Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
The following is one man's opinions on the Klamath Project and
on the Klamath Restoration/Settlement Agreement. His website
and the link to his Klamath Page is
Klamath Part is at the bottom part of the page.
Posted to KBC
2/12/08. You need permission from writer to copy or distribute the
[Editor's Note: The adage "I told you so" is apt insofar as my reports on the Klamath River Restoration Agreement are concerned. If you want proof take a gander at the website entitled "KlamathBasinCrisis." There you will see that many interests, some who were and some who weren't at the so-called settlement talks are voicing some very serious concerns. A flyer there states:
"An informational meeting is planned Monday, February 11th 3:00 PM at Reames Golf and Country Club where the public is being invited to come and learn what the "Restoration" Agreement really means for the Klamath Basin. Attorney James Buchal, J.D., M.B.A. will be the featured speaker. He will explain why the Agreement offers no long-term protection for Klamath Basin farmers and how the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and Tribal interests will continue to threaten the future of private interests in the Klamath Basin.
The flyer continues:
"You heard the proponents, now hear how this Agreement would really affect Klamath County and its citizens."
It then invites residents to express their feelings at that evening's County Board of Commissioner's meeting at 7:00 p.m. (February 11th) at the Klamath County Fairgrounds."
A blog by Jim Foley at "blog.oregonlive.com/oregonianopinion/2008/01/hope_in_the-klamath-basin.html" is another example of how the people in that region are getting up in arms.
If you haven't read the series of articles I wrote or examined the map of the Klamath River Watershed, here is another chance to do so.
Special Report KB Restoration Agreement
KLAMATH RIVER RESTORATION SETTLEMENT SETTLES NOTHING
[Author's Note: Despite large bold headlines reading "Klamath Dams may go" don't be misled. An Agreement to Agree is not legally binding. It may sound rosy but nothing is actually settled. This is my critique of the "Proposal." My six prior articles about these "settlement" talks (see below) are worth another look if you want to gain a better understanding of what amounts to the "Poster Child" for the west's interminable water wars. FG]
The so-called "Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement" was released for public review on January 15. Well, here's my review. It's hilarious, preposterous, ridiculous and, well, un-American!
It's an impractical joke, one that's already falling apart. It only got this far because its major victims were either not at the table or were forced to surrender in the face of an even worse fate.
A lot of time and money has already been wasted on something
that can't be done. We can't even estimate the cost of doable
First, an "Agreement to Agree" is not legally binding. Any of the "entities" who signed onto this deal could walk at any time. The Hoopa Tribe already has, claiming that the farmers are getting too much water.
The Off-Project Water Users (those who farm more than 100,000 acres in the upper Basin regions who left the talks when their interests were attacked) think the deal is "devastating" and does not remotely represent an agreement.
The Resource Conservancy, which represents another group of Klamath Basin irrigators, claims it was denied a seat at the final table and won't be able to go home and farm in peace or prosperity. So does Water Watch of Oregon, which claims it was removed from the talks involuntarily.
Oregon Wild, another environmental group, backed off with a press release entitled "No Dam Deal..." saying: Despite a $1 billion dollar price tag, the agreement does not include any provisions for dam removal. Additionally, the agreement fails to stipulate river flow levels for salmon consistent with what the best available science calls for, and contains language aimed at locking in commercial agricultural development on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges for the next 50 years.
This group is "wild." They blame the Bush Administration for everything. The "river flow science" or "Hardy Flow Studies" to which they refer are considered flawed by many. Those flows deemed necessary by Hardy are referred to as purely speculative. They are based on flow records from 1905 to 1912 - an era of data distorted by changes in the upper basin hydrology and very high precipitation in the upper basin. Some scientists think they greatly overestimate historical flows in the lower river. This has fostered that false perception that more water always equals more fish.
Oregon Wild creates another myth by whining about water being allocated to the refuges. The walking wetlands programs on the refuges are highly beneficial to wildlife, especially waterfowl but also hundreds of other species. Crops rotated onto wetlands also reduce the use of chemical fertilizers. And some refuge water eventually gets back to the river.
Of course there's No Deal! PacifiCorp, the dam owners and operators, didn't participate in these talks nor did any of its thousands of customers. They say "What Settlement?"
Many small businesses who depend on farming, ranching, tourism and outdoor activities weren't represented either.
What about the Klamath Basin Water Users Association? They put out a vanilla-favored press release that implied consent -- BUT read between the lines.
