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Below are several news stories and an editorial that ran regarding Saturday's congressional field hearing in Klamath Falls:
 July 17 - 19, 2004
"Hear us Out"  - Herald and News
"Opposing Viewpoints Converge" - Herald and News
"Witness by Witness - What They Said" - Herald and News
"How to Start: Walden's Crucial Question" - Herald and News Editorial Board
"House Panel Reviews Species Act" - Associated Press
 
 
 

Hear us out

 
 
   

Published July 18, 2004

U.S. House panel calls for species act change

By DYLAN DARLING

The movement to change the Endangered Species Act to prevent another Klamath Basin 2001 is gathering steam, a quintet of U.S. representatives said Saturday.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden said his bill calling for more peer review of decisions under the 30-year-old ESA should be fine-tuned next week and ready for a vote. Peer review is a second look in deciding how to administer the act.

"I hope that we can get it passed this year," said Walden, who introduced the bill in 2001.

Walden, whose district includes Klamath and Lake counties, is a member of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power, whose members drew about 500 people to a field hearing at the Ross Ragland Theater.

Walden, Chairman Ken Calvert of California and Rep. Dennis Cardoza of California are members of the subcommittee. Also on the panel Saturday were U.S. Reps. John Doolittle and Wally Herger of Northern California. All but Cardoza are Republicans.

Walden said he called for the hearing in Klamath Falls because of the effect the curtailment of irrigation water in 2001 had on the town and Basin. He said his bill is not an attempt to gut the ESA.

"We need to make sure the data we are getting is scientifically sound," he said.

He said that, for example, his bill would apply both to adding species to the lists of endangered and threatened, and to taking them off. It's rare for a species to be delisted, a point critics often make in arguing that the act is badly administered.

"This is neutral in terms of where it applies," Walden said.

Calvert, subcommittee chair, said the bill should be marked up, or readied for a vote, next week.

"It tees the ball up," he said. He said a floor vote in the House might not come until 2005.

The outlook for such a bill may be less favorable in the U.S. Senate, where Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith has introduced a similar measure and where a minority of 40 legislators can bottle up controversial bills, as Democrats have been doing.

"There's nothing happening in the Senate right now," Calvert said.

Even in the House, he said, changes to the ESA are difficult and have been stalled in committee because it is a "highly emotional subject."

Emotions ran high outside the theater Saturday morning as two marches converged in front of the theater before the hearing. Members of the Klamath Tribes and environmentalists came in support of the ESA and water users and others from the agricultural community came to call for change in the ESA.

 

The legislators reiterated a call for the removal of Chiloquin Dam, which the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is evaluating and could have done as early as July 2005.

 

Emotions were also high at a roundtable held by congressional aides at the First Presbyterian Church a couple of hours after the hearing. About 60 members of the agricultural community met with the aides, as well as county, state and federal leaders. Many vented their frustrations with the ESA.

"There is just too much process out there and I don't know that people know where to spend their time," said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association.

Although it would help with contentious issues, Steve Thompson, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the congressional panel that peer review would add extra time and cost to decisions-making.

He said discretion needs to be taken in figuring out what biological opinions, or federal documents that explain how agencies should manage a resource, will need peer review.

Normally, it takes about four and a half months to do a biological opinion. Adding peer review would stretch that by at least six months and up to a year and cost $500,000 to $1 million, he said.

His Sacramento office alone handles 250 biological opinions a year, he said.

Jim Lecky, assistant regional administrator for protected resources for the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, had a similar assessment.

"My concern is it will just lead to huge bureaucratic delays to get projects going," he said.

And, in the end, even with more and better data, decisions about the Endangered Species Act are policy decisions that come down to someone's judgment.

"It's hard to peer review someone's judgment," he said.

Peer review was the main focus of the hearing, but it wasn't the only topic.

There were also calls from the legislators to:

  • Find more storage in the Basin.
  • Knock out Chiloquin dam, which is said to block more than 70 miles of sucker passage.
     
  • Revisit the biological opinions that set minimum lake levels for sucker fish and flow levels for coho salmon.
     
