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KBC editor comments below Water Line: Klamath Basin Agreements (entire articles below...scroll)

Herald and News 1/11/15

(5 1/2 pages are dedicated to those supporting the KBRA/KHSA Klamath settlement "agreements" and 1/2 to elected Klamath County Commissioners who have written letters to U.S. representatives in opposition of the" agreements".

1/11/15: Oregon Democrat representatives Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley are again trying to push the KBRA / Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, through the Senate and Congress, so below are articles in the Herald and News advertising the deal















Here is the Karuk Spokesman Craig Tucker page. Tucker was trained by GreenCorp to be a  "career ... environmental and social justice activist." He was on the steering committee of Klamath Riverkeeper before it spun off from umbrella group Klamath Forest Alliance, and he’s presently on the board. "The goal: removal of four dams on the Klamath River which would represent the largest dam removal project in history." He speaks of "Klamath Project irrigators, the enemies of the tribes" and infers that, after these dams come out, Keno Dam is next.










AUDIO 9/28/11 - Klamath Basin "Power for Water Agreement" Holly Cannon, KWAPA / Klamath Water and Power Agency (power part of the KBRA / Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement), Executive Director, held meeting in Tulelake to urge irrigators to sign onto the "low-cost power for water" agreement..."...that's what the KBRA is about, is bringing "low-cost power..."
Cannon: "What you're giving up is water to get affordable power."
Q "What is the acre feet that we're giving away for this cheaper power rate?"
A  Cannon: "I'd say 20-25%, but it varies year to year.....What you're giving up is water to get affordable power...KWAPA is doing an On-Project plan that is designing how you're going to give up water..." 
Q "What happens if we find out with the program it looks good, then all of a sudden it could be higher than the tariff rate? You can't guarantee what that rate's going to be."
Cannon, "We can't guarantee it."
Q "It might not be that golden egg ...and the landlord says, 'no I don't want this,' and then he's stuck with it... and then it could be a liability problem too." 
Cannon, "it could be,"  
Q "and then he  comes back on whoever signs the contract."

Cannon, "yeah."

Klamath Basin collaboration - - Water rights: A balancing act


Watershed accords represent hard work, tough compromises

It’s the story of Klamath Basin water, and most of all, it’s about hope.
Karuk Tribe Spokesman Craig Tucker said many of the early meetings leading up to the 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) were tense. Several parties at the negotiation table had been at odds — sometimes violently — for years.
But as talks continued and walls were broken down, Tucker said, he saw an authentic relationship emerge between the Basin’s tribal and agricultural communities.
“I think I saw over time, some of these folks from the farm community really come to understand why fish are important to Indians. I think I also saw a lot of Indians come to appreciate what they had in common with the farmers,” Tucker said.
It’s no secret that water in the Klamath Basin is a contentious issue. Tribal communities flourished around the Basin’s water sources for centuries. Settlers later harnessed those sources for irrigated agriculture, and water diversions transformed the Basin’s semi-arid landscape into thousands of acres of productive farmland, creating one of the first Bureau of Reclamation irrigation projects in the United States.
In 2008, the Herald and News published “Watermarks,” a four-part special report investigating the heart of Klamath water issues. In the series, published two years before the KBRA and KHSA were finalized in 2010, some thought the agreements were “as good as done.”
The two agreements, meant to reinforce federal tribal trust obligations and to create a “safe harbor” that keeps farmers and ranchers whole during drought years, are still waiting for their day in the sun. Although the pacts promise to provide greater certainty for water availability, regulatory expectations, power costs, and more, they have languished on lawmakers’ desks for five years.
Now, in “Water Line,” a six-page special report in today’s paper, the H&N takes a second look at the KBRA and KHSA, and the 2014 upper Basin agreement that spelled out the realities of a settlement concept.
Curbing uncertainty
It’s been more than decade since farmers and tribes squared off during the water crisis of 2001 and the massive fish kill the following year, yet the Basin’s future remains a mystery.
“My personal feeling is that we haven’t faced this much uncertainty since 2001,” said Hollie Cannon, executive director of the Klamath Water and Power Association.
The 132-page watershed bill that landed on lawmakers’ desks in late 2014 hails a new chapter in Basin water. The bill — the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act, Senate Bill 2379 — represents years of collaboration, much of it donated time, and millions of dollars invested in anticipation of a settlement being put into action.
The settlement package attempts to keep farmers in water, protect species on the brink of extinction, and establish economic stability for Basin communities.
The bill addresses concerns from the headwaters of the Klamath watershed, northeast of Klamath Falls, to the mouth of the Klamath River where it meets the Pacific Ocean in Northern California. It is the first-ever of this scale.
Years of litigation — mostly uphill legal battles with few large-scale victories — have tried to quell the Basin’s water uncertainty. Many now believe collaboration is the best vision for the Basin. It’s a vision that meets the needs of the most stakeholders, rather than a vision that meets the most needs of one group.
Tribes, farmers, ranchers and environmental advocates have forced themselves to see water use from new perspectives. They’ve learned how to work together and to meet eye-to-eye at negotiation tables.
Now, even though a settlement is still hanging in the balance, farmers and ranchers have implemented new ways to conserve and use water to its fullest. In good faith, the Klamath Tribes have agreed to honor settlement conditions to ensure irrigators have water in times of drought.
Linda Long, president of the Modoc Point Irrigation District, said what makes SB 2379 such a landmark achievement is the determination of upper and lower Basin stakeholders to set aside their differences and work toward the same goal.
Long said if these hard-won agreements fall apart, she doesn’t know if they’ll ever get put back together again.
“It will affect our whole basin, not just the irrigation community,” Long said.
Government agencies, and water and wildlife advocate groups have already granted millions to support better water management practices in the Basin.
“Most everything the KWAPA has accomplished has been in anticipation of the KBRA passing,” Cannon said.
Rancher Tom Burns said a landowner entity group representing interests of the upper Basin pact is looking at the economic viability of upper Basin ag and how it can be sustained if the Basin settlements are not approved by Congress.
“It dies automatically if the rest of the agreements don’t go through,” Burns said.
Basin's best shot
The sense of urgency is real.
“If the KBRA is what keeps us in the water, we need support and we are going to need it soon,” farmer Gary Wright said.
On Thursday, Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, introduced SB 2379 — now named SB 133 — into the first congressional session of 2015.
Many are wondering if this could be the watershed year farmers, tribes and environmentalists breach the status quo and bring unity to the Klamath Basin.
Klamath Project farmer Warren Haught said conditions are ripening for a “perfect storm.”

