Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Group lists wetlands as endangered
by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News September 30, 2011
Oregon Wild, a Portland-based environmental advocacy group, has designated Klamath wetlands as the most endangered place in Oregon on a top-10 list.
The wetlands are part of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes Lower Klamath, Upper Klamath, Tule Lake, Clear Lake, Bear Valley and Klamath Marsh.
In its report, released Thursday, Oregon Wild says agriculture in the Klamath Basin has destroyed 80 percent of its historic wetlands.
The report says limited wetland habitat is exacerbated by leasing thousands of acres of land near Tule Lake and Lower Klamath for commercial agriculture.
“While the creation of the refuges was intended to preserve vital fragments of once-vast Klamath wetland system for geese, herons, and eagles,” the release reads, “much of that land is instead managed for potatoes, alfalfa, and onions.”
Ron Cole, refuge manager, said the refuge is indeed suffering, but curtailed water deliveries are the direct cause.
“The wetlands on the refuge are not doing well,” he said. “Our primary concern is lack of water, and it has been for several years.”
Water from BOR
Tule Lake and Lower Klamath refuges receive water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the federal Klamath Reclamation Project. In 2010, the drought that severely limited Project irrigators’ water deliveries left the refuges dry.
“Last year, we had less than 1,000 acres of wetlands at this time,” Cole said.
This year, a good water year, the refuges are still short on water. They have about 9,000 acres of wetlands, far short of the 25,000-acre ideal for fall.
The refuge is an integral part of the Pacific Flyway, a primary north south migratory route for birds. Thousands of birds stop at the wetlands each year.
“When we’re not healthy, the Flyway is not healthy,” Cole said. “Increasing demands on Project water from a variety of sources that have a priority over the refuges have not left refuges with enough water to meet our objectives.”
In order of priority, endangered fish, tribes then irrigators receive water before the refuges.
Cole said settlement agreements among irrigators, tribes and federal agencies are the only solution to give the refuges a stable water supply.
Oregon Wild, which does not support the agreements, in its report suggested turning agricultural lands back into wetlands to help alleviate the problem.
“This is our nation’s first wildlife refuge, it’s a national monument,” Cole said. “Places like that shouldn’t be on a list like this.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Klamath Wetlands Top 10 Most Endangered Places List in 2011
Agribusiness trumps eagles and pelicans as Klamath marshes return to “Most Endangered” list for third straight yearPORTLAND, ORE Sep 29, 2011
With most Oregonians nervous about the direction of the country and the priorities of Congress and President Obama, Oregon Wild and a coalition of other conservation and recreation organizations today released a report highlighting Oregon’s most at-risk forests, wetlands, and deserts. The third annual Oregon’s 10 Most Endangered Places report differs from previous listings in that the largest threat facing the majority of the areas comes from the U.S. Congress rather than extractive industries and other polluters.
“Most Americans want Congress and the President to focus on creating good paying, sustainable jobs, but the U.S. House of Representatives seems more interested in attacking the laws that protect our clean drinking water, wildlife, and public lands than in getting people back to work,” said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director at Oregon Wild who helped to rank the threatened places in the report. “From opening pristine roadless areas to logging and mining to exempting the logging industry from the Clean Water Act, this summer we have seen an unprecedented number of anti-environmental proposals floating around Washington, DC.”
The report was compiled from nominations from conservation organizations working across the state. The final list includes submissions from Oregon Wild, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Rogue Riverkeeper, and Umpqua Watersheds.
Topping the list for the first time after making two previous appearances are the ever-shrinking wetlands of the spectacular Klamath Basin. Once filled with over 350,000 acres of wetlands, shallow lakes, and marshes that hosted seven million migrating waterfowl and thousands of bald eagles, the Upper Klamath Basin is a shadow of its former self. Eighty percent of the wetlands have been drained and wildlife populations have plummeted.
Today, the basin is further put at risk by two Congressional proposals. One proposal would implement a controversial settlement agreement and lock in the practice of leasing 22,000 acres of public land designated as a National Wildlife Refuge to commercial agribusiness for the next 50 years. Another bill, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from safeguarding waterways in the Klamath and throughout the nation from toxic pesticide pollution.
Following closely behind the Klamath was the Nestucca River and the surrounding coastal forests. Long subject to extensive clear-cutting under Oregon’s weak State Forest Practices Act, coastal rivers and streams faced a new threat this year from an unlikely source when Oregon’ senior Senator Ron Wyden sponsored legislation to exempt logging roads from the rules of the Clean Water Act.
“The logging industry shouldn’t have a special right to pollute,” commented Pedery. “Every other industry has to comply with the Clean Water Act, and for the sake of salmon and our drinking water, so too should big timber.”
The complete list of the Oregon’s 10 Most Endangered Places 2011 is:
Page Updated: Saturday October 01, 2011 02:17 AM Pacific
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