Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Klamath Fisheries Task
Who are they and what do they do
The Klamath Fisheries Task Force is a group of tribal representatives, coastal fishermen, government agency representatives, county officials, and attorneys connected to tribes or environmental groups. They had their quarterly meeting June 15 and 16 in Yreka. The purpose of the Task Force is to assist the Secretary of the Interior in the forming, coordinating and implementing the Restoration Program for Klamath River Basin, coordinating with government and private fish restoration projects, and advising the Klamath Fishery Management Council.
Some of the players and their views
Former Klamath County Commissioner Steve West was awarded a certificate of appreciation for the time he spent on the Task Force. He said the dams should come out of the Klamath River, the sentiment of most of the group. He said he hoped the sale of PacifiCorp helps restore anadromous fish. He supported the federal acquisition of Barnes Ranch, which will store little water, evaporate a lot of water, increase phosphorus and increase water temperature when Fish and Wildlife breaches dikes into the lake. He said Barnes is "critical to overall restoration and solutions."
Irma, Lagomarsino, from National Marine Fishery Service, NOAA, said that they need a coho recovery plan by September that looks at coho historical boundaries. By the October meeting they need to develop a coho recovery plan. Since coho are considered ‘endangered’ and the irrigators’ and fishermen’s lives and occupations have been significantly adversely effected by the coho endangered species act regulations, it will be nice that the agency by fall will have a ‘draft’ recovery plan. She said they aren’t sure how to develop that plan.
The Task Force had written to Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Bureau of Reclamation Solicitor asking for the ability to review the Bureau’s Undepleted Flow Study, but they were assured that those who peer-reviewed the Hardy two report, later deemed flawed, were the professionals currently reviewing the flow study. After a draft is final, the National Resource Committee will peer-review the report, a process taking approximately 18 months. The Flow Study shows that the river and lake levels are higher after the Klamath Project was built, and Link River historically went dry.
The Task Force is troubled about the small run of Chinook. Member Chuck Blackburn said the biggest problems the sports fishermen are having trouble getting through all the coho to get to Chinook in Brookings Harbor.
Petey Brucker, Technical Work Group, said that the Task Force spends up to $150,000 per year.
This Task Force funding will expire in 2006. A
lengthy discussion transpired on how they could
convince their Congressmen to continue funding the
group. Blackburn, a member for 6 ½ years, felt the
friendships and understanding they have gained have
Chairman John Engbring, U.S. Department of the Interior, said that he personally cannot lobby for money, however he encouraged the group to wait until the Government Accountability report comes out, and they can use those results if they are favorable to lobby for funds. They also decided to develop a report on their accomplishments.
Siskiyou County Supervisor and Task Force member Marcia Armstrong expressed her concerns about the group. She said there used to be more partnerships with resource users and more habitat improvements. She said over the years there are less available resources. The farmers and ranchers have done their own studies and conservation work and she feels that these accomplishments have been used against them, requiring more regulations and mandates and higher fees. She said, "I feel resource users should be partners." She told the Klamath Courier that the Task Force has used most of the funds to make regulations and very little has been available to use on projects in her district.
Alice Kilham, advocate of restoring the Klamath River Basin, told about Chadwick Consensus sessions that she initiated throughout the Klamath Watershed. With tribes, environmentalists, government agencies, and a few farmers, Chadwick holds group sessions advocating the responsibility is to "restore the river because it’s the right thing to do." This Chadwick group is being funded by the Conservation Implementation Program, a Bureau of Reclamation ‘solution’ part of their Klamath requirement called by the National Marine Fishery Service (NOAA) in the 2002 biological opinion. Armstrong expressed concern that the CIP will create ‘solutions’ regardless of county government’s wishes.
David Leland gave a power point presentation on the TMDL’s, water quality requirements, for the Klamath Basin and Lost River. The data collection has been from USGS, Fish and Wildlife, PacifiCorp, Yurok and Karuk tribes.
Ron Reid, Karuk tribe, asked about the $30,000 funding he’d requested for planning restoration projects. Armstrong said she vetoed it because the projects are proposed for areas owned by large timber owners, miners and small communities with no land owned by the Karuk. She said that the landowners would not support the Karuks planning projects on their land, especially with ongoing lawsuits against miners.
Dave Hillemeier, Yurok tribe, said that the group should fund Reid without agreement from the landowners. NOAA Fisheries Irma Lagomarsino felt Reid’s proposal should be funded and said, "I think it’s unfair to say Karuks shouldn’t take the lead since they own no land." Neil Manji, Fish and Game, and Blackburn felt that Reid should get funds. The result of the argument wasn’t forthcoming at Saturday’s meeting.
Caitlin Bean from USGS gave a power point presentation on Incidental Take Permits, conditions and regulations regarding fish screens, water diversions, fencing and capturing tail water requirements for farmers and ranchers. Hillemeier asked if the tribes could review the applications.
Armstrong said that the increase in the cost of applications is 6.5 times the previous cost, making it almost impossible to afford along with the TMDL mandates.
Christine Karas of Bureau of Reclamation said that the Klamath Basin year type went from ‘dry’ to ‘below average’, demanding more water from the Klamath Project irrigation water storage. She explained how the irrigators have banded together to make the mandated ‘water bank’ more efficient. She is concerned that since more water must go down the river, the storage won’t get a chance to refill.
Karas said that the Bureau rented Barnes Ranch this summer as part of the water bank but it didn’t store much water since the fish screen malfunctioned.
She said that if Fish and Wildlife acquires Barnes, they may breach dikes, which will increase potassium and will make it harder to maintain lake level. If it is used for storage it will need power to pump the water, fish screens, and the water there "sinks in."
Yuroks, Spain and Fish and Game were concerned that, although 100,000 acre feet of water is being taken from irrigation storage and the aquifer, they want to make guidelines for how the Klamath and Trinity irrigators should coordinate flows. So Glen Spain offered to "work up resolutions" for the Klamath and Trinity. No Klamath irrigators are included in this forum.
The Task Force will meet again in Klamath Falls in October. The public is welcomed to attend these meetings. The group will need to be re-funded in 2006, so do some homework and write your Congressmen with your support or concerns.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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