  • Form a new Basinwide group or forum to focus on a Basinwide solution.
     
     

    To find more storage, the the Bureau of Reclamation is evaluating the Long Lake Valley to the west of Upper Klamath Lake and is trying to broker deals for the flooding the Barnes Ranch property to the north. Dave Sabo, U.S. Reclamation Service manager of the Project, said there's also interest in Klamath Drainage District land and reclaimed farms that ring the lake.

    But he said the Bureau is unlikely to have any added storage by next year's irrigation season.

     
    The legislators reiterated a call for the removal of Chiloquin Dam, which the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is evaluating and could have done as early as July 2005.

    And, they said the rules that manage the protected fishes in the Basin need to change.
    Kirk Rodgers, manager of the Bureau of Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region, said a new "consultation" should start later this year and be done by 2005. The term means the Bureau will seek new scientific advice from the federal agencies in charge of fish.

    During the hearing, the legislators heard testimony from nine witnesses. Afterward they went they went through rounds of questions. Most of the questions were for Rodgers and William Lewis, a Colorado lake scientist who chaired the National Research Council committee that put out a report saying the 2001 curtailment wasn't supported by hard science.
     

    Herald and News: Klamath Falls, Oregon

    Opposing viewpoints converge

     
     
       

    Published July 18, 2004

    By DD BIXBY and DYLAN DARLING

    From opposite ends of Main Street and opposite viewpoints on the Endangered Species Act, residents of the Klamath Basin converged on the Ross Ragland Theater Saturday morning.

    It got a little rowdy, but it stayed peaceable as groups representing Klamath Basin irrigators and the Klamath Tribes met in front of the theater, later the venue for a congressional field hearing.

    About 100 members of the Klamath Tribes and environmentalists started at the Klamath County Museum and walked to the beat of a drumming group.

    About 250 water users and others in the agriculture community, some singing a soft chorus of "God Bless America," set out from Veterans Park and walked ahead of the clomp of horse hoofs.

    Main Street was blocked for the marches, and local law enforcement officers were out in large numbers.

    The water users got to the theater first, and speakers began addressing the crowd. Across the street in a parking lot were loads of timber and hay.

    Speakers said the ESA had damaged Klamath Basin agriculture since 2001, and crowd members such as John and Patti Northcraft agreed.

    "My husband was a hay broker for many years," Patti Northcraft said. "We lost our business during the water crisis."

    She said the losses are a tragedy not only for individuals but also for the nation.

    "We feel a great piece of our country is going away," she said.

    Some of the first speakers to the podium were hardest on the ESA.

    "The ESA is nothing less than a weapon of mass destruction for the eco-al-Qaida," said Elliot Schwartz of Brookings, Calif., a leader of a group called Rural Resources Alliance that tries to bring together groups that depend on natural resources such as logs, water and fish.

    Other speakers from outside of the Klamath Basin spoke of ways they had protected endangered species without cutting off agriculture endeavors.

    "We've shown conclusively that we can solve these problems without destroying agriculture," said Bill Krum, a speaker from the Shasta Valley. He said private farmers, with government incentives, have done good things for species in his part of California.

    As the third speaker, Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users, was getting to the podium to speak, the other marchers arrived.

    Keppen's call for peer review of Endangered Species Act science was drowned out by shouts of "We were here first," "Free the water," and "You didn't come here with water," from a vocal minority of the Tribes marchers.

    "It kind of got ugly," Keppen said.

    Heckles continued through the next two speakers as the water users and Tribes members closed in on the podium, vying for the front row, which was set up in front of the Ragland's box office.

    Shouts and interruptions ceased as Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribe, which has a reservation on the Lower Klamath River, and Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, took the stage.

    "I'm a product of this community," Foreman said. "Look at what this is doing to the community. We can come together for a restoration."

    Ken Farmer, a Klamath Falls resident, was among the crowd that gathered by the Ragland.

    "I believe the ESA isn't working. There's too much government interference," he said. "It's got to be fixed by people who use common sense and science."

