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Wednesday, October 23, 2003

For Immediate Release

Walden, Doolittle, Herger Request Resources Committee Hearing to Examine NRC Report on Klamath Water Shut-off

National Research Council (NRC) report confirms that 2001 water shut-off lacked scientific justification; refuses to blame Klamath Project for 2002 fish kill; establishes roadmap for recovery of sucker fish & coho salmon,

success & sustainability of Klamath agriculture

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressmen Greg Walden (R-OR), John Doolittle (R-CA) and Wally Herger (R-CA) have asked the House Committee on Resources to hold a hearing to examine the report issued this week by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which was commissioned following the 2001 water shut-off to Klamath Project irrigators. The NRC report, entitled "Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin," confirmed that the shut-off of irrigation water in the Klamath Basin was made without scientific justification. The report also disputed the notion that manipulating water allocations to the Klamath Project will succeed in restoring sucker fish and coho salmon populations. Additionally, the NRC report concluded that there is insufficient evidence to assign responsibility for the September 2002 fish die-off of Chinook salmon, which many prematurely blamed on the diversion of water to support Klamath Basin irrigators.

"It’s critical that the House Resources Committee examines the findings of the NRC report to help identify ways we can prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred in the Klamath Basin in 2001 from happening again," said Walden. "This report has the potential to accomplish two preeminent, long-term goals: protecting endangered fish species and ensuring the sustainability of Klamath Basin agriculture. We have an obligation to closely study the science behind this report and determine which projects hold the most promise to achieve the goals of all stakeholders in the Basin. Many of the projects we’ve urged for years are expressly called for in this report, so we now have solid scientific backing to support our goals."

Walden led the first field hearing of the Resources Committee in Klamath Falls in June 2001 following the irrigation water shut-off, which included Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA). This hearing established a national forum to investigate both the causes and effects of the drastic water shut-off. Walden, Doolittle, Herger and Pombo have worked closely together in Congress to protect farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin and elsewhere against unjustified assaults on their way of life.

Walden continued, "Having a committed leader like Chairman Pombo makes all the difference, and I commend him for his leadership on this issue. I’m looking forward to working with our chairman to ensure that another ‘Klamath’ doesn’t happen in the future."

California Congressmen Wally Herger and John Doolitte concurred with Walden on the need for a Resources Committee hearing.

"The NRC report is a green light for agriculture in the Klamath Basin, confirming what we've said all along – that demands for additional water from our farmers lack any scientific basis," said Herger. "Ultimately, we must do everything possible to ensure this kind of tragic situation never happens again. This hearing will provide Congress a national forum to highlight the dire consequences of an inflexible Endangered Species Act. In addition, this will allow Congress to scrutinize the report's recommendations on fish recovery, and respond to public and community concerns about possible impacts to agriculture."

"The National Academy of Sciences report makes it clear that farmers using only two percent of the water should not be held accountable for 100 percent of the problems confronting the entire Klamath River Basin," said Doolittle.  "I am confident that the Resources Committee will review this analysis and finally put an end to the questionable science and myth making that has manipulated this process for too long."

Among the recommendations contained in the NRC report is the removal of Chiloquin Dam on the Sprague River, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates blocks 95 percent of the sucker habitat. Walden introduced legislation in 2001 to authorize a study of fish passage issues at Chiloquin Dam, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2002. The working group created by Walden’s legislation concluded in July 2003 that removing Chiloquin Dam represents the best means of restoring the spawning habitat of the sucker fish. Walden is now leading the effort in Congress to secure federal funds and authority to implement the group’s findings.





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