“If (the KBRA) doesn’t pass Congress, it doesn’t do us any good,” Haught said. “It could get a lot worse if we don’t figure out some way to make this thing work.”
According to farmer Gary Wright, if the KBRA fails, the entire Klamath Project is in trouble.
“If the KBRA fails, Lord help us,” said farmer Gary Derry.
From conflict to compromise: Now dissolution?
  Water agreement could come down like a ‘house of cards’
  By LACEY JARRELL: H&N Staff Reporter
     After years of contentious water conflict, dozens of stakeholders finally sat together and hammered out a complex package of water use compromises.

   The resulting 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and related Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, guaranteed water for the Klamath Project and the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in return for removing four Klamath River dams and restoring fisheries for Basin tribes.

   Conditions of the two agreements rely heavily on each other — where one party gives, another takes, and vice versa. The benefits stakeholders fought for cannot be hand-picked out of the settlements, nor can a lone party withdraw.

   It’s all or nothing.

   Either everyone moves forward together, or the whole thing comes down like a house of cards.

   The KBRA sunset on Dec. 31. Because Congress did not pass Senate Bill 2379, which encompasses the KBRA, the KHSA, and the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement, in 2014, parties can begin taking steps to terminate the KBRA.

   If a party believes the bargained-for benefits are no longer achievable and the agreement should terminate, the party must submit a dispute initiation notice within 60 days of Dec. 31 to begin the termination process. According to the KBRA, the agreement can terminate if federal legislation — needed for financial backing and infrastructure support — has not been enacted or the parties do not agree to amend the settlement.

   If a dispute notice is not given within the 60-day period, and the agreement has not terminated, the expiration date will be extended until Dec. 31, 2015.


























Regarding compensation for the counties, if the settlement agreements are approved by Congress, Klamath County would have an economic loss of $1 million per year due to lost property taxes and tax revenue from Keno Dam (being transferred to the government), idled ground, and loss of JC Boyle hydroelectric dam. The KBRA offered Klamath County only $3.2 million altogether in compensation over 15 years.



State adjudicator Jesse Ratcliffe, Assistant Attorney General with the Oregon Department of Justice, administrative law judge, and representative for Oregon Water Resources Department, was participant in close door KBRA and KHSA settlement meetings.

He was in charge of the administrative process of the Klamath water adjudication which gave control of the majority of the water to the Klamath Tribes.

KBC Klamath adjudication page



The process to rein in water use and establish Klamath Basin landowners’ water rights began in 1957. Since 1909, when the Oregon Water Resources Department established a permit process for capturing or harvesting water, the Klamath Basin has become one of the last basins in Oregon to be regulated — nearly two-thirds of Oregon has water rules. 2013 marked the end of the Basin’s decades-long process.

Some say adjudication leads to greater security, predictability and flexibility for water users; others consider it a stranglehold on a valuable resource.

The first year of adjudication in the Klamath Basin saw 590 water rights for 350 users, according to OWRD Watermaster Scott White.

A priority date is assigned by the date a landowner’s application for a water permit or rights was submitted. Following the water law “first in time; first in right” maxim, the Klamath Tribes were awarded a “time immemorial” right, and the ability to have their water needs met first.

Other significant priority dates harken back to 1864 — when much of the Klamath Tribes' territorial land was seized and tribal members were constrained to a 2 million-acre reservation — and to 1905, the year the Bureau of Reclamation was approved to construct the Klamath Project. All three dates — among the most senior in the Basin — can “call” or restrict water from junior water users upstream to meet their needs.

Initiating the water rules was the first phase of adjudication. Now the second phase — review of the Final Order of Determination — is underway. More than 180 landowners are contesting the OWRD’s determination, and have filed claims that will be reviewed by Judge Cameron F. Wogan in Klamath County Circuit Court.

Trial Court Administrator John Powell said the next step will occur this month, when parties can make requests and recommendations for how court proceedings should move forward.

Powell explained that the court will review the exceptions, and ultimately issue a water rights decree affirming or modifying the OWRD Final Order of Determination. Powell declined to wager a guess as to when the decrees will be finalized.


