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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Let's Cut the BS!
by Pat Ratliff, Klamath Courier November 3, 2004

  While attending the recent CIP meeting in Chiloquin last Thursday, I had a bit of a surprise.  Listed on the screen as one of the objectives of the program was " restore the sucker fish and get it de-listed."  That's not word for word, but close enough to give you an idea.  A noble objective, I'd say.
   The idea of the CIP program is to get all interested parties involved and implement programs to try to find solutions to the Klamath River Basin water problems.  The design is to work bottom up, meaning the government agencies will not head the different groups but only work with them, with leaders evolving out of the groups that form.  That could be a good thing in my opinion.  There is a lot of mistrust of some of our government agencies throughout the Basin.  Some of it is warranted and some is not.  I think we can all agree that there are some good, intelligent, honest, hard working people working for each of the government agencies who will be involved with this program.
   This program holds a lot of promise.  I believe that if there is hope to find a solution to our problems, a program such as this will be the way we find that solution.
   We have all complained at one time or another that no one hears us.  We feel we are the *little people* and no one is interested in our opinions or feelings.  Here now is our chance to change that because everyone is allowed to participate.
   I didn't quite say that right, although everyone IS allowed to participate.  I think what we are going to find is that everyone is pretty much going to be required to participate.  The government is gearing up to spend a lot of money through a number of agencies in the Klamath River Basin. Large groups of people are going to be deciding which are the best ways to spend that money, and implement programs working towards goals which those same groups will decide upon.  If we aren't there working, we won't have a say in what goes on.
   If that holds up hope for you then you are in the same boat I am.  I think this program holds a promise of achieving more than any other program has because, by design, everyone will be included.  Everyone from the highest reaches of the Sprague River to the last landowner at the mouth of the Klamath River will be allowed to not only voice his or her opinions but work with others to achieve a common goal.
   I can see monumental problems coming up.  So many people coming together usually means hours, weeks, days and months of bickering.  Every single thing said will be held up to a microscope and dissected, and result in more arguing and bickering.  Don't get discouraged, I think this is a good thing.  Get  your act together.  Start writing down your thoughts and solutions.  Do your homework.  The decisions reached by this group could and will affect you, your family, your neighbors, your business, your recreation, and your future generations.  This could be huge!  In fact right or wrong it will be huge.
   Am I scaring you?  I hope so.  I am scared to death of this program.  It has the potential to reach either a working solution to the water problems or deal a death blow to our way of life that makes 2001 seem small by comparison.
   I remember the ESA hearings held in Klamath Falls recently.  Near the end, the question was asked of all the people testifying "How many sucker fish were in the lake when the fish were listed as endangered and how many will it take to get them de-listed?"
None of the participants volunteered an answer.  They were asked to find out the answer and get it to the subcommittee soon.  As far as I can tell none of them ever did it.
That doesn't surprise me.  My guess is none of them ever will.
   At the CIP meeting in Chiloquin Oct. 21, Curt Mullis, Manager of the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife office said he didn't think we would ever know how many fish are in Klamath Lake, and decisions would have to be made based on restoration of habitat and advancing age class.  After a week to digest this answer, I am dumbfounded.  No, I am angry, really angry.  No, I am dumbfounded AND angry AND offended.  Does this man think that you and I and others who will be participating in this program are dumb enough to believe that statement?  Is this the policy of the U.S. F&W Service or was Curt Mullis speaking for himself only?  I'm not asking this question rhetorically for the column, I'm asking for an official answer from the U.S. F&W Service.  How can you work toward an objective if you have no information about that objective?
   Before you take his statement as fact, I would like to ask the reader to do one thing.  Go to your computer and do a google search.  If you don't have a computer ask someone you know to do this for you.  Type in the words  scientific+fish count.  It's that easy.  You will get hundreds of links to scientific reports of scientific fish counts and also university and governmental classes on how to do those fish counts.
   Wait a second.  Stop the whole program right there.  Are we already being fed a line of BS by one of those governmental agencies that are asking us to believe they are going to work with us on this project?  Are we required to adopt the thinking that we will never know how many fish are in Klamath Lake?  Is that topic up for discussion or not?
I heard Mr. Mullis give one reason why the fish couldn't be counted as the lake being too big.  MR. MULLIS, GOVERNMENT AGENCIES GIVE ACCOUNTINGS OF FISH STOCKS THE WORLD OVER, FROM ALL THE OCEANS OF THE WORLD.
   Oceans- big      Klamath Lake-small    Oceans-deep    Klamath Lake-shallow
   I think we need some answers before we can even begin.  How many sucker fish are there in Klamath Lake?  Give the estimate of each species please.  How many sucker fish were in the lake when the fish were listed as endangered?  Give the estimate for each species please. How many sucker fish are downstream from Klamath Lake?  Give the estimate for each species please.  How many sucker fish are in Clear Lake, Williamson River, Sprague River, Lost River, and Gerber Reservoir?  Give the estimate for each species please.  The fish were counted for a number of years at least.  Are they still being counted?  Were those numbers accepted as part or all of the reason the fish needed to be listed?  If they were, then why could the sucker fish be counted then but not now?  If numbers of fish were not used, then on what basis were the fish listed?  How many years have government agencies counted sucker fish in Klamath Lake, and what were the federal and state budgets to make these fish counts?  If your agency does not think the fish can be counted, then what is your opinion of the years of wasted time and money by people trying to count the fish?  Are all the fish counts, done by state and federal agencies worldwide bogus, or is there some reason why only Klamath Lake sucker fish can not be counted?  Are there other assumptions being made by governmental agencies that will be contentious?  I would suggest we get through those questions right off the bat.  I'll throw out the first ones.  Will massive creation and restoration of wetlands programs be implemented without discussion on whether or not they are even needed?  Will anything in this program be legally binding that could deprive landowners or others of their rights? 
   The answer to the question on the sucker fish led me to believe Mr. Mullis believed much more restoration was necessary.  Is this a done deal?  Again, is this agency policy or Mr. Mullis's personal opinion?  Has there been interagency communication on how to get more restoration into this program?  If there has, we would all like to see it.
   I came away from the Chiloquin CIP meeting with a bad taste in my mouth.  I don't want to offend anyone that was present, and I don't specifically mean any individual that was there.  There were many representatives of government agencies present and I had the feeling many were there to line up at the trough of money that will be made available to try to find solutions to the water crisis.  I hope this isn't just another program to milk the governmental cash cow.
   I sincerely hope that everyone entering into this project can work for the good of everyone affected.  I also hope that everyone writes down questions that concern them to ask at the next CIP meeting.  Feel free to clip this article and take with you.  Let's get this program started off on the right foot, with everyone having full access to all information.  An honest discussion is necessary from the start to the finish of this monumental task.  Good luck to us all.



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