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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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 April 2, 2006

Is it time to stop special interest groups?

Klamath River dam removal foolishness must be stopped.

by James Foley, 

Klamath River dam removal foolishness must be stopped. How can dam removal proponents explain away dams being in place since 1917 when there were documented cycles of massive salmon returns since that time? These cycles have always existed and are well documented, itís not like the dams stopped these cycles. We are in a down cycle now and have been for some time. Before this decline, we were in an up cycle that saw ample returns of salmon.

In 1993, Chinook salmon returned in remarkable numbers in several of the state's rivers. For example, the natural salmon population in the Klamath River is 97,000 adults. But by 1995, the population had soared to 200,000 - levels not seen since the 1960s. This is in spite of the dams being in place.

Between 1932 and 1975, 19 major dams were constructed on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Dams are believed to be detrimental to salmon because they destroy salmon spawning habitat and impede their ability to migrate on the rivers. But the salmon population jumped to record levels during the period between 1947 and 1976.

There is ample scientific evidence that this particular salmon decline is directly due to a warming trend in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California and even up into Canada. This is evidenced by science as well as by fishermen who have recorded catches of Marlin, a warm water ocean fish, off of these coasts. This warm water kills species that salmon need to feed on while at sea, it also increases species that prey on the same food source that salmon need. And lastly it aids the abundance of warm water species that prey on immature salmon.

The warm water ocean phenomenon that has been so detrimental to salmon survival operates on a 20-to-30 year cycle. There is evidence that this ocean cycle is entering a phase that will stimulate a major rebound in the salmon population, making cumbersome government mandates and aggressive recovery programs at the expense of the public and industry unnecessary.

What a monumental mistake it would be to go to the extremity of dam removal based on the false premise of a manmade salmon decline when none exists.

There is much misinformation being spread by special interest groups who only care about their wants. They expect the public, or industry at large, to cater to and pay for those wants, either directly, or though expensive regulatory, restrictive, or court ordered measures imposed on industry, as well as the general public.

There are liaisons being made between fishing and tribal interests that would be laughable if they were not so serious. One interest will help the other in their quest for dam removal and supposed salmon recovery. Both interests are direct competitors for the same salmon resource.

When the dams are removed and if the salmon still do not return, or even decline further, these special interests will then return to aggressive tactics against other water users just as they have at this time. The only difference will be that these two interests will be at odds with each other again. The Karuk Tribe in northern California has proved beyond any denial that they intend to force every other water user to bow to their whim or they will litigate to force their will on those other water users.

Is it possible that fishing interests cannot see the handwriting on the wall? Is it possible that they really believe that if salmon stocks continue to dwindle that their supposed tribal allies will not sue them to keep them from harvesting the salmon that the tribe wants?

Regarding endangered species; what kind of skewed logic allows killing and eating an endangered species by anyone? What kind of flawed ESA management and enforcement practices allow an entity with no federally mandated fishing rights to kill and eat an endangered species?

If they are truly endangered, then all salmon take should be stopped until recovery is accomplished. We donít have a "season" on Bald Eagles, or Spotted Owls, or Grey Wolves, all of which are listed as an endangered species. Why would we have a season on endangered salmon?

If they are not endangered, then they should be removed from the endangered species listing and managed responsibly just like any other species.

Are the special interests that are pushing for removal of dams willing to back away from their agenda if the Klamath River salmon are taken off of the endangered species listing as they have recently been in Oregon? My guess is "NO."

Where are the environmental interests that are adamantly against losing one bit of "wetland" and "habitat?" They caused the water needed by agricultural users to be cut off in the Klamath Basin, resulting in families and businesses losing their farms and businesses. This was all over a sucker fish that they said needed more water. How will this sucker fish survive if dams are removed? Where are these voices now? Where is the army of environmentalists marching and protesting?

Where is the Corps of Engineers or EPA who vigorously prosecute individuals and businesses for filling in or draining a ditch or small pond because it is a wetland? They even go as far as designating wetland status to seasonal water places that dry up in summer.

Why is there no hue and cry from these federal agencies and environmental interests? This dam removal will result in loss of valuable wetland, endangered species, farmers, ranchers, and any of the hundreds of other species that depend on the water behind those dams.

And what about the hundreds of species, both fish, mammal and bird that these dams and resulting lakes have gendered over the last one hundred years? Are they all expendable now? Are farmers, ranchers and the many support industries that are supported by these activities expendable also? What is the true price of unneeded salmon restoration efforts?"

This looks like another case of misguided "selective" environmentalism, "selective" endangered species enforcement, and "selective" water resource management and enforcement. Where is the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) who are charged with maintaining the quality of Oregon's water resources? The release of water from dam removal will release more silt, sediment and pollutants contained in bottom sediment and turbidity than all water quality violations combined. It will foul the Klamath River from Klamath Lake to its mouth with unprecedented releases of substances that ODEQ and EPA imposes hefty fines for when other entities violate the water quality standards that ODEQ or EPA has put in place.

Is America ready to sacrifice all of this for a special interest groups wild idea that dam removal will bring back salmon that are coming back anyway when it is their time to return?

If they are serious in their contention that the dams are responsible, and allowing fish access to the upper basin is the key, my suggestion is that they set about to raise the money for adequate fish ladders to prove their point conclusively. It is time that special interest groups begin paying for the changes they want to see, rather than always expecting others to implement and bear the expense of their suppositions.

There is no question of the importance of salmon to society, it goes without saying. But the last thing California and Oregon need is another "Spotted Owl" fabrication in the guise of salmon recovery.

The Spotted Owl catastrophe cost this country millions in dollars lost as well as thousands of jobs lost and the demise of an entire industry that will never recover from the ravages of radical environmental interests.

Is this the time that the people of this great nation set out to wrest their own destiny from the onslaught of environmentalism gone wild? It can only be done by banding together under a standard of unity. If the people who will be affected by this dam removal will not unite together in a common cause, they will not prevail and will, in effect, become a part of the problem, as well as their own demise.

James Foley is a suction dredge miner living in Happy Camp, California. He is a retired atmospheric research technician for UCLA and former business owner. Foley is President of National Land Rights League and a member of the New 49'ers prospecting organization. He created the New 40er message forum and Alaska Gold forum.

 

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