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Article slamming Klamath Basin ag draws sharp criticism

Publisher pleads for feedback from Basin residents

by Kehn Gibson, Klamath Courier Editor, published 24 Nov. 04

PORTLAND - An article appearing in Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine contains gross errors and misrepresentations and, while the author remains unapologetic, the publisher is asking for people to respond.

Author Don Roberts, who edited a flyfishing magazine for Frank Amato Publications for a decade, did not wait long before losing his factual trail. In the first paragraph of his story, entitled "Fish versus Farmers," Roberts recounts the day "angry farmers pried open the headgates..." and places the date as July 2000. The event Roberts refers to occurred July 4, 2001, and there were no angry people there.

Publisher Nick Amato was not happy.

"I was under the assumption he (Roberts) knew what he was doing," Amato told the Klamath Courier. "Evidently I was wrong."

Roberts was more than unapologetic, he was rude.

Saying he trusted newspaper accounts to get the date right, Roberts told the Klamath Courier he did not interview any farmers in the Klamath Basin because "they were hostile and wouldn't talk to me."

"I really wasn't interested in what they had to say anyway," Roberts said. "I've heard it all before."

Following his first egregious error in the article, Roberts continues by declaring that the Bureau of Reclamation makes all final decisions concerning water deliveries, ignoring the fact that water delivery decisions result from a combination of Biological Opinions from two federal agencies folded into forecasts for inflows into Upper Klamath Lake.

From there, Robert's errors become profuse and confusing.

Roberts states the National Academy of Sciences' National Review Committee's report on the Klamath, which concluded that the science calling for higher lake levels and higher downstream flows was "unsubstantiated," came as a result of the NRC being "retained" by President George W. Bush.

Roberts then elevates the California Department of Fish and Game to a level of credibility unattained by the premier scientific body of the land.

Roberts calls a report on the fish die off by the CDFG a "vigilant and scrupulous examination of the scene..." despite the report being called into question for the misreading of the Terwer temperature gauge at river mile six, a claim of upstream blockages to fish passage despite ample evidence that commercial jet boat owners operated unhindered throughout that fall, and a determined goal of ignoring the lack of flow from the Trinity River.

Roberts goes on to vaguely describe a conspiracy between "agribusiness and their toady politicians" to manufacture science to direct blame for the death of 33,000 salmon in 2002 away from low flows.

Roberts claims that 31 percent of the Klamath River is impounded by "upstream irrigation interests," that crops in the Basin survive economically because of subsidies, and that farming in the Basin is "preposterous" and "unsustainable."

Warming to his mission, Roberts then gets downright vicious.

Phrases like "Joe Sixpack," "the Bush/BIR/KIP coalition (sic)," and "the Bush crew' are sprinkled liberally throughout the article.

How did Roberts get it so wrong?

A good portion of his article uses phrases and statements from a website once operated by Glen Spain, a spokesman for the increasingly marginalized Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen. The PCFFA, despite its name, has less than a dozen members, of which there is one in Oregon. That member, Salmon for All, is a conservation group in Astoria.

Spain was the contact for the Klamath Basin Coalition, a defunct group whose website listed myths about the Klamath Irrigation Project that Roberts repeats throughout his article.

Spain was unavailable for comment.

Amato isn't waiting to see if Roberts has added plagiarism to his list of sins.

"If we are printing things that are untrue, we need to hear about it," Amato told the Klamath Courier. "I would welcome a response from anyone who thinks there are mistakes in the article."

Amato said he would accept comments on his personal email, nick@amatobooks.com.

 

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