KBC - Water for refuges

Land where the Tule Lake refuge is was originally slated for more homesteaders to farm. When the government decided to create a refuge there instead, there was no issue with refuge water. If the farmers receive their deeded water (deeds signed by their President of the United States), then the water would end up in the refuges.
In Tule Lake, a previously closed basin with up to 30' of navigable water, there was so much water that they blasted a tunnel through Sheep Ridge to get rid of some of that water so they could farm, which the government then turned into Lower Klamath Refuge, then the water is sent into (diverted INTO) the Klamath River. So, if water is delivered to the farmers, the refuge will get their water. If farmer water is denied by the government, then presently the refuge would get no or little water. KBRA gives the refuge their own water right.

The reason more water has not been sent into the refuges in recent years from Tule Lake refuge is, the farmers must pay 90-some percent of diverting the excess water through the man-made tunnel INTO Lower Klamath Refuge. Since the tribes and environmental groups (most now are KBRA stakeholders) sued to have the power company increase our power rate, which is now over 2000% higher than 10 years ago, we can not afford to accommodate, at our own expense, this government mandate. They do say that the government will help pay the power expenses IF the farmers sign on to the KBRA deal.

HERE for KBC Refuge Page articles and photos



Agreement could guarantee water for nation’s oldest wildlife refuge


In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt carved out a chunk of land along the Oregon-California border and designated it as the nation’s first wildlife refuge dedicated solely to preserving waterfowl.

For more than a century, the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge has provided forage and habitat for millions of migrating birds. But in recent years, water has become more sporadic and the birds less numerous.

Instead, some move on, and thousands of others concentrate in marshes and wetlands at neighboring Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, putting them at risk for disease. Outbreaks of avian botulism are common.

According to Greg Austin, acting manager of the Tule Lake NWR and Klamath Refuge Complex, as of Dec. 5, only one-eighth of the 51,000-acre Lower Klamath NWR was flooded wetland.

“The last time Lower Klamath received any water off the river or directly off Upper Klamath Lake, was Nov. 1, 2013,” Austin said.

“We’re habitat-based. If we don’t have habitat, we don’t have anything.”

Last in line

Austin said during low water years, Lower Klamath’s priority date makes it a struggle to get water.

“We are last in line,” he said.

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement could change that.

According to Austin, Tule Lake refuge has a 1905 priority date equal to the Klamath Project, which allows water deliveries to refuge lease lands to continue as long as Project irrigators receive water. Austin said Lower Klamath has federal reserve water rights for flooding the wetlands, but those date to 1925 —much more junior.

Under the KBRA, Austin said, Tule Lake and Lower Klamath refuges could receive between 48,000 and 60,000 acre-feet of water — possibly a little less in severe drought years, but still substantially more than they receive now. The KBRA also will establish a co-equal water priority with the Klamath Project, and the refuge’s fish and wildlife success will become a purpose of the Project.

“We’ll be better off than we’ve been in a long time,” Austin said.

Counting birds

In November, an aerial survey identified 125,000 ducks and geese on Lower Klamath. Austin said at maximum production, the refuge can support more than three times that — about 500,000 birds.

“If we can have an allocation of water, and we know when we are going to get it, we can do a really good job with that,” Austin said.

“Without it, we’re last in line unless something changes.”

  Conservation groups: Water agreements bad for refuges

The KBRA and related legislation are bad for Klamath refuges, according to John DeVoe, executive director of WaterWatch of Oregon, because they attempt to lock in 22,000 acres of refuge land for commercial agricultural use. DeVoe said refuge management should focus on maintaining waterfowl and migratory bird habitat and wetlands, not promoting commercial agricultural use on public lands.

“The fundamental problem in the Klamath Basin is that too much water has been promised to too many interests. Rather than solve this problem, the KBRA perpetuates the problem by attempting to guarantee too much water to Klamath Project irrigators,” he said.

Oregon Wild Conservation Director Steve Pedery said Oregon Wild opposes the KBRA because it doesn’t do enough to guarantee minimum water levels for fish and wildlife in Upper Klamath Lake and salmon in the Klamath River, and it will perpetuate problems for the refuges.

Pedery said to alter that position, Oregon Wild would need to see revisions that allow for a reduction or phase out of agriculture on the refuges, and the development of water rights for the refuges with a more meaningful priority date.

When asked what the alternative to the KBRA is, Pedery said he thinks that question is a "cop-out KBRA backers have used to avoid hard questions about why they have continued to spend time and resources on a proposal that is clearly going nowhere."

— By Lacey Jarrell


Plan stalls: PacifiCorp fee halts talks. Power transition for local irrigators at standstill, H&N, posted to KBC 7/3/14

Letter from disillusioned Upper Klamath Water Users Association leader and KBRA/KHSA proponent regarding PacifiCorp and KBRA, posted to KBC 7/1/14. "I do not believe PC has bargained in good faith as implied in the KHSA. We have been working on the federal power delivery concept (Interconnect Study) for more then 4 years. We have spent 1000's of man hours and 100k"s of tax payer dollars to get to where we are today. The conclusion of 3/4 to 1 cent benefit which in the words of the consultant "is in the margin of error" is a poor result for all the work. With the latest revelation from PC (see attachment) the fate of BPA power is most likely sealed. Had PC been forth coming with information and resources we could have come to this conclusion years ago and invested our resources more productively.  If I thought there was a benefit I would suggest to the UKWUA members to withdraw any support for the KHSA."


In the 2007 FERC study, the cost estimate of dam removal including environmental costs (removing toxic sediment and cement, etc) were between $1.4 and $4.4 billion.


Future of dams would be costly


Without a settlement, four controversial Klamath River dams will likely remain in place.

