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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Congressman Walden wanted to let you know that tomorrow (Tuesday, July 31 - at 7:00 am Oregon/Pacific time) the House Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing entitled "Crisis of Confidence:  The Political Influence of the Bush Administration on Agency Science and Decision-Making."  This hearing is focused on the Klamath River Basin, and while the title of the hearing is very misleading and we had no input into it, it's going to be a very important hearing.  We encourage you to watch or listen to the hearing online at the Committee's website (click on View Live Webcast).  As you know there is no silver bullet to resolving issues in the Klamath River Basin and solutions lie in a comprehensive, long-term approach.  As we learned from the 2003 National Academy of Sciences report on Klamath, increased transparency and scrutiny are essential to uncovering misleading science, bureaucratic mistakes and unfounded agency decision-making that have led to very negative results for the environment and the many families who make their living in this area. 

Below are several key points Greg thought important to highlight and a list of witnesses testifying.

Key Points:

       In 2003 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, "Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin," clearly indicated that recovery of endangered suckers and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River Basin cannot be achieved by actions that are exclusively or primarily focused on operation of the Klamath Project (Project).  It also did not accept arguments that the operation of the Project caused the 2002 fish die-off or that changes in the operation of the Project at the time would have prevented it.  Finally, the final NAS reconfirmed its findings from the earlier interim report that found no evidence of a causal connection between Upper Klamath Lake water levels and sucker health, or that higher flows on the Klamath River mainstem help coho salmon.

       In 2004 a Department of the Interior Inspector General investigation requested by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) dismissed charges of political influence from the White House regarding the science used in the NAS report, stating "None of the individuals we interviewed - including the Whistleblower - was able to provide any competent evidence that the Department (of the Interior) utilized suspect scientific data or suppressed information that was contained in economic and scientific reports related to the Klamath Project.  We found no evidence of political influence affecting the decisions pertaining to the water in the Klamath Project. ...The consistent denial of political influence by government officials was corroborated by the view of the outside scientists and one former DOI official, all of whom denied feeling any pressure - political or otherwise."

       Since 2001 the Bush Administration has invested over $500 million in the 10-million acre Klamath River Basin watershed for habitat restoration, water quality improvement and water conservation. State-of-the-art fish screens have been installed, and actions to remove the sucker-blocking Chiloquin Dam are taking place.  Tremendous progress has been made, and while much work remains the progress has been very positive after years of no action by the prior administration.

       The most significant development of the last few years is the historic formation of a 26 party settlement group which has brought together knowledgeable, skilled, and committed representatives from Indian tribes, farmers, fishermen, conservation groups, local governments, and state and federal agencies.  The group is just months away from a self-imposed November date to reach an agreement for a long-term plan to benefit everyone.  This effort needs to be fully supported.

Witness List:

Panel I

The Honorable Mike Thompson, D-CA

The Honorable Greg Walden, R-OR

The Honorable John T. Doolittle, R-CA

The Honorable Wally Herger, R-CA

Panel II

Mary Kendall, Deputy Inspector General, U.S. Department of the Interior

John M. Seeba, Assistant Inspector General for Auditing, U.S. Department of Commerce

Panel III

H. Dale Hall, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Robert W. Johnson, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation

William Hogarth, Assistant Administrator, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Panel IV

William M. Lewis, Jr., Former Chairman of the National Academy of Science Committee on Endangered and Threatened        Fishes in the Klamath River Basin

Mike Kelly, Former USFWS and NOAA Fisheries Biologist (Whistleblower)

Thank you for your interest. We hope you can tune in to the Committee's website to follow the hearing at 7 AM PACIFIC TIME TOMORROW (TUESDAY, JULY 31).

Best regards,

Nathan H. Rea
Legislative Assistant
Office of Congressman Greg Walden
Oregon's Second District
P: (202) 226-5234
F: (202) 225-5774

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              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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