KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. —
Both sides in the debate over removing four dams from
the Klamath River are keeping the pressure on as the
project moves forward.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe is suing federal agencies to
improve flows in the lower Klamath River for endangered
coho salmon — a goal that proponents say could be
achieved if the dams came out.
Tribal chairman Ryan Jackson said disease rates in
juvenile salmon in the past two years have soared well
beyond limits established in a 2013 biological opinion
from the National Marine Fisheries Service, and that
even those limits don’t meet standards set in tribal
“It’s not so much to do with dam removal per se,
although certainly that’s a part of it,” Jackson said of
the tribe’s goals behind the lawsuit. “The lawsuit
really gets down to the protection of the fishery and
the needs for increased flows and enhanced water
The lawsuit follows the Karuk Tribe’s filing in late
June of a 60-day notice of intent to sue the NMFS and
Bureau of Reclamation over alleged violations of the
Endangered Species Act. The tribe cites a disease
infection rate of 90 percent of sampled juvenile salmon
The tribes assert that low water levels in the lower
Klamath River are too warm for fish and are polluted
with nutrients and chemicals. The legal actions lend a
sense of urgency as the Karuks and others are engaged in
water-sharing negotiations with federal agencies and
upper Klamath Basin irrigators.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can add a
disease-management flow event,” said Craig Tucker , the
Karuk Tribe’s natural resources policy advocate. “We
think that dam removal will alleviate the problem, but
we need something between now and dam removal. We can’t
just allow 90 percent of juvenile salmon in the river to
succumb to these diseases.”
Shane Hunt , a Reclamation spokesman in Sacramento ,
said the bureau doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The filings come as dam-removal plans agreed on earlier
this year are moving forward. The newly formed Klamath
River Renewal Corporation , a non-government body taking
over the dams from owner PacifiCorp , will likely file
for removal with the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission before the end of August, said Nancy Vogel ,
a California Natural Resources Agency spokeswoman.
Top state and federal officials signed an agreement in
April to have the nonprofit organization go through FERC
to remove the dams after legislation authorizing their
removal failed to make it through Congress by the end of
2015. Proponents are still seeking federal legislation
that would provide money to operate two diversion dams
within the basin that PacifiCorp would turn over to
Reclamation so irrigators wouldn’t have to pick up the
Political opposition to dam removal remains vocal in the
basin, including from Lawrence Kogan , a former Klamath
Irrigation District attorney who’s now working through
his own nonprofit advocacy organization to raise
questions about the project.
The KID’s newly elected majority hired Kogan earlier
this year to scrutinize the dam-removal process but cut
ties with him in mid-July when some board members
thought the New York -based attorney had overstepped his
contract, the Klamath Falls Herald and News reported.
Acting district manager Darin Kandra did not return
calls from the Capital Press seeking comment.
Kogan has since sent public-records requests to the
Bureau of Reclamation and five state agencies seeking
the details of behind-the-scenes discussions of the
amended dam-removal and water-sharing agreements,
including how needed irrigation canal improvements would
“These are things that are public information,” said
Kogan, adding that “half of the basin doesn’t know
what’s going on and has been kept in the dark” because
of non-disclosure agreements among the agencies.
Ed Sheets , who facilitates a committee implementing the
Klamath agreements, said all of the bargained-for
benefits in the pacts “were clearly spelled out” for
those in the basin that would be affected.
“On a larger scale, there’s been some conversations
between the tribes and irrigators to see if some of the
things (in the original Klamath Basin Restoration
Agreement) can be put back together,” Sheets said.
“That’s going to be a complicated process.”