Klamath Water Users Association
May 30, 2003
Interior Schedules Regional Conferences to Plan for Future Water Crises
The U.S. Department of the Interior will conduct a series of conferences this summer aimed at expanding the dialogue on ways of preventing the critical water supply problems facing many communities in the West, Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced earlier this week. The regional conferences are set for Phoenix, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Boise, Billings, Albuquerque, and Austin, Texas. The Secretary earlier announced the kickoff conference, which will be held in Denver on June 6.
"The communities facing the greatest water supply shortages in the coming decades should have a leading role in this effort, and collaboration is critical to develop locally driven, practical solutions," Norton said, noting the importance of working closely with state and local officials, environmental organizations, tribes, and public interest groups. Representatives from the Klamath Water Users Association will participate in the July 10th meeting in Sacramento.
The goals of the conferences are to identify the watersheds facing the greatest potential risk in the next 25 years, evaluate the most effective ways of addressing water supply challenges, and recommend cooperative planning approaches and tools that have the most likelihood of success.
"Failing to strategically address long-term, systematic problems caused by competing demands for a finite water supply can have significant consequences," Norton said, specifically referencing the conflicts that have developed because of water shortages in the Klamath River and Middle Rio Grande River basins.
Judge Armstrong Calls For Telephone Hearing in PCFFA v. USBR
Federal district court Judge Saundra Armstrong on Wednesday notified attorneys that, after reviewing documents submitted to the court for PCCFA et al. v. USBR et al., she has questions she would like to pose to engaged parties before issuing an order. Judge Armstrong last week cancelled a hearing scheduled for May 20th in Oakland and announced she would base her decision upon the papers that had already been filed in the case.
“We have tentatively scheduled a telephonic hearing for next Thursday, June 5th,” said David Haddock of the Pacific Legal Foundation and attorney for the Klamath Water Users Association, who is intervening on behalf of the defendants in the case. “We won't know for sure whether it will happen then until we see an order setting the date, but that is the date and time we are planning for.”
Irrigators Line Up to Conserve Water
Klamath Basin irrigators are showing a high level of interest in participating in cost-share water conservation programs provided by the 2002 Farm Bill. Thus far, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has received over 600 applications from local irrigators to participate in the Klamath Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP), intended to improve on-farm water use efficiency. Based on current projections, NRCS anticipates developing approximately 185 conservation plans and EQIP contracts basin-wide. This includes projects such as conversion from flood irrigation to sprinkler and retrofitting existing sprinkler systems. Typical on-farm water savings are expected to range from 2 to 30 acre-inches/acre.
Western Irrigators Await Enviros’ Reaction to “Water 2025”
As the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) begins to roll out its long-term western water planning program – termed by U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton as “Water 2025” – federal project irrigators throughout the West are curious to see how - and if- traditional critics of irrigated agriculture will contribute to the proceedings. The Western Water Alliance (WWA), a coalition of environmental advocates and tribal interests that calls for “reform” of federal reclamation projects – including the Klamath Project – is already apparently perusing websites of irrigation organizations to assess how they will weigh in on Water 2025.
“The Family Farm Alliance (FFA), the staunchest and most effective advocate for Reclamation irrigators, has released its position on Water 2025 and the issues that initiative presents,” WWA noted in a recent newsletter. “Given their perspective, the response is unsurprising: that contracts and state law are supreme; that their claims on most of the developable water supplies should be respected and particularly that environmental laws should not trump their claims.”
On June 17, 2002 - timed to coincide with Reclamation's centennial anniversary – the newly formed Western Water Alliance issued a press release calling for fundamental reform of federal water policies to meet "21st century environmental, economic and community needs". The alliance specifically identified the Klamath watershed as one in need of priority reform. The alliance includes American Rivers, a Washington, D.C. –based group
that has twice pegged the Klamath River as “endangered” in the past year. The alliance board of directors includes Bob Hunter of WaterWatch, a group that has: 1) Instigated several acts of litigation; 2) Unsuccessfully petitioned to the state of Oregon in 2002 to halt further appropriation of waters from the Klamath Basin; and 3) Participated in a questionable real estate scheme that allowed the group standing in the Klamath River adjudication process until a state hearings officer ejected the organization from the process earlier this spring.