Greg Addington, their president said: "The result of the negotiations is a series of compromises and proposed commitments between farmers, tribes, conservationists, counties and state and federal agencies aimed at keeping all of the Klamath's rural communities economically and ecologically viable."
In other words, the farmers and ranchers have their backs to the wall. Either they go along with these compromises or continue to live under the threat of past and future biological opinions, the Endangered Species Act, water cutoffs, increased power rates for pumping water, fickle rules for water levels in Upper Klamath Lake, numerous lawsuits they can't afford to contest, river flow studies financed by their adversaries and the potential loss of their homes, farms and communities.
We can't go back in time or turn back the clock. The Klamath Basin Reclamation Project did not cause this water crisis. It actually helped the river (see my prior articles). There isn't enough water today to support all the "perceived needs" (another myth - see below), but why blame just the basin farmers or the dams for all our troubles? The dams are not the only factor related to the decline of fish populations. Focusing on just the upper part of this watershed is not the way to restore the salmon, and even if the plan worked it should not be done on the backs of those who live, toil and raise families in the upper part of the Basin. That's inhuman and un-American. If we proceed with this settlement, we'll just make those people more dependent on the rest of us taxpayers. And there's no guarantee it will help the commercial fishermen, the in-river businesses along the Trinity and Klamath River systems or the recreational anglers.
So who wins? No one really, except perhaps the bureaucracies, the Indian Nations, most environmental special interest groups and the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges.
For the federal and state employees, the Indian Tribe leaders and the environmental group reps, it's a Full Employment Act. They will go on meeting forever spending our money on hotels and meals and ordering up more studies and PowerPoint presentations. With headlines such as "Klamath Dams may go," all the environmental groups can raise more money from their constituencies. More grant money will become available for everyone, too.
Being a diehard waterfowl hunter I'm very glad that the refuges are coming out ahead on paper, but can we really "guarantee reliable water deliveries" to anyone, including the ducks? And are we trying to meet real needs or perceived needs for the fish? Mother Nature has a spotty record but man's ability to distort her contributions is worse at times.
There is a big difference between "needs" and "perceived needs." It is well known that before the white man changed the hydrology of the basin there were times when flows down the river were far below what they are today in late summer or early fall. What's more, Indian artifacts found in Upper Klamath Lake when lake levels were very low in 1992 and 1994 suggest that at times Indians camped in areas that are now under water because lake levels are maintained high.
Let's put that in perspective. The water "needs" talked about today are based on estimates of what might be best for fish, now what was there before the Reclamation Project was begun. Thus, perceived needs can account for over-appropriation of water. Evidence shows that could cause the death of sucker fish not higher survival rates. The records show that all major sucker die-offs that have been documented occurred in years when the lake levels were relatively high - not in the years of very low lake levels noted above. A high number of suckers spawned in 1991 - a low water year, the year of the water cutoff. Suckers actually thrived in the low water years. So, it can be argued that high lake levels in Upper Klamath Lake may not be good for suckers.
Likewise, some of the high populations of returned salmon in the past 10 years coincide with hatches that occurred in years of low water supply. More study is needed to see how these salmon returns correlate with low and high water years.
As for the refuges, if the rains come, I know the wildlife, the farmers and the communities in the Klamath Basin are totally interdependent - they help each other. Let it pour!
What else? If the dams are removed there is absolutely no guarantee that enough storage space can be made available in Upper Klamath Lake to insure the delivery of water as needed. Dam removal may cause damage to the mainstem salmon spawning habitat for years. No one knows for sure what is behind those dams. The power being generated by those dams must be replaced. With the "nuclear" option off the table thanks to the environmental groups, how is that going to be done?
There is also no guarantee that the salmon can make the passage up a much-changed Klamath River channel, up the fish ladders and across Upper Klamath Lake to their traditional spawning grounds in Southern Oregon's rivers. They must also come back! Upper Klamath Lake is a warm body of water than is prone to algae blooms. No one knows for sure how much of its water will be lost to evaporation. And, if the lake level gets too low the ESA kicks in to "protect" the endangered sucker fish. As noted above that may not be helping the suckers, and the salmon could be deprived of water when it's most needed in the hot months of August, September and October.
This restoration agreement is also stacked with loaded words such as "stabilized" and "subsidized." Those are nice words for price controls and handouts. The settlement also establishes a Coordinating Council. Well, based on the makeup of the settlement talk tables, how can we possibly create a governing council that is fair and balanced? Finally, the agreement states that 96 percent of the budget is dedicated in some way or another "to the fish." When did any federal or state program ever go to Washington DC, Sacramento or Salem and back without being cut in half or more by the bureaucrats?
