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Dick Carleton, Merrill Oregon, Responds to Oregonian Article "Feds declare fishery disaster"

FOLLOWED BY Oregonian article

Mr. Sleeth,

My name is Dick Carleton and I was one of the farmers from the Klamath basin to be invited to the meeting with Sen. Gordon Smith and Dr. Hogarth and Dr. Sampson. I did read your article and am somewhat surprised by some of your quotes.

First, I must say I am sorry to have missed you at the meeting and also Glen Spain. (You must have been one of those people standing behind) I would have liked to have a chat with you (and Glen) to give a little perspective from the Klamath Basin farming community. However, I hope you would agree that the meeting was a success.

I have to admit I was a bit surprised, even after I had spent many hours in person and on the phone with the fishermen present, that there was such agreement between farmers and the fishermen. (Did you notice that?) As you know the media and the environmental community has portrayed this whole issue as a "farmer vs fisher" issue. This spring I have found that actually the fishermen are people who are just like us, who would like to continue on with their lives without all of the outside influence and lawsuits just as we would, and we are in agreement on what should be done to fix things. I do hope you noticed those things as we sat around the table and also as we visited outside.

However I do have to take exception to the quote you used from Glen Spain where he said "the feds got us into this mess and they have to help get us out." Actually Glen Spain, Zeke Grader, ONRC, and others who are not knowledgeable about the Klamath Project and filed lawsuit after lawsuit are the ones who got us into this mess. You are probably aware that they claim the fish population in the Klamath has declined in the past 4 or 5 years. But I must point out that the management of the Klamath has been done by court order from Oakland, CA because of lawsuits filed by Mr. Spain and Mr. Grader (and others) So, since they claim populations have fallen in these past years could we conclude that management by court order of their plan has not worked well?

I also noticed the quote from Steve Pedery of ONRC. I must admit that I am new to meeting with such high level people and I did not recognize him. I would have enjoyed a chat. You quoted him saying that the reason behind the Klamath's problem was Federal Water policy. Again I must point out that Federal Water policy since 2001 has been decreed by court order from lawsuits filed by he and others. I also noticed he hoped we weren't back next year looking for disaster relief. I would hope that same thing, having been there. Perhaps if he and Mr. Spain and Mr. Grader would work with us to get good science and find real solutions instead of looking for a lawsuit to file we might make some progress.

I must point out that what I did find glaringly absent from your article was a quote from some of us in the farming community or someone from the fishing community who was also there and testified to these people. Another time I hope you would afford us the courtesy of at least speaking to those of us who were there who are actual users of the natural resources and possibly we could have a quote so your readers would get a fair picture. As you know, Glen Spain and Zeke Grader do not represent the fishing industry in Oregon and Northern California and it is disturbing that you would quote from them instead of someone who is directly involved in the industry.

Should you like to visit with me, since I did talk to the delegation sent from Washington, feel free to e-mail me and I can arrange a chat. Perhaps I can help educate you on the Klamath project since I am a 3rd generation farmer here, have lived here all my life and do understand how the project works.

Thank you,

Dick Carleton

Feds declare fishery disaster Salmon cutback
Congress is now clear to secure direct aid for affected fishermen and coastal businesses
The Oregonian 8/11/06

Friday, August 11, 2006 PETER SLEETH U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez announced a long-awaited disaster declaration for salmon trollers in Oregon and California on Thursday -- a step that came with no money but increased chances for a congressional cash infusion.

The federal declaration marks only the second time that a formal commercial fishery failure declaration has come while the fishing season was still under way.

Gutierrez said it already was abundantly clear the salmon fleet and its coastal communities were suffering as a result of a broad fishing closure to protect weak salmon runs returning to the Klamath River.

When Congress reconvenes in September, it now can move forward with the Bush administration's backing to seek millions of dollars in direct aid to fishermen and coastal businesses hit by the 85 percent reduction in the length of the fishing season. Gutierrez blamed five years of drought for critical conditions in the Klamath, a river that originates in Oregon and spills into the Pacific Ocean in California.

"This is very good news," said U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. "What this does is put the ball in the court of Congress to come up with the money."

No one would speculate how much money could come from a gridlocked Congress, but the most credible estimates of need put the number at $30 million or more in Oregon and California. At least three bills seeking money for the fleet have failed to move through Congress.

Fishermen, who have received little in the way of assistance despite promises of help, greeted the news warily.

"It's a step in the right direction for us," said Kevin Bastien, a salmon troller from Newport who pilots the 40-foot fishing boat Gal. "Right now I'm tuna fishing to get by. It's going to be a tough year."

Trollers from central California to northern Oregon are being forced to drastically reduce their catch along a 700-mile stretch of coast so that fishery managers can protect dwindling runs of Klamath River salmon. Because the fish can be found in the ocean north and south of the mouth of the river in Northern California, fishery experts have reduced all fishing to minimize the catch. Despite record-high prices, the value of the landings is expected to be 16 percent of the five-year average.

Fishermen who will be eligible for any disaster relief fish in the zone from Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, to Point Sur, near Monterey, Calif.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski, along with Oregon and California's congressional delegations, has been appealing to the Bush administration since May for disaster relief. Thursday morning, Gutierrez announced his decision in a conference call with Kulongoski and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Oregon has responded to this critical need with direct cash assistance and a jobs program for out-of-work fishers, but state aid only serves as a bridge to the day when federal help arrives," Kulongoski said in a statement. "That day cannot come soon enough."

The governor has so far mustered $500,000 for direct payments to fishermen and $2.2 million in job assistance. More than 300 applications for direct aid have poured in.

Glen H. Spain, northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said approximately 2,000 permit holders for salmon trolling could be eligible for assistance, in addition to the ice plants, packing houses and other related businesses.

"The end result is it will be up to Congress now, and that is where we have to pin our support," Spain said. "The feds got us into this mess, and they have to help get us out."

Few people are expecting anything but further poor returns for Klamath salmon in 2007, with fishermen once again facing a perilous year.

Many in the fishing industry blame poor management of the Klamath River by the federal government and the Bush administration in particular. In Oregon, irrigation withdrawals take too much water, they say, while dams and habitat damage along the course of the 250-mile stream kill fish.

"This is an important step," said U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., on Thursday. "But the situation we are in is completely unnecessary . . . The ultimate irony is the substantial closure of the ocean fishery is only going to save a few hundred fish, where the water policy kills thousands."

Steve Pedery, of the Oregon Natural Resources Council, said he was glad to see the improving chances for relief in the fishing fleet. He said he doubted that the drought was the real reason behind the Klamath's problems. Federal water policy is the real culprit, he said, and it needs to be addressed.

"I just hope we're not right back here looking for a disaster declaration next year and the next year and the year after," he said.

Peter Sleeth: 503-294-4119; petersleeth@news.oregonian.com

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