    Farmer, who supported the Bucket Brigade in 2001, attended Saturday's rally to support the Klamath Basin community.

    "I'm here to show support to everyone, farmers, Indians, everyone," he said.

    After hearing the shouts of "What about the treaty rights" and others referring to the conflict between American Indians and homesteaders, Farmer said, "It's a shame to see the division over things that happened years ago that people here had nothing to do with."

    Young people were prominent in both groups. At the front of the water users, for example, were 4-H and FFA members.

    On the opposite side of town, Morning Wilson, 12, of Chiloquin, said her elders have told her that the C'waam, or Lost River sucker, is a native food for her people. She said she came down with her sister, uncles and aunts to the march.

    "They all know what is going on. We are trying to do something about it," she said.

    Lyalle Miller Craig, who said she was in her 70s, couldn't march because of a disability, so she had her daughter, Cecilia Craig, drive her to the Ragland.

    She said she lived on the Williamson River when she was younger and ate C'waam as a kid.

    "The fins would be by the hundred coming up the river," she said.

    The sucker, along with the shortnose sucker, was listed for protection under the ESA in 1988.

    "This brings us to tears," she said.

    As the rallies ended, people took their seats inside the theater for the field hearing or straggled off. For much of the morning, law enforcement officers were a majority of the people outside the building.

    Fifteen minutes after activities concluded in front of the theater, a large bundle of signs, some reading "Save the ESA" and others calling it an "Economic Suicide Act," had made their way, together, to trash can in front of the theater.

    Witness by witness: What they said

     

    Dave Carman, left, and Venancio Hernandez, spoke during questioning at the congressional field hearing at the Ross Ragland in Klamath Falls on Saturday.
       

     

    Published July 18, 2004

    By DYLAN DARLING

    Here are summaries of the testimony and answers of the witnesses and those who accompanied them at the congressional hearing Saturday morning at the Ross Ragland Theater.

    Dave Carman, accompanied by Venancio Hernandez

    A Tulelake homesteader, Dave Carman returned to the Basin after World War II for the promise of a land and a chance to farm. He put his name in a pot of 2,000 vying for a homestead near Tulelake and was one of 44 picked.

    "We were living the American Dream," he said.

    In 2001, the curtailment of irrigation water almost put him out of business, Carman said.

    "Our dream became a nightmare," he said.

    He has since moved to Chico, Calif.

    Venancio Hernandez, although decades later, also came to Tulelake with a wife and a dream, in the 1980s.

     

    Klamath Tribes Chairman, Allen Foreman speaks to onlookers in front of the Ross Ragland prior to the ESA hearing Saturday.

     

    He said his dream ended in 2001 when, without water, he wasn't able to farm and ended up having to get out of the business.

    "My farm, as we say, 'went bye-bye,' " he said.

    Without a job on the farm, his son joined the U.S. Military and is now fighting in Iraq, Hernandez said.

    Dave Vogel

    A contract scientist from Red Bluff Calif., Vogel has worked for the Klamath Water Users Association for more than a decade. He said he had 29 years experience as a biologist, 14 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    He made two main points:

    It's easier to list a species as endangered than to take it off the list, a double standard that ought to be ended.
     

    There was never a population crisis with sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake to warrant the listing of Lost River and shortnose suckers.
     
    Doug La Malfa

    A California assemblyman who represents part of the Klamath Basin, and a rice farmer, La Malfa said people need to protect farmers and ranchers as much as they do species so they don't have to depend on foreign crops for food as they do for oil.
     
    Shutting off the "water tap to a farming community," as was done in the Klamath Basin is reckless, he said.

    The irony is that it is the people who were hurt the most by the 2001 crisis who will have to help the most to find a solution, he added.
     
    Troy Fletcher, accompanied by Allen Foreman

    The executive director of the Yurok Tribe and leader of an intertribal group Fletcher said the Endangered Species Act fails to deliver on the government's promises of bountiful species for the tribes.
     
    He said ESA decisions sometimes have to be done quickly with whatever information is available because a species might be gone if the process is prolonged.

