Klamath’s tributaries, but we were never able to address the two big mainstem Klamath issues: water quality and flows. These agreements deal with both.”

“The agreement is a good start to restoring this great salmon watershed” said Zeke Grader, PCFFA Executive Director. “We have no illusions about the road ahead being easy - pushing for timely dam removal and fixing problems elsewhere in the basin including fish flows in the tributaries and dealing with water quality problems in the mainstem river won’t be easy, but at least we’ve started.”

The Klamath River once produced the third largest salmon runs in the U.S., averaging about 880,000 returning adults each year – before a series of dams, federal irrigation projects and other modern developments were brought to the basin, radically changing its hydrology. Today the Klamath River’s fall chinook salmon runs are hovering at about 10% of their historic run size. Klamath coho (or “silver”) salmon, once abundant in the basin, have since plunged to less than 2% of their original numbers and are now federally protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Flows in the basin are now being managed by court order after years of contentious litigation and conflict that the Klamath Settlement Agreements are intended to help resolve.

The four Klamath Hydropower Project Dams (J.C. Boyle, CopCo 1 & 2, and Iron Gate Dam), which bisect the river today near the Oregon-California border, have been an ongoing disaster for Klamath salmon since the first dam (CopCo 1) was built in 1916 – but without any fish passage. Additional dams without fish passage have since blocked salmon access to more than 600 stream-miles of once fully occupied spawning and rearing habitat. If access is restored by dam removal, this habitat above the dams – much of it still in good condition – could support an estimated 111,000 additional (and very valuable) salmon and steelhead.

The Klamath dams also stop the natural flow of the river, turning it into nutrient filled, warm-water reservoirs that are ideal breeding grounds for toxic algae. Some of the highest concentrations of toxic blue-green algae in the world have been documented in these reservoirs. The dams also create warm-water plumes that flow downriver and stress cold-water salmon, making them more vulnerable to disease and predators. The dams also catch and hold natural gravel and prevent it from reaching lower river salmon spawning grounds, further reducing the river’s salmon productivity.

Beginning in spring 2002, the parasite Ceratomyxa shasta has been killing up to 90% of the juvenile salmon trying to reach the ocean from the Klamath River. This parasite and its other host, an algae-dwelling worm, have bloomed to very high concentrations in the river especially just below Iron Gate Dam. They are associated with warmer water, lower flows, and probably with lack of gravel to scour the bottom during high flows in winter. Removing the dams and increasing flows are probably the best means of reducing the abundance and lethal effects of this virulent fish parasite.

The PCFFA Board of Directors adopted the following formal PCFFA Board Resolution:

“RESOLVED: The PCFFA Board has reviewed the draft Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) as well as the parallel but separate Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and believes that these two agreements, taken together and assuming the KHSA ultimately results in four-dam removal, will substantially benefit the Klamath River salmon runs, and will support their recovery.

“We therefore endorse and approve these Agreements in their present preliminary but incomplete form, and encourage the Parties to these negotiations to complete them to final form, for public release and our final review and decision. While we endorse and support these two Agreements in their current admittedly unfinished form, our final support for these Agreements and signature thereon as a Party to these two Agreements is of course contingent on our final review of the completed Agreements, including approval of any draft legislation required to implement these two Agreements.”

The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) represents an historic step forward toward fully restoring the Klamath River’s once great salmon runs. Embodying a thorough state and federal determination of environmental impacts and costs, it calls upon the Interior Secretary to make an informed decision on Klamath dam removal by March 31, 2012, with the active participation of all the Parties to that Agreement. The KHSA is also a considerable improvement on the original “Agreement in Principle (AIP)” that was released in November, 2008, now including major roles for stakeholders such as PCFFA to shape its implementation.

However, it should be noted that while PCFFA supports funding from the State of California for Klamath Dam removal, as required under the KHSA, support for that Klamath funding does not require support for the recent Water Bond Act (SB 2), passed by the Legislature that will be on the November 2010 ballot, that includes language (e.g., new Central Valley water conveyance or surface water storage) that would damage salmon runs elsewhere. The KHSA was intentionally drafted so parties to the agreement are not required to support funding measures containing provisions unrelated to the Klamath dams (KHSA Sec. 4.1.2(B)(ii)). Moreover, an affirmative Secretarial Determination can still be made in 2012 even if the Water Bond Act fails at the polls, since California can find other sources for its share of Klamath dam removal funding (KHSA Secs. 3.3.4(2) and 4.1.2(A)) between now and the 2020 target date for removal.

PCFFA does not support the Water Bond Act in its current form.

Many of the existing cost estimates for dam removal have come in well below the $200 million PacifiCorp contribution required under the KHSA. It may well be that the California bond “backup” funding of $250 million will ultimately not be needed. Determining the ultimate costs of the dam removal project is part of the NEPA/CEQA process, and cost estimates will be greatly refined over the next two years leading up to the Secretarial Decision on March 31, 2012.

The two Draft Klamath Settlement Agreements and their Summaries can be found at: http://www.edsheets.com. A printable copy of this press release is also attached.

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