Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
June 23, 2004
California Fish and Game Commission
Re: Supplemental Comments Regarding Proposed Addition of Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) to the List of Threatened and Endangered Species
On behalf of the Klamath Water Users Association ("KWUA"), I would like to thank you for you providing us with the opportunity to express our concerns regarding the proposed addition of coho salmon to the list of threatened and endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act ("CESA"). KWUA is a nonprofit corporation that has represented Klamath Irrigation Project ("Project") farmers and ranchers since 1953. Our members include rural irrigation districts and other public agencies, as well as private concerns operating on both sides of the California-Oregon border. KWUA focuses on issues that affect thousands of people dependent on the Project, including farm and ranch families, local businesses, and our rural communities.
Summary of KWUA Concerns with State Coho Listing
It is our understanding that the California Fish and Game Commission ("Commission") on Friday will consider whether to add coho salmon on the Klamath River to the list of state threatened species. It appears that this discussion could encompass both the petition for reconsideration of the finding and the rule making based on the finding. KWUA urges the Commission not to adopt the proposed amendment to section 670.5, title 14, California Code of Regulations, which would add coho salmon populations between Punta Gorda and the northern border of California to the list of threatened species under CESA. In addition to our belief that additional, new information must first be considered before new regulations are adopted, we strongly urge the Commission to consider the possible negative effects that new regulations may have on landowners’ motivation to participate in truly effective salmon restoration efforts.
Proactive Efforts of Upper Basin Landowners
Local agricultural and business leaders have dedicated thousands of volunteer hours and have spent millions of dollars in the past ten years to participate in processes associated with environmental restoration, Klamath Basin water rights adjudication, dispute resolution, drought-proofing, and water supply enhancement. Local water users have participated in these actions through the Kerns Group, Hatfield Upper Basin Working Group, Klamath Compact Commission, Klamath River Basin Fisheries Task Force, Klamath Project Operations Planning, the Klamath Basin Alternative Dispute Resolution process and local watershed councils.
Most impressive, however, is the multitude of actions undertaken on-the-ground to effectuate improvements in the following areas:
Many of these efforts were driven by an initial desire to implement meaningful restoration actions intended to provide some sort of mitigation "credit" that could be applied towards reducing the burden carried by Klamath Project irrigators to "protect" threatened and endangered fish species. To date, that credit has not been recognized, and Project irrigation water remains the sole regulatory tool used to address federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) objectives for endangered suckers and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River watershed.
In the past year, our irrigators have finally begun to get the recognition –if not the actual regulatory relief - they deserve for their proactive efforts. To wit:
Request for Reconsideration
KWUA requests that the Commission reconsider the August 2002 finding during the June 25 hearing to decide whether to adopt the amended regulation. In particular, we request that the Commission reevaluate the status of coho before adopting the regulation listing the coho. The August 2002 Commission finding that coho are threatened was based on a California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) status review completed in April 2002. However, it is our understanding that coho monitoring has been ongoing since then, and CDFG has gathered data regarding coho distribution and abundance since that time. We believe it vitally important that the Commission’s listing decision be based on all the available data. That requirement is especially important here, since the data underlying the initial listing decision appears to be limited.
If the Commission is otherwise inclined to adopt the proposed new regulation based on the information now before it, we request that the Commission delay its decision whether to add coho north of Punta Gorda to the list of threatened species until after CDFG makes recently acquired, relevant data available for review by the public and the Commission. As NOAA Fisheries acknowledged earlier this month,
"[t]he only reliable time series of adult abundance for the naturally spawning component of the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho ESU is for the Rogue River population in southern Oregon. The California portion of the ESU is characterized by a paucity of data, with only a few available spawner indices and presence-absence surveys
We request that the Commission delay any action to add coho north of Punta Gorda to the threatened species list, until such time as new information have been made available to the public from CDFG, and KWUA and other interested parties have been able to evaluate the data and provide comments to the Commission. Given the need to review all available data regarding the status of the coho, it is appropriate for the Commission to delay acting on the regulation in order to allow for a full review of CDFG’s available coho information.
Incidental Take Permit Process
It is our understanding that, at a February 4, 2004 meeting, the Commission approved CDFG’s Recovery Strategy for coho salmon, but instructed CDFG to continue to work with Save our Scott and Shasta Valleys and Towns ("S.O.S.S."), and other Siskiyou County interests, to finalize the Incidental Take Permit ("ITP") issue. We have noted that members of S.O.S.S. have spent many hours in this process, along with the Siskiyou County and Shasta Valley Resource Conservation Districts ("RCD"). However, in our conversations with S.O.S.S. leaders, it appears that several ITP issues remain unresolved. We urge that the Commission provide further guidance to CDFG and Siskiyou County interests on this matter.
Encouragement of an Incentive-Driven, Not a Regulation-Driven, Approach
The National Research Council (NRC) in October 2003 released its final study on endangered and threatened fishes in the Klamath River Basin that questions the current regulatory structure that governs Klamath basin fisheries management. In addition to calling for oversight of current federal agency management, the NRC report recommends that the management structure for ecosystem restoration needs to involve local groups and private landowners in the design of restoration activities and investments. The report urges federal management agencies to recognize the nature of incentives in the ESA for private landowners to participate in ecosystem recovery. The report confirms observations of many landowners in the Upper Klamath Basin: the regulatory approach of implementing the ESA, as opposed to the use of incentives that would encourage landowners to promote the welfare of species, is viewed by landowners as more stick than carrot. The report concludes:
"This perception could be changed by cooperative arrangements that promote the welfare of the listed species without threatening landowners."
We believe that a similar argument could be made regarding management of coho salmon restoration efforts by the State of California in the Scott and Shasta Valleys.
Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. If you have any questions or comments about our statements, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
Dan Keppen, P.E.
cc: Ryan Broddrick, Director, California
Department of Fish and Game
'1'69 Federal Register 33102, 33131 (June 14, 2004).
'2'National Research Council . 2003. Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin – Causes of Decline and Strategies for Recovery. Washington, D.C.; National Academy Press.
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