Native American Rights Fund executive director Walter Echohawk chairs the alliance board, and Steve Malloch of Trout Unlimited is the alliance's executive director. At a WWA gathering held in San Francisco last November, the group identified as a high priority the need to maintain close ties between environmental groups and tribal interests. Another apparent primary objective of that meeting was to develop a strategy to counter a Republican-controlled Congress and tarnish the Bush administration’s image with the local electorate.
“These guys are watching what we say about Water 2025 because they realize it is a huge threat to their agenda,” said Craig Smith, FFA Executive Director. “It is secretarial level initiative that is giving them an opportunity to be part of a collective attempt to resolve some thorny issues. That is a big problem for someone who has no intentions of solving anything. They want these issues to burn red hot so they can use them to help achieve their political goal - dislodge President Bush and the Republican control of Congress.”
For more information on the Western Water Alliance and its objectives, access their website: www.westernwateralliance.org and click on to the link of the November 2002 San Francisco meeting.
Sea Lions Gorge on Oregon Salmon
Earlier this week, The Portland Oregonian reported on increased concerns about the potential threat to endangered stocks of Columbia River salmon and steelhead trout posed by burgeoning numbers of sea lions feasting upon them. As of last week, more than 100 California sea lions have devoured an estimated 2,700 adult salmon and steelhead trout near Bonneville Dam. Since 1972, when Congress made it a federal crime to kill sea lions, seals, whales and other marine mammals, West Coast sea lion populations have exploded from fewer than 1,500 to over 200,000.
Anyone who visits the lower Klamath River can tell a similar story. Humboldt State University students in 1978, just six years after federal protections for sea lions and seals were enacted, observed harbor seal activity below Highway 101 and estimated that 35 percent of the tagged salmonids released were eaten by these predators. Based on repeated reports by Indian net fishermen and the experiences of federal biologists, it appears that harbor seals are also effective predators on net-caught fish. Lampreys – proposed for Endangered Species Act protection by certain environmental groups – are also a favorite staple of sea lions camped near the mouth of the Klamath River.
Factors Affecting Klamath River Salmonids
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have described the most important eight factors as “most frequently referred to with regard to recent population declines” of anadromous fish in the Klamath River:
1) Over fishing;
3) Trinity River transbasin diversion;
4) Irrigation diversions in lower Klamath tributaries;
5) 1964 flood ;
6) 1976-1977 drought;
7) Sea lion predation;
8) Brown trout predation.
Based on this study and extensive review of other sources, it is clear that numerous factors other than the recent historical mainstem flow regime at Iron Gate Dam have affected Klamath River fishery resources.
USFWS to Halt Critical Habitat Designations – Pombo Weighs In
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced this week that it will temporarily halt designating land as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to shortage of funds this fiscal year. While environmental groups pointed to the announcement as yet another attack by the Bush administration on the environment, U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) applauded the move. "The Bush administration claims they don't have money to protect these species and their homes, but the fact is they've engineered this budget crisis themselves," said Susan Holmes, a senior policy analyst for Earthjustice.
“Today the radical environmental community in America attacked the Bush Administration again with the signature scare-tactics they've used for the last three decades,” countered Pombo. “Frankly, their rhetoric has become tiresome for all Americans. It's like watching a bad, thirty year-old horror movie: the effects are terrible because the technology is poor, the acting is weak, and the writing is painful.”
Pombo – a strong supporter of Klamath Project irrigators - admonished environmental groups - plaintiffs in nearly all of the lawsuits brought against USFWS for ESA non-compliance - for blaming the Bush administration.
“I call upon all these groups to change the focus,” said Pombo. “Stop the politics of fear, doom, and gloom. Join this administration is applying results-based science to actually recover endangered species in America.”
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Monday, June 2nd, 2003, Klamath Hydro Relicensing Water Quality Meeting. 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., Windmill Inn, Ashland, Oregon.
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2003, Klamath Hydro Relicensing Aquatics Meeting. 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Socioeconomics Meeting. 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Windmill Inn, Ashland, Oregon.
Wednesday, June 4th, 2003, Klamath Hydro Relicensing Recreation/Cultural Meeting. 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Aquatics Meeting. 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Windmill Inn, Ashland, Oregon.
Thursday, June 6th, 2003, Klamath Hydro Relicensing Fish Passage/Aquatics Meeting: 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Aquatics Meeting: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Recreation Meeting: 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Windmill Inn, Ashland, Oregon.
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