The financial and legal risk to PacifiCorp, which owns the dams, and its customers, just isn’t worth it, according to PacifiCorp Spokesman Bob Gravely. He said the certainty and security provided by the closely connected Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) cannot be matched outside a settlement.

The agreements provide provisions for removing four Klamath River dams — J.C. Boyle, Iron Gate, Copco 1 and Copco 2 — owned by PacifiCorp, the parent company of Pacific Power. Their removal could open 300 miles of Klamath watershed habitat and re-establish salmon runs into the upper reaches of the Klamath Basin.

“We know a free-flowing river is much better for fish passage,” said Bill Tinniswood, assistant fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The dams produce 168 megawatts, or only 1.5 percent of the company’s power needs to serve its 1.8 million customers.

Gravely said removing the dams without state or federal support could open the corporation and its customers to years of legal battles, of which customers would bear the entire cost.

Risk and cost

Federal agencies say the dams need updates — specifically fish ladders — to comply with environmental regulations that were not in place when the dams were constructed between 1922 and 1962.

Under the settlement, the power provider can remove the dams and replace the power for less cost and risk than it would face in relicensing, according to Gravely.
“Under the settlement agreement, the cost to PacifiCorp customers to remove the dams is capped at $200 million, and the state of California has agreed to pick up an additional $250 million,” Gravely said. “The cost and risk to our customers of going it alone outweighs the known costs of relicensing.”

According to Gravely, the estimated cost to install fish ladders in the four dams is about $300 million. He said PacifiCorp has estimated total costs for relicensing the project could be in excess of $400 million.

PacifiCorp began a process to relicense and update the dams, including installing fish ladders, around 2002. Gravely said when the KBRA and KHSA were finalized in 2010, the power provider halted the application process, and it’s been on hold ever since.

“If we reached a point where the settlement agreements are disbanded or it just becomes completely clear that it’s not happening, then the relicensing process would automatically restart,” Gravely said.

The relicensing process is just about complete. According to Gravely, the last two steps are getting approval from Oregon and California under the Clean Water Act and then getting the state permits.

Gravely said he believes the certifications could be obtained; however, he emphasized that a settlement approach to river management is preferable.



KBC page: What caused the 2002 fish die-off?

* Science Misconduct Page 

* whistleblower Paul Houser Page

* Simplified 3-page letter to Siskiyou County legal counsel Thomas P Guarino from scientist Stephen Koshy on catastrophic Klamath dam collapse. Koshy called and explained to KBC News that there will be a catastrophic collapse if Klamath dams are destroyed, costing lives and at least $5 billion to clean up. He sent his detailed warning to the Bureau of Reclamation, 4/15/12.



Joint biological opinion first in nation


For Klamath Basin tribes who rely on robust salmon runs, the weeks between Sept. 18 and Oct. 1, 2002, were two of the most devastating in recent memory.

Thousands of salmon killed by the fatal parasite Ich washed up along a 30-mile stretch of the Klamath River. “It was pretty disturbing,” said Wade Sinnen, a senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Game who witnessed the massive die-off.

Scientists estimate as many as 70,000 adult chinook salmon died in the 2002 Klamath River fish-kill. It is the largest to ever occur in the West.

The fish-kill was caused by a combination of overcrowding in low, stagnant water, and warm temperatures, which allowed the deadly parasite Ich, Ceratomyxa shasta, and other lesser known parasites, to proliferate.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mortality report, fall-run chinook accounted for 97 percent of the dead. Chinook, while not protected by the Endangered Species Act, are a precious source of economy and sustenance to Klamath Basin tribes and other Northern California fisheries.

To help the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages much of the Basin’s water, meet the needs of protected Klamath River salmon and suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, a 10-year joint biological opinion was drafted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It was released in 2013. Laurie Sada, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor, said the joint biological opinion was the first in the country created to accommodate an entire watershed.



The threat - Don Gentry: "Without one (agreement), he said, the Tribes will be forced to use the only tool they have to restore Klamath fisheries — using their “time immemorial” water right to make full calls on water.

KBC comment: That means, if the Klamath irrigators do not agree to giving the tribes their millions of $ and land they previously sold, planting endangered fish in the area, and destroying Klamath River hydro dams that supply power for 70,000 households, they will again deny farmers and ranchers their irrigation water. The dam removal was a deal they made with environmental advocates like Craig Tucker...I support your agenda if you support mine. Does land and money = more fish?


Facts about the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA, by the Klamath Tribes, Dec '09 issue

Klamath Tribe document of intensions




Chairman: Opportunity to implement solutions would be lost


Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry used three words — “an opportunity lost” — to sum up what the Basin will experience if three bills that make up the Klamath settlements are not approved and funded by Congress.

“We will lose the opportunity to right the wrong, so to speak, or to fix what’s been broken,” Gentry said.

Under the agreements, the Tribes agree to reduce calls for certain instream water levels in tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake. In return, landowners will reduce the amount of irrigation water they draw from the Sprague, Wood and Sycan rivers. The hard-won compromise struck a delicate balance among entities that have been at odds for decades.

But if the settlements, particularly the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement, are not enacted, funding to help upper Basin irrigators uphold their end of the bargain could disappear.

Gentry believes the Klamath settlements are the best opportunity for the Tribes to achieve self-sufficiency and to restore salmon and endangered sucker fisheries. Gentry said for years, tribal members have been denied federally affirmed treaty rights because they can’t harvest fish species that have sustained the Tribes for centuries. He noted that Lost River and shortnose suckers were both listed as endangered in 1988, and salmon can only travel inland as far as Iron Gate Dam in California.

