Klamath Water Users Association
Sep. 11, 2003
Herger, Doolittle and Walden Weigh In on Key Klamath Basin Initiatives
Congressman Greg Walden (R-Oregon) yesterday delivered a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton that outlined concerns regarding four critical issues in the Klamath River Basin. Walden – along with California Representatives Wally Herger and John Doolittle – signed a letter that urged Interior Department action towards delisting of Lost River and Shortnose sucker fish, provide additional water storage in the Basin, and lead to a better understanding of the events that precipitated the September 2002 Klamath River fish die-off.
September 2002 Fish Die-Off
Recent findings argued by the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) in federal court show that water temperatures in the upper Klamath River downstream of Iron Gate Dam during September 2002 were unsuitable for salmon. The congressional letter cites KWUA’s findings, which showed that large numbers of salmon entered the lower Klamath River earlier than usual and were exposed to two uncharacteristic cooling and warming conditions likely causing disease outbreak from warm water and crowded conditions. According to these findings, the combination of these factors was chronically and cumulatively stressful to fish and is probably the most plausible reason for the fish die-off.
“These data indicate that September 2002 was unusual, but not necessarily for the reasons portrayed by opponents of the Klamath Project, who sought to immediately assign blame to the Project,” the congressional letter states.
The letter submitted to Secretary Norton included as an attachment KWUA’s recommendations regarding data collection and assessment intended to ensure that sound science drives management decisions this fall on the lower river.
The congressional letter urges Interior to expedite the final review of recommendations recently developed by an Upper Basin working group to improve fish passage at Chiloquin Dam on the Sprague River. That structure effectively blocked approximately 95% of the potential spawning range of suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The working group-, which included representatives of KWUA and the Klamath Tribes – agreed that removal of the dam provides the best biological benefits to sucker fish.
Long Lake Reservoir
The letter signed by Walden, Doolittle and Herger also urges funding support for a feasibility study to examine the potential to pump water from Upper Klamath Lake, via the Geary Canal, over a ridge into Long Lake, a dry lakebed. The Klamath County Board of Commissioners, KWUA, Tulelake Growers Association and the Klamath Tribes have all supported this funding proposal.
The Barnes Ranch has been discussed as a potential project for increasing water storage and flexibility of Klamath Project operations. While the letter expresses support for efforts to increase storage, it questions, among other things, Interior’s position detailing the value of the property. The letter requests a detailed response on this and other issues.
Lower Klamath River Flow Study Discussed by Local Water Panel
A group of local water resources interests on Monday evening in Klamath Falls participated in a two-hour workshop that focused on recent Klamath River hydrologic findings presented by Dr. Ken Rykbost, Superintendent of the Oregon State University Klamath Experiment Station. While Rykbost’s 45-minute slide presentation covered key hydrologic aspects of the entire Klamath River watershed, much of the ensuing panel discussion focused on his assessment of a controversial Klamath River draft flow study prepared by Dr. Thomas Hardy of Utah State University. That study, if implemented, would deprive Klamath Project irrigators and refuges of full supplies in 1 out of 3 years, and still not meet its own flow targets.
"The main thing is to understand that the Hardy flow targets are impossible to meet in most years and if operation is based on these targets then the Klamath Project is doomed," Rykbost told an audience gathered in the Klamath County Commissioners Chambers.
The Hardy flow reports build upon previous instream flow recommendations made for the main stem Klamath River based on analyses of hydrology data. This work was originally commissioned to address instream flows required to support ecological and tribal trust needs in the main stem Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam (IGD). The Yurok Tribes, California Department of Fish and Game, and environmental activists have advocated that the Hardy Phase II Draft Report be finalized and immediately implemented. Rykbost’s findings suggest that the Hardy flow targets likely exceed the Upper Basin’s capacity to meet the flows, maintain Upper Klamath Lake levels established for sucker fish, and satisfy irrigation and refuge water needs.
Long-time fisheries biologist David Vogel has his own concerns regarding the Hardy studies, which he submitted in a declaration to an Oakland, California federal court earlier this year.
“I examined some of the field sites used for the draft Hardy Phase II report and found that those areas were notably non-representative of the majority of fish habitats in the Klamath River,” said Vogel. “It appears that those sites I examined may have been chosen more for ease of access. Many of the most-representative fish habitats in the Klamath River are more difficult to access than the Hardy Phase II study sites I examined. This is one reason, among many, why I believe the ultimate computer modeling outputs in the draft Hardy Phase II report are artificially skewed to erroneously conclude that very high Iron Gate Dam releases are needed for salmon in the main stem Klamath River.”
The current Klamath Project operations plan is still influenced, in part, by the Hardy recommendations.
In addition to discussing the Hardy studies, Rykbost also summarized other key findings, including his observation that the high summer flows requested for environmental uses are only potentially available because of Klamath Project storage.