    The tribes in the Upper and Lower Basin are ready to work for improvements to the ESA, but "the solution cannot be at the expense of tribal resources," he said.
     
     
    Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said members of the Klamath Tribes have had to live without their fisheries. He said people need to remember that life didn't start when the project did in 1905.

    "There has to be a balance here," he said.
     
     
    Ralph Brown

    A former salmon fisherman and current Curry County Commissioner, Brown, said people who make decisions about using resources should remember one thought: "Don't forget the people."
     
    He said he got his first commercial fishing permit when he was 8 and once calculated he'd spent a third of his life on the ocean fishing. But like many others on the Oregon and Northern California coasts, he had to quit because of tightening fishing restrictions. Brown said Oregon's fishing fleet used to number in the tens of thousands and now is in the thousands.

    He recalled meeting an old fisherman at a cafe, who just sitting there, staring into his coffee.
    " 'I don't know what to do anymore, I don't fit anywhere,' he said," Brown said.

    Bill Gaines
     
    Director of government affairs for the California Waterfowl Association, Gaines said the wetlands in the Klamath Basin are crucial to migratory waterfowl, who feed in farm fields, and the wetlands need agriculture to stay wet and inviting.

    "Agriculture is not part of the problem ... it is part of the solution," he said.
     
    The Basin is also home to the largest population of wintering bald eagles in the continental United States.

    He said officials should consider all species, not just a single species, when making decisions about resources like water.
    Jimmy Smith

    A former commercial salmon fisherman and current Humboldt County commissioner, Smith said fishermen are like farmers and ranchers: They have a bond with the resources that keep them going. "It is similar in every regard to the salmon fishermen," he said.
     
    How to start: Walden's crucial question

    Published July 18, 2004

    Klamath Falls Herald and News

    On the back of a napkin during a coffee conversation you could write the principles that might lead to a settlement of the water struggle in the Klamath Basin: water certainty for farmers, land restoration for Indians, habitat for fish. The list would go on some, but not much longer.

    Next to that list, you could make another, of items that most people would agree ought to be accomplished: removal of the Chiloquin Dam to provide spawning habitat for suckers, work on improving salmon runs as part of the relicensing of Klamath River dams, redoubled efforts to accomplish projects for increased storage of water, such as the proposed Barnes Ranch purchase or the Long Lake project. That list, too, could go on some.

    Once you get past the pencil-on-napkin stage, though, it becomes clear that getting to a settlement wouldn't be easy.

    For one thing, the fault lines among interest groups are wide, and bargaining would expose more.

    For example, among irrigators there could well be a split between those within the Klamath Reclamation Project and water users above Upper Klamath Lake and in the Sprague River Valley. Much of the benefit of settling water claims would flow to the Project irrigators, and much of the impact of a reservation would occur upstream of Upper Klamath Lake. That these two groups have divergent interests was obvious last year when informal talks got under way at the Shilo Inn and failed to bear fruit.

    It wouldn't be surprising, as bargaining proceeded, to see other splits - some green groups are opposed to giving National Forest lands to Indian tribes. It wouldn't be surprising to see upriver and downriver tribes at odds over how much water goes downstream and how much stays upstream.

    The bargaining would have to settle much of the water adjudication - the decades-long process in which the state of Oregon is apportioning water to those who have rights to it. A settlement would have to be strong enough that lawsuits from outside the circle of negotiators couldn't strangle a solution in its infancy. These are Herculean tasks.

    The trick, then, will be to get enough of the right people at the table and find in all those bargainers enough incentive to get to a deal and enough authority to make it stick.

    The success of any bargaining will depend on how the talks are structured, a task that might take lots of scribbling on stacks of napkins. As we in the Klamath Basin have realized, getting people together is just one thing - lots of efforts have generated some good will and failed efforts at consensus.

    So, how and where do you start the bargaining? U.S. Rep. Greg Walden posed that question at the congressional field hearing Saturday in Klamath Falls. He asked witnesses to take the next few days and give him suggestions about how to get bargaining started.