Like other stakeholders, Gentry prefers a settlement. Without one, he said, the Tribes will be forced to use the only tool they have to restore Klamath fisheries — using their “time immemorial” water right to make full calls on water.

“We will basically be in a position we don’t want to be in,” Gentry said.

“I think the community would lose a lot of the positive relationships we’ve developed,” Gentry said. “We would lose the opportunity to really work together to implement a solution that works for all.”


In addition to assurances of riparian and watershed restoration, the upper Basin settlement pact secures funding to help the Tribes acquire the 92,000-acre Mazama Forest and it endows the Tribes with a $40 million economic package.

“The economic package does a lot to achieve our goals,” Gentry said.

When the Klamath Tribes were terminated in 1954, they were one of the wealthiest tribes in the nation. Even though the Tribes were restored — notably without a land base or reservation — in 1986, many tribal members still struggle today to find family wage jobs.

“We want to be more economically self-sufficient, and viable as we once were when we had the reservation,” Gentry said.

Without the settlement, the Tribes have limited opportunity for growth in one of the most economically depressed counties in the state.

Gentry noted that the water certainty and economic stability provided by the agreements benefits the entire community — tribal, agricultural, commercial and industrial businesses.

“We’re essentially partners trying to move forward with the agreements and supporting legislation. If that goes away, we’ll basically be in court again,” he said.

Battling it out in the courts may take another 10 to 20 years: The opportunity will be lost and the whole Basin will continue suffering, Gentry said.




HERE for KBC webpage of Leaf Hillman, felon, spiritual leader, Karuk Tribe member, and president of the board of Klamath Riverkeepers; Craig Tucker is secretary.




A chance to shape their own future

By LACEY JARRELL Karuk Tribe member Leaf Hillman said since the Karuk were first contacted by European settlers around 1850, members have had little to no control over what happened to their way of life.

To Hillman, director of natural resources and environmental policy for the Karuk, the Klamath settlements represent the first time in nearly two centuries that tribal members have had a chance to carve out a future for themselves. He said now that they have a voice, the federal government needs to listen.

“What we’re trying to do is probably the biggest watershed restoration effort in U.S. history,” said Karuk Spokesman Craig Tucker.

Much of what the tribe bid for — including removing four Klamath River dams — at the KBRA and KHSA negotiation table, relates to restoring Klamath River salmon fisheries.

Food, traditions

According to Karuk tribal council member Josh Saxon, being denied access to traditional food only compounds challenges members already face in having access to healthy food and preserving traditions — like dip net fishing at Ishi Pishi Falls — and passing those on to new generations.

“It causes stress among the native community when there’s not enough. You have less people gathering, which means less food distributed throughout the community,” Saxon said.

“Our access to good, healthy food is in the river and in the forest — and through bad management practices and legacy dams, we’re dealing with a scarcity issue.”

Tucker added that healthy salmon runs aren’t just about having fish to sell, or having fish to eat. It’s about the practice of going to the falls, catching, cleaning and dressing the fish, then distributing them to elders in the community.

“All of those activities are an opportunity to share cultural values with the next generation,” Tucker said.

Tucker noted that restoring the watershed will improve habitat for other culturally important species, like the Pacific salamander, green sturgeon, lamprey and freshwater mussels, as well.

Diminishing returns

According to Saxon, fall chinook runs in the Salmon River, a 20-mile-long tributary of the Klamath River in Siskiyou County, have shrunk to about 1,000 fish per year. Spring runs, which rest in cool pools often found in the river’s upper reaches, are even smaller.

“They are holding on for dear life,” Saxon said. “There aren’t that many accessible cold places below the dams for these fish to spend their summers. The only way that spring fish are going to come back in any kind of significant, harvestable numbers, is if every single dam comes down.”

Tucker said even if the settlements fail, the Karuk Tribe is still going “to bring wood to the fire to remove these dams.”

Many stakeholders believe U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., is the key to Senate Bill 2379 gaining support in the House and Senate. Walden has been resistant to supporting the legislation because of the dam removal component.

“From where we sit, it looks like Walden just threw his constituents under the bus,” Tucker said.

“When you have 90 percent of the stakeholders on the same page, and a Congressman who’s not willing to see that — that to me, is disturbing,” Saxon said. “It’s mind blowing.”



Creating a dialogue outside of agreements


The Hoopa Tribe of California remains opposed to the KBRA, and is voicing opposition to Senate Bill 2379.

Hoopa Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten said the tribe’s opposition is largely a result of feeling snubbed at the negotiation table. She said the tribe was involved in early settlement talks, but it did not help craft legislation.

“As it started to get sculpted into a bill, we weren’t able to participate, and it felt like they shut our rights off,” Vigil-Masten said.

“If they were more receptive to making sure the Hoopa’s rights weren’t going to be jeopardized in any way, we probably would have been in support.”

Vigil-Masten said although the Hoopa reservation only touches a small part of the Klamath River, the 3,200-member tribe has a vested interest in Klamath salmon. The fish must first forge up the Klamath before entering the Trinity River and the Hoopa reservation, where salmon are valued for cultural and economic security.

“If we have no say in the Klamath River, then that means we would have no say in any fish at all, period,” Vigil-Masten said.

She pointed out that the Hoopa have a treaty right to Trinity River fish and water. The Hoopa reservation, one of California’s largest reservations, straddles 12 miles of the Trinity River.

Vigil-Masten said every year they face the possibility of a fish kill, but the tribe’s position isn’t only about salmon.