Following Dr. Rykbost's presentation, Klamath County Commissioner Steve West moderated a panel that discussed key aspects of Rykbost's presentation. Panelists included Harry Carlson (UC Extension), Dan Keppen (KWUA), Dave Solem (Klamath Irrigation District), Ron Hathaway (OSU Extension), Rodney Todd (OSU Extension), and Rick Woodley (Klamath County Soil and Water Conservation District).
Initial Hardy Report – Basis for 2001 Klamath River Flows - “Fatally Flawed”
In June 2002, Miller Ecological Consultants, Inc. of Ft .Collins, Colorado completed its assessment of the Phase I Hardy Report, which was used as the interim basis for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) biological opinion (BO) for 2001 Klamath Project Operations. That opinion called for higher than normal flow releases at Iron Gate Dam, ultimately contributing to the federal government’ s decision in 2001 to curtail water – with disastrous community impacts – to Klamath Project family farms and ranches. Miller found the Phase I Hardy Report to be “fatally flawed” for the following reasons:
A biological basis for the interim flows is currently absent.
There are no literature citations for conclusions or for statements of fact regarding fish life history. Attribution is lacking…especially where Hardy lists information regarding species life history, temperature thermal limits, habitat requisites or use of various sections of the river by fish.
The report relies heavily upon personal communication and unpublished reports.
It is not possible to determine if the five hydrology-based methods used to drive interim flows were applied correctly.
No mention of any field effort is listed…so one would assume the methodology was not correctly followed for deriving a minimum instream flow.
The hydrologic methods used are not used today for a variety of reasons. Most of the methods used to determine interim flow are no longer applied except in the simplest situations.
The hydrologic methods used are generally arbitrary in nature and lack a biological basis for the flow specifications. It appears that no field visits or field documentation of any of the methodologies were conducted.
Each of the methodologies applied in the system are hydrology-based and have little or no biological basis for the derived flow.
The application of the Phase I instream flows is based solely on hydrology and ignores water quality, which may be a larger issue in limiting in the system.
The “Hardy Phase Flow Reports” – so named for its primary author, Dr. Thomas Hardy of Utah State University – build upon previous instream flow recommendations made for the main stem Klamath River based on analyses of hydrology data. This work was originally commissioned to address instream flows required to support ecological and tribal trust needs in the main stem Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam. While the initial Hardy flow recommendations formed the basis for the 2001 NMFS coho BO, the final – or “Phase II” recommendations – are still in draft form. However, the current NMFS BO flow schedule represents a “compromise” between the Hardy flows and findings presented in an interim report prepared by the National Academy of Sciences.
Water Users Support Study of Long Lake Offstream Storage Project
At its August 2003 Regular Meeting of the Board of Directors, the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) authorized support for the August 11, 2003 letter adopted by the Klamath County Commission to study the feasibility of developing new offstream water supplies at Long Lake.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has proposed in its 10-year biological assessment for Klamath Project operations to undertake feasibility studies authorized by the Klamath Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2000 to study enhancing the water supply available for Project use. According to KWUA, a technical study of the Long Lake proposal is an appropriate expenditure of federal funds provided by this federal legislation. The association also believes there are other potential projects that merit further consideration and screening via the Supply Enhancement Act. Implementation of actual projects and/or programs would be contingent upon the results of the feasibility studies, Congressional approval, authorization, appropriation, and completion of appropriate environmental compliance activities.
Local water users view storage as a more permanent solution, while the current Klamath Project pilot water bank is seen as an interim measure that can be employed to compensate irrigators in drier years.
“Ultimately, the water demands of the Klamath Basin can best be satisfied through the development of new water storage facilities,” KWUA noted in a letter to the Klamath County Commission. “Water users believe that, as new surface storage facilities are developed, the yield generated by those facilities should directly reduce the amount of water required by – and the need for - the water bank.”
Senator Gordon Smith’s Tragic Loss
The 21-year-old son of Senator Gordon H. Smith, R-Ore., committed suicide at his home in Utah, the senator's office said Tuesday. Garrett Smith died Monday, according to a statement the office released. He was "a wonderful young man who brought joy into the life of his family and friends. Garrett suffered from severe depression for many years. We wish the Smith family peace and comfort as they grieve this terrible tragedy," said the senator's chief of staff, John Easton.
Smith was re-elected to a second six-year term last year. He has been a strong and consistent champion for Klamath Project irrigators. He and his wife, Sharon, have two other children. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Please keep Senator Gordon Smith, his wife Sharon and their two other children, Brittany and Morgan, in your thoughts and prayers during this very sad time.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Thursday, September 11, 2003 – Klamath Project Tour with University Presidents and Agency Staff. 10:30 a.m. – 5: 00 p.m.
Friday, September 12, 2003 – Central Valley Project Improvement Act Conference, Hosted by the University of California, Berkeley. San Francisco, California. KWUA will participate in a panel entitled "Whither Reclamation Law In Its Second Century (or is Reclamation Reform Dead)?" Other panel members include John Diaz of the San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Page, Art Baggett, California State Water Resources Control Board, Prof. John Leshy, and Prof. Dave Sunding.
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