Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

March 12, 2004


KWUA Participates in Trinity River Discussion in Sacramento

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) yesterday in Sacramento joined representatives from federal agencies, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, and Westlands Water District to discuss recent developments on the Trinity River, the largest tributary to the Klamath River. The 90-minute panel discussion, moderated by Jeffrey Mount of the University of California at Davis, marked the opening of the Annual Executive Briefing, hosted by the Water Education Foundation.  Coincidentally, the event occurred just one week after a proposal was offered up by federal officials to settle contentious flow issues on the Trinity River. That proposal gained widespread press coverage last week after the Hoopa Valley Tribe – which believes more water should be returned to Trinity River by Central Valley Project (CVP) irrigators – said the package favored and was similar to a settlement proposed by the Westlands Water District last year, which the tribe rejected.

The first half of yesterday’s discussion focused on explaining the nature of the disagreements about the 2000 Trinity River Record of Decision (ROD) and describing the connection of the ROD to the Central Valley Project landscape. Additional perspectives were provided by panel participants regarding the debate over the 2002 fish die-off on the Klamath River, which occurred below the confluence of the Trinity and the mainstem Klamath. Moderator Mount at the onset acknowledged the difficulty associated with addressing this matter in ninety minutes.

"Keeping this from becoming an internal discussion between those who know specifics to the exclusion of the audience will form a challenge," he said.

Mount introduced the panel, and summarized the Trinity River Restoration Program and the 2000 ROD, concentrating on the complexity of the issues surrounding the ROD, as well as some of its direct and indirect consequences. Mount explained that the ROD proposes leaving additional Trinity River water in–stream, which would mean correspondingly less water for the CVP, which diverts Trinity flows through a tunnel system into the Central Valley.

The panelists then weighed in with views about the 2000 ROD, including its failings and its strong points. Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands, described the intent behind a lawsuit launched by CVP water users over ROD-related impacts to water and power. Steve Thompson (US Fish and Wildlife Service California/Nevada manager) and Mike Ryan (US Bureau of Reclamation) provided the federal position on the ROD. Mike Orcutt then responded to the
agencies and Westlands, outlining the view of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. Dan Keppen, KWUA Executive Director, discussed the importance of the Trinity River to the Klamath River watershed, and explained how the 2002 fish die-off could not be solely linked to flow conditions in either river. Keppen then led off the second half of the discussion, where each panelist provided views on potential future outcomes on the Trinity River.

"We cannot simply wish that the watershed will be transformed to conditions that existed 150 years ago," said Keppen. "This system must be managed as a whole to account for the demands currently placed on it by competing interests. To do that, increased knowledge, improved management, and cohesive community action are needed."

Water Users, CDFG Director Address Sacramento Valley Irrigators’ Meeting

Representatives from the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) on Tuesday addressed an audience of over one hundred irrigators at the joint annual meeting of the Western Canal Water District and Richvale Irrigation District, held in the community of Richvale, just south of Chico, California. KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen and CDFG Director Ryan Broddrick each spoke for 30 minutes at the event, and Klamath Basin issues were a topic of mutual discussion in both presentations.

Keppen outlined the events of the past 2-½ years, starting with the April 2001 decision by the federal government to curtail Upper Klamath Lake water supplies to Klamath Project irrigators for the first time in 95 years. In the controversy that ensued, public demonstrations and increased political attention regarding the decision-making that led to the water curtailment culminated in an independent peer review study by the National Research Council. That study found little scientific support for higher coho salmon flow recommendations and no empirical support for the high lake level elevations (for sucker fish) that contributed to the 2001 curtailment. Keppen said that, while the federal agencies were working hard to provide additional Klamath Project operations flexibility, the current continued emphasis on lake levels and river flows makes things difficult for Project irrigators. Broddrick also briefly discussed CDFG plans for Klamath in his presentation.

"We’re going to focus on reducing landowner-fish conflicts through incremental development of projects," said Broddrick. "We will, however, be challenged by budget constraints."

Portland Meeting Scheduled for Klamath Basin Interests to "Restore Harmony"

The Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) is hosting a work session in Portland next week in an attempt to develop a consensus on how property rights and markets might play a role in resolving contentious conflicts. Among the invited participants in next week’s meeting are representatives of the Klamath Water Users Association, Running Y Ranch, the Klamath Tribes, conservation groups and agricultural interests.

PERC entered this debate with a publication entitled "Restoring Harmony in the Klamath Basin", which addresses the potential for water markets to resolve conflicts like the one in Klamath.

"This paper placed the debate in the context of the property rights paradigm, identified existing rights holders, and suggested how clarification of water rights could reduce acrimony between the various parties," said Terry Anderson, PERC Executive Director.

The Portland meeting is intended to outline the basics of a property rights approach, after which each participant will be asked to develop a short position paper assessing how a property rights approach would affect his or her interest group. Participants will then be expected to present their position statements at a one-day conference in Klamath Falls on June 8, 2004. KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen will participate in the conference, although he has questions about the practicality of implementing a market-driven water transfer program in the Klamath Basin.

"Such a paradigm cannot exist until the water rights certification process if completed, which may not occur for ten years or more," he said.

Reclamation Responds to KWUA Request for Improved Klamath River Monitoring

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently responded to a letter prepared by the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) late last summer that outlined the association’s recommendations for addressing the types of problems that arose in the fall of 2002 on the lower Klamath River, where 33,000 fish died. The KWUA letter, which was addressed to Oregon Governor Kulongoski, U.S. Interior Secretary Norton and then-California Resources Secretary Nichols, was later transmitted directly to Secretary Norton as an attachment to a letter prepared by U.S. Reps. Doolittle (R-CA), Herger (R-CA) and Walden (R-OR). The KWUA outlined short-term recommendations, which formed the basis for four primary long-term actions:

  • Creation of a Central Monitoring System to assess water quality and flow parameters to alert of potential conditions that might lead to fish die-offs in the Klamath-Trinity system.
  • Improved coordination between Klamath Project and Central Valley Project Trinity River export operations to meet potential emergency needs.
  • Pulse flow management that is driven by sound science and collaboration.
  • Improved hatchery management.

Reclamation Regional Director Kirk Rodgers responded to the KWUA letter, noting that the recovery and delisting of imperiled fish species are of "utmost concern" to the Department of Interior.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries are collaborating with other fishery interests in the Klamath Basin to collect and make use of high-quality scientific information," Rodgers wrote. "Toward that end, Reclamation believes that a number of the recommendations identified in your letter have merit."

KWUA developed recommendations regarding data collection and assessment that the association believes should be implemented immediately. Short-term recommendations were developed in the following areas:

  • General water quality monitoring
  • Deep pool water quality monitoring
  • Assessment of potential fish migration barriers
  • Collection of fish health data
  • Reporting of salmon run size and timing
  • Management of river flow information
  • Decision-making regarding Trinity River releases

"We believe that sound science, and not divisive politics, should drive management decisions on the Klamath River," said KWUA President Steve Kandra. "We’re pleased that the Bush Administration is considering our recommendations."


Wednesday, March 16, 2004. KWUA Power Committee Meeting. 3:00 p.m. KWUA Office, 2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3, Klamath Falls.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004. KWUA Executive Committee Meeting. 2:00 p.m. KWUA Office, 2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3, Klamath Falls.


Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893  kwua@cvcwireless.net

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