Want to spend some money? Let's pay the Indians not to fish for salmon. We've paid farmers not to grow. The Indian's get half of the salmon allocated to rivers each year. This year that was about 40,000 fish. Why not let those fish proceed up the Klamath for a few years to the many tributaries below the dams to spawn. Or why don't we find out what happens to the salmon in the ocean. That's where they spend 70 to 85 percent of their time. We don't know where they go or why their populations fluctuate in the briny. Or why not spend some money to reduce the population of sea lions. They eat thousands of salmon every year. We have so many sea lions they've become bigger pests than rats. The Feds just announced a plan to kill sea lions on the Columbia River. Let's do that here, now!
Don't get me wrong. I'm very much in favor of collaboration, peace negotiations and settlement of issues out of court whenever possible but there are too many flies in this ointment for me.
The bureaucrats should go back to work at their real jobs. The scientists should produce some studies we can believe and find ways to clean up the water behind our dams. The environmentalists should start supporting nuclear power. Anglers, the fish and game managers, landowners and government land stewards should be working harder to improve tributary habitat. Practicing catch and release will help, too, all you anglers! The hatcheries should be producing far more fish. The Indian's should stop fighting us and turn their reservations into showplace tourist attractions and guide services. The farmers should be thinning their ranks voluntarily as market pressures dictate and be allowed to work in peace without threat of annihilation while making adjustments. Everyone in the Klamath River Watershed should be working toward a common goal - restoration of the fish population without stabbing each other in the back or sacrificing human lives. As for this Restoration Agreement, Oregon Wild is right. Congress should say "No Deal."
EasyWriter's columns are copyright protected and published exclusively on the Internet by LocalNews1.LLC. Unauthorized use will be prosecuted.
The following reports were published before the Klamath River Restoration Agreement was made public on January 15, 2008.
Special Report, Part I
IT'S THE KLAMATH RIVER WATERSHED, STUPID!
This is a slam nobody, ask everybody to think again type article. If you'd rather read about full fish stringers or duck straps, go to my website: MyOutdoorBuddy.com.
Something else is bugging me...something that could affect many living things in a great part of the north state and a big chunk of Oregon. It's the Klamath River Watershed (see map).
For the past two years, or more, at least 26 "entities" have been meeting behind closed doors to come up with a "settlement" to the crises that have plagued this vast area. Who are these entities? Who do they represent? That is the question. Regardless, these experts are about to make their recommendations known. Will they fly?
Despite the diversity implied by the shear number of talkers, the solution could be "half-vast," implausible or beyond the size of our collective checkbooks. It could be toothless or devastating, unenforceable or rights-destroying. It could be good for some and bad for others.
A potpourri of groups can produce anything. Our colonies produced the United States. Marx's followers produced a dictatorship of the proletariat. Even if the path these discussions have taken is paved with good intentions, who knows what unintended consequences will put the whip to unrepresented bystanders. That could be wildlife, humans or private interests whose lives or livelihood are staked to the outcome.
Worst case, this "Poster Child" for the West's numerous water crisis hotspots will continue to be a standoff. Advocacy groups don't stop fighting easily. This watershed's resources are too precious. It's been a money-making industry for too many scientists, lawyers, rally organizers and press release machines too long.
The best we can hope for is a truly global solution, one that gets past the myths and misperceptions, one that doesn't pit one endangered species or group against another.
No question, man has mishandled this and other great rivers but he has also created great wealth and prosperity in doing so. Trying to undo the mistakes without destroying the good is a Gordian knot of monstrous proportions. Setting up a model for man's future handling of great rivers while forgetting why we did what we did in the first place is not the place to start. It's time to educate the public about why this is the one of the world's most complex and interdependent systems. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Explaining it can't be done in one lesson, one sound bite or one brief article. What the public needs now is a good history and geography lesson.
"The Klamath River Watershed comprises 10-12.5 million acres, including 13 watershed sub basins spread across two states and seven large counties. There are seven national forests, nine wilderness areas and eight rivers in the overall watershed," Anders Tomlinson, Tule-Lake.com (Map courtesy of Mike Neuman, GIS Land Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, Klamath Falls, Oregon)
If the size and scope of this watershed surprises you, you are not alone. Despite hundreds of articles and decades of controversial hearings and discussions, most people don't know what all the scientists and special interest groups have been talking about.
Bottom line: There is simply not enough water to go around.