“What people forget is that our drinking water comes out of the Trinity River,” she said.

Vigil-Masten said she would like to work with other stakeholders to figure out how to ensure the Hoopa’s sovereignty is protected and the tribe has water in its tributaries in the summer months.

“I would like to be able to have the tribes and the parties be able to dialogue in this new year,” she said.

Editor’s note: The Yurok Tribe, which has in the past voiced support of the Klamath settlement agreements, declined to comment for this H&N special report.





Read carefully: Their district felt they needed to support "neutrality" on the water agreements, however: "Hammerich said very few East Side irrigators are pro-KBRA."




From opposition to neutrality on water agreements


East Side irrigators have little to gain from the Klamath settlements, district managers said.

Until 2011, the Langell Valley Irrigation District (LVID) and Horsefly Irrigation District, known collectively as the “East Side,” openly opposed the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. The districts were concerned about language defining where the 48,000-plus acre-feet the KBRA promises to the Klamath refuge complex would come from each year.

“We vehemently protect our water out here, and that’s just the way it is,” said LVID Manager Frank Hammerich.

According to Hammerich, the agreement didn’t say the water would come from the East Side districts, but it didn’t explicitly say it wouldn’t, either.

“We had some concerns about Clear Lake, Lost River and Gerber water above Harpold Dam making up the water shortage,” Hammerich said.

Written assurance

In November of that year, the districts took action. Together they purchased a half-page ad in the Herald and News that read: “All we have sought is a written assurance that the water we do use from Clear Lake and Gerber reservoirs would not be taken in times of shortage to serve other project purposes that ordinarily depend on water from Upper Klamath Lake.”

More than 200 families irrigate about 30,000 acres in the two districts, the ad said.
After KBRA negotiators took notice and rewrote the agreement, stating “no call will be made for water … to meet the refuge allocation,” the districts changed their position from opposing the KBRA to being neutral on the subject.

“In this 400-page document, that was a major stickler for us,” Hammerich said. “We wanted it in black-and white writing, period.”

Hammerich said although LVID and Horsefly Irrigation District are part of the Klamath Project, water the KBRA pledges in drought years doesn’t benefit the East Side. He believes achieving more affordable power through the KBRA is unlikely, and somewhat unnecessary.

“We’re still lower than the national average,” Hammerich said. “The power is not breaking anybody, in my opinion.”

Hammerich said very few East Side irrigators are pro-KBRA.

LVID rancher Jason Nash said he doesn’t believe interests of all stakeholders were represented at the negotiation table.

“The KBRA doesn’t fairly take into account the history of the Project and the true users,” Nash said.

Hammerich said he does not believe the KBRA will gain anything for East Side irrigators, and even if it did, the gains would be limited.

According to Kizer, about 6,900 acre-feet has been retired.

Spending on water retirement and riparian improvements


More than $70,000 has already been put into an upper Basin water retirement and riparian improvement program.

Together, the Northwest Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Oregon Water Enhancement Board have provided $72,000 toward developing two nonprofits that are a product of the pact between the Klamath Tribes and upper Basin irrigators: the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA).

Rancher Randall Kizer is chairman of the two groups — the Upper Klamath Landowners Corporation and the Upper Klamath Landowners Improvement District — that make up the “Landowner Entity” assigned a host of duties for moving forward watershed improvements under the UKBCA.

Funding for groups

Kizer said funding from these groups will be provided through the end of March; after April 1, only money from the Northwest Fish and Wildlife Foundation will be available. Much of the funding is going toward administration and legal fees, he added.

According to the pact, upper Basin landowners must retire 30,000 acre feet of water within five years, and enroll several miles of riverbank into a riparian restoration program. The retired water will provide increased flows in upper Basin tributaries. If the two programs’ conditions are met, the Klamath Tribes agree to provide water to irrigators at levels based on instream flows specified in the agreement.

 Landowners were required to retire at least 5,000 acre-feet of water in 2014.

 “For the first year, I think it went incredibly well,” said Dani Watson, owner of Ranch and Range Consulting. She noted that landowners exceeded all the benchmarks for 2014.

According to Kizer, about 6,900 acre-feet has been retired. He said at least 33 landowner entities have signed up for the program.

“It’s at least a third of all the irrigated acres in the upper Basin,” Kizer said.

And, nearly 70 percent of the required stream mileage has been committed, he said.

Meeting benchmarks

Watson said landowners have five years to meet the programs' final benchmarks.

It’s going to take a lot of funding to get all the benchmarks passed. As of now, funding to complete the programs is limited.

Kizer said he doesn’t know what will happen if Senate Bill 2379 doesn’t gain congressional support.

“That’s a really, really, good question. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Kizer said.

LANDOWNER ENTITY The landowner entity represents interests from six upper Basin regions: Upper Sprague, Lower Sprague, Sycan, Middle Williamson, Lower Williamson and Wood Valley.




KWAPA - Program prepares for agreements


Whether or not the Klamath water agreements make it through Congress, Klamath Water and Power Agency Executive Director Hollie Cannon is not sure where the programs for land idling and groundwater pumping his agency administers will end up.

He’s not sure how the On-Project Plan, a water management tool KWAPA has been tasked with facilitating under the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, will proceed.

“The only thing that I’m sure of is that the need remains,” he said. “The need for a solution remains.”

KWAPA is a joint powers/ inter-governmental agency that provides programs to align water supply and demand within the Klamath Project. Its members are agencies within the Project.