    It's the crucial question, asked by someone who has the stature to get things rolling. It will be more than interesting to see what response Walden gets. Of all the developments from Saturday's hearing, this is the one that may echo farthest into the future.

    0 0 0-

    Congratulations to all those organizers Saturday morning who pulled off quite a feat: When two opposing demonstrations - farmer and Indian - met in front of the Ross Ragland Theater, cool heads prevailed, and the two demonstrations actually merged, however uneasily.

    It was a smart, symbolic move to have Indian leaders Troy Fletcher and Allen Foreman speaking along with representatives of farmers. While a few Indian demonstrators tried to shout down white speakers, the drums went silent, and the majority in both demonstrations listened to the speakers, who could be heard.

    The restraint was a result of talks Thursday among leaders of the two demonstrations, civic leaders and law enforcement authorities.

    Good show, one that anybody in the Basin can be proud of.

    The "H&N view" represents the opinion of the newspaper's editorial board. Tim Fought wrote today's.

     
  •  

    July 18, 2004

    House panel reviews species act

    By Jeff Barnard
    The Associated Press
      
     

    KLAMATH FALLS - A House subcommittee looking for ways to change the Endangered Species Act came to the Klamath Basin on Saturday, where irrigation water was cut off to 1,400 farms in 2001 to conserve water for threatened and endangered fish.

    ``In 30 years, only seven species of 1,300 listed have been recovered, and those are mainly due to other conservation laws,'' said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power. ``At the same time, communities across the West are stopped cold in their tracks to the point where some legitimately wonder whether their way of life has become endangered.''

    Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, told the committee he was ``somewhat offended'' by their blaming the Endangered Species Act for threatening the way of life of farmers who lost water, without recognizing that Indian tribes and salmon fishermen have suffered from damage to the environment.

    ``Life did not begin here with the creation of the Klamath water project,'' said Foreman, whose tribe hopes to see restoration of its reservation as well as fish the tribe once depended on for food. ``The loss of our fishing is just as important as the loss of other things.

    ``I view the Endangered Species Act as basically a gas gauge in your car. By taking the gas gauge out ... it does not solve the problem that you are low on gas.''

    Foreman's statement drew an apology from Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif. ``I hope you know I recognize this is a complex problem'' Doolittle said. ``There is more agreement here (among witnesses) than I have seen before.''

    Witnesses representing farmers, Indian tribes, waterfowl hunters, the National Research Council, and federal agencies gave qualified support to the idea of having a scientific panel review major decisions made under the Endangered Species Act.

    ``Peer review can be very useful, but it can also be a burden,'' said William Lewis, a University of Colorado scientist who was chairman of the National Research Council review of the Klamath irrigation cutbacks.

    They also agreed on the need for a single forum representing all interests to look for solutions to the basin's water problems.

    On the minds of most of the 350 people at the hearing in the Ross Raglan Theater was the decision in 2001 to cut back irrigation on the Klamath Reclamation Project to conserve water for endangered suckers and threatened coho salmon.

    A wholesale overhaul or repeal of the Endangered Species Act is widely considered a longshot in Congress, but two bills to amend portions of it are before the House Resources Committee.

    Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said he hoped to see his bill requiring scientific peer review of major decisions under the Endangered Species Act, such as new species listings or the 2001 Klamath water shutoff, marked up in the House Resources Committee in coming weeks. It is uncertain whether it would reach the House floor this year.

    Another bill from Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., is also before the committee that would give the Interior Department more leeway in designating critical habitats for threatened and endangered species.

    Walden noted that major steps have been taken in the Klamath Basin to help endangered suckers, including construction of a $15 million fish screen to keep young fish out of irrigation canals and steps toward removal of the Chiloquin Dam to open access to spawning habitat. ``But it seems like at the end of the day it's never enough,'' Walden said. ``I want a recovery plan and to hold people's feet to the fire.''

    Steve Thompson, regional director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said his agency is preparing to do a five-year status review of the Lost River sucker and shortnosed sucker, two species of fish that triggered the Klamath irrigation cutbacks.

     

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