The On-Project Plan will move irrigators away from inconsistent water allocations by establishing a volume that will be available each year. The volume will be based on water availability, conservation strategies, and demand management, although under the plan, land idling is considered a last resort.

Since 2009, KWAPA has provided a major program in helping level out water usage in the Basin: the Water User Mitigation Program, better known as WUMP.

WUMP was meant to be the bridge to the On-Project Plan until the agreements were approved. That hasn’t happened yet.

Freeing up water

In years of low water supply, such as 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014, WUMP programs allowed some irrigators to idle their land — or forgo using irrigation water — for a fee. That freed up more water for other users.

“We were able to pay those who were willing not to irrigate so those who needed to irrigate had a more complete water supply,” Cannon said.

Another program KWAPA championed was the groundwater program. As part of the WUMP program, KWAPA paid irrigators to pump groundwater instead of using surface water.

“Groundwater pumping was more controlled,” he said.

The effect of groundwater pumping was spread throughout the Basin. Without the program Cannon estimated the same amount of water would have been pumped, but there would have been drastic groundwater impacts in some areas.

KWAPA also helped domestic wells. If a domestic well was running dry because of agricultural pumping, KWAPA provided funding opportunities for those domestic wells to drill deeper.

What comes next?

Cannon said the WUMP program is extended through 2015.

“The WUMP program has one year left,” he said. “The need does not go away. We don’t know what replaces WUMP at this point.”

If the KBRA had been approved by 2014 as originally planned, WUMP’s extension through 2015 would have been just right. Without approval, Cannon is unsure of what happens next. He said the Bureau of Reclamation is working on what could come after WUMP, but Cannon didn’t know what that is.

If the agreements were approved, KWAPA is ready for the next step.

“We’re ready to implement the On-Project Plan,” Cannon said.



Water loss would devastate businesses


Bob Gasser, co-owner of Basin Fertilizer, said during the water shutoffs of 2001, Basin Fertilizer lost 75 percent of its business. He expects the same to happen if Basin farmers have water losses similar to what they experienced that year.

“It would be devastating,” Gasser said.

Gasser said it took about 10 years for Basin Fertilizer to reestablish the losses of 2001.

Charlie Halvorsen, co-owner of Bob Halvorsen’s Rentals & Sales, said everyone in the Basin — farmers, business owners and homeowners — is affected when there’s a lack of water. He said whether it’s drought or water shutoffs, concerns that the water might not come back, and that the Basin will lose more living-wage jobs, always exist.

Gasser said if another situation similar to 2001 arose, he would be forced to reduce his 42-person crew or to cut back the business in other ways.

“It’s critical we get some kind of agreement moving forward,” Gasser said. “It’s critical to the survival of ag in the Basin.”


Making legislation possible: Klamath Basin Task Force


The Klamath Basin Task Force provided the last support stakeholders needed to solidify recommendations for a comprehensive piece of legislation intended to create water certainty.

Upper Basin Rancher Roger Nicholson said without the task force, it’s not likely a “fair and equitable” settlement would have ever been reached.

It started in July 2013, when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent stakeholders back to the drawing board. He said the existing KBRA and KHSA were too expensive, and a large portion of Basin stakeholders — mostly in the upper Basin — weren’t included in the agreements, which were finalized in 2010.

Wyden appointed nearly 30 members to a Klamath Basin Task Force and asked them for concrete results he could take to lawmakers in 10 weeks.

Richard Whitman, Wyden’s natural resources policy adviser, led the stakeholders, who represented tribal, agricultural, environmental, and state and federal interests.

“It was pretty amazing to have all the parties on board,” said Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry.

A two-week federal government shutdown in October that year slowed the process. The task force met for months, hammering out the details of Wyden’s vision. In January 2014, stakeholders announced they had the potential to reach resolution: The settlement’s initial $800 million price tag had been whittled down to $250 million, and the Klamath Tribes and upper Basin irrigators had reached a tentative pact, later named the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement.

“It was very significant. It was a lot of work and a lot of hours folks put in to get to that point,” Gentry said.

Tribal members voted in favor of the pact, 564 to 419, and the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement was signed by state and federal officials, irrigators and the Klamath Tribes in April.

Nicholson said now it’s up to lawmakers to place the final piece of the puzzle: pass the bill through Congress.


Q&A on SB 2379 - Lawmakers and Klamath County Commissioners


Responses from Hank Stern, on behalf of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Q  How the likely support is it that it needs SB 2379 to move will forward?
A Several years of hard work by members of the Klamath Tribes, Basin water users and Interior officials led to Sen. Wyden’s historic legislation in the recently concluded (2014) Congress. Because Sen. Wyden knows the region’s longtime water disputes have been so unproductive for so long, he worked in good faith to explore every one of several options for that agreement to move forward, but was blocked at every turn by opponents playing “stall ball.” He cannot predict whether opposition in Washington, D.C., will be more open to good-faith negotiations in 2015, but he remains optimistic that reason will prevail when there’s such broad local support for a solution.

Q What do to are move you willing SB 2379 to the president’s desk?
A It’s premature to forecast how this agreement gets through the House and Senate to the president’s desk. What Sen. Wyden does know is that he will pull out all the stops to get this long-overdue agreement in place. There’s simply no excuse for inaction when the needs are so great in the Klamath Basin.

Q If the other bill doesn't pass, what other options exist for the Basin's water stakeholders? 
A There is no other good option. The alternative is the status quo, which everybody knows from hard-earned experience is unacceptable. When stakeholders have already invested years of sweat equity in reaching a compromise that can be broadly accepted, it makes no sense to start over in a misguided attempt to reinvent the wheel.



Q will How gain likely the is support it that SB it 2379 needs to move forward?

A The prospects for the Klamath Basin Act in the Senate seem strong. The bill has gained momentum due to the outpouring of support from community leaders in the Klamath Basin.
   It is my hope that the growing local support will generate as much support in the U.S. House of Representatives as it has already garnered in the U.S. Senate.

Q What are you willing to do to move SB 2379 to the president’s desk?

A I will work closely with U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Lisa Murkowski to find the best legislative path forward. Based on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s bipartisan support in the last Congress, my hope is that it will move quickly. I have briefed the Democratic leadership in the Senate, and they are ready to assist in moving a bill forward. I am committed to continuing work with my colleagues across the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to secure passage of this essential legislation.

Q  If the other bill options doesn’t pass, what other options exist for the Basin's water stakeholders?

A Legislation is essential for implementing each of the agreement’s major elements. If Congress fails to pass such legislation, odds are high that the region will experience uncertainty and conflicts over access to water. Uncertainty of future access to water could be economically damaging. How many farmers and ranchers will make major investments facing such uncertainty? In addition, relicensing or retiring the Klamath dams owned by the power utility may become a litigious, controversial and expensive battle. Such outcomes would be worse for the Klamath Tribes, farmers, ranchers, fish and the power utility. This is why we should do all we can to secure the legislation to implement the Klamath settlement agreements early in the next Congress.


Klamath County Commissioners were asked their opinions on the water agreements, SB 2379 and actions that should be taken. Here's what the H&N found out:


Q What water is your opinion on  the water agreements and SB 2379?

A It went pretty much exactly like I thought it would. I thought 2379 would not make it out of the Senate. And it didn’t even get a vote on the floor of the Senate, let alone go to the House. There’s parts of the agreements I think are OK. There’s a lot of things I don’t like about the agreement, but that’s personal feeling. … I don’t like dam removal.

Q If you do not support the settlements, what is your alternative?

A My alternative is to go back to the negotiating table with something that actually will pass Congress. What’s going to pass? Get everybody on board with it in Washington, D.C., and say, ‘What will you accept?’ … We’re working it in the wrong direction throwing something at Washington, D.C., and asking, ‘What will pass?’ If you can’t make it through Washington, D.C., ... then make something local. Keep the federal government out of it if they don’t want to play.

Q Will you action on that alternative? Whose on job is it to take action?

A The irrigators and the Tribes and the ranchers, they have been involved. But they need to be involved, they have to take the action. They need to decide, is this going to go ahead or not. My personal opinion, they’ve seen it’s a no. They need to decide whether they want to get back together and do an agreement that will work. I would help any way I could. But we’re kind of on the sidelines.



Q What is your opinion on the water agreements and SB 2379?

A I think recently seeing … all these groups saying they support these agreements is really big.
While these agreements are not perfect ... I think we need something to move forward. There has been no viable alternative.
I think we need to support our friends in ag, and they have indicated to me this is
the best way to do it.

Q Will take you take action on that?

A I will be there to open mindedly listen to people with differing opinions on these agreements. I will do the best I can to support what’s going to be best for the community as a whole.
I respect my fellow commissioners and their positions, but I will not be making an effort to tear down all the hard work being done by people who are genuinely trying to find a solution to this very complicated issue.

Q Whose job is it to take action?

A I think it’s the responsibility of the affected stakeholders: the water users, the Tribes, those with environmental concerns. Those are the folks I think have been, in good faith, working really hard on these issues.
As county leaders, we need to support those who are working toward a solution. I think it’s really a challenge when solutions depend on action from federal government.






The KBRA in its current form designates any unallocated or excess water as environmental water which is only allowed for fish and wildlife and forbidden to be used for agriculture. So with the KBRA intact, the solution of off stream storage is made invalid.


Q What is your opinion on the water agreements and SB 2379?

A They did not pass and they did not pass by quite a defining no. … The way it’s formulated now it’s never going to pass. I am hopeful they don’t try to reintroduce it. … To gain necessary Basin-wide support, 2379 needs to accept defeat. And those who support it. It’s not going to go forward, and a new direction needs to go forward.
I’ve always said there are good parts and pieces of the KBRA and Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement. But the numbers don’t fit what’s really needed.

Q If you do not support the settlements, what is your alternative?

A Off-stream storage needs to be a part of this to have a real viable solution for long-term water. Zeroing out the debt in the Project and having irrigation districts take over ownership of the Project, that is what I would consider a very definite direction it should go.
There needs to be ESA (Endangered Species Act) and biological opinion protections. The agreements, as they are now, have no protections from the ESA. … And affordable power. There needs to be affordable power in these agreements.

Q Will you take action on that alternative? Whose job is it to take action?

A We’re hoping they will be added into there. We’re already working on some of them already.
We’ve been adamant with our federal legislators that the federal government needs to step out of the Project.
We’re accepting applications for a Klamath Basin Water Advisory Committee. … One of the first tasks is going to be looking into offstream storage. There’s a ton of possibilities for off-stream storage in the Klamath Basin. Some of them are big, some are small. We’re in the process of looking into those so we can get some groundwork done when things go forward, it will already take place.
Dredging the lake — it doesn’t create any more water — but it would reduce the amount of phosphorous in the water and make Klamath Lake colder.


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