Something or somebody is going to go thirsty. And the problem only
gets worse as more people and more animals migrate north. Can
reason prevail? If these groups can pull a rabbit out of this
sombrero of enigmas, they'll be magicians for sure. We'll know
when the curtain is pulled aside, light is shined on the
proceedings and the Houdini's explain how to pull off this hat
Too often this area is narrowly defined, even by its advocates, as "The Klamath Basin." As the map proves, the Upper Klamath Basin is just one small but important part of the watershed, which lies in and around Klamath Falls, including Merrill and Malin, OR and Tulelake, CA.
Myth #2: The region is unworthy.
Most people remember this part of the Basin for the famous "Water Cutoff" that occurred in 2001 that left farmers stranded, nearly bankrupt and fearful of losing their land because their critics were screaming for their water to be cut off again. Nobody seemed to notice or care that farmers put food on the table for us and for many forms of wildlife, or that farmers and wildlife have been totally dependent on each other in this part of the watershed for nearly 100 years. It is not a water-abusing, unproductive landscape, unworthy of life or reason for being as depicted by some special interest groups.
Myth #3: Man erred, fish died
Another favorite subject of writers and pr flacks is the big Klamath River "fish die-off" in 2002. Thousands of Chinook and endangered Coho salmon died of diseases during a sudden, unexpectedly large migration when water levels were too low, water temperatures were too high and deadly microorganisms were multiplying like, well, germs do.
Man was not solely responsible for this disaster. Overcrowded and confused by what may have been false signals from Mother Nature, too many fish moved upstream at the same time. A salmon holocaust thus took place almost before the water stewards knew what was happening.
Sounds like many of the natural disasters that occur every day around the world, doesn't it? Well, like Hurricane Katrina, Mother Nature didn't take the hit. It was much easier to point fingers at the Bush Administration or Dick Cheney, poorly timed, inadequate water deliveries by government agencies and/or the release of warm algae-laden water from several upstream dams. All types of water consumers also got the blame, from vacation resorts and golf courses to city dwellers and alfalfa growers. Even the poor suckerfish, another endangered species, (a specified amount of water is saved for them in Upper Klamath Lake) probably felt some guilt. Despite this 68,000 salmon made it to Iron Gate Hatchery near Hornbrook, more than enough to save the fishery.
Myth #4 Mother Nature is blameless and controllable.
Fall run salmon migrate in our driest months, August through October, usually on cues sent by Mother Nature. As everyone "knows" she has never made an error. In 2002, the fall run was unexpectedly large and it was an unusually dry year. Yes, man did not send help fast enough but how dare we assume that Mother can't trump us or our best-laid plans at any time. One course-changing earthquake or one huge landslide that blocks the upper Klamath could change this watershed forever. It could happen!
This year, right now in December, salmon are still entering the system. Explain that! And their offspring have to go back to sea next spring. Will Mother Nature supply enough water to ensure their safe journey? Can we not experience another "Dust Bowl" in this part of the world? Remember, as well, the salmon are in crisis from the Bay Area to Alaska. The Klamath may be a "canary in the coal mine" but it is not alone.
Myth #5 Man is to blame for the river's warm water.
Wrong! The Klamath originates from Upper Klamath Lake, a huge, shallow body of warm water that for decades has been approaching the swamp stage. That's right. Its low water is warmed daily by the summer's hot sun, which also encourages algae and plant growth. Navigating by boat there is now hazardous! Global warming, whether caused by man or nature, hasn't helped.
What's this? Unlike nearly all other rivers, Mother Nature made the Klamath River upside down. It's hot at its source and cold where it enters the sea. In many years it is not cooled soon enough by its few Trinity-Alps-high tributaries: the Shasta, Scott and Salmon Rivers. It doesn't get a big shot of clear, colder water until it reaches Weitchpec, 40 miles from the sea, where the Trinity River joins it. In 2002, even though warned a die-off could happen, man adjusted too late. More Trinity water couldn't be released fast enough, though an effort was made. The law of unintended consequences had struck again.
There are many other misconceptions. "The dams must go." "Reclamation was wrong!" "Farmers and natural resource industries are dispensable," "Rural counties don't count," "The Klamath could be the same river it was hundreds of years ago," and so forth. These will be discussed in future columns. Let's hope the "settlement" talkers have done the same. (My thanks to Anders Tomlinson and many other KR watershed watchers for their insight into these issues.)
EasyWriter's columns are copyright protected and published exclusively on the Internet by LocalNews1.LLC. Unauthorized use will be prosecuted.
Special Report, Part II
IT'S THE KLAMATH RIVER WATERSHED, STUPID!
[Note: To see Part I of this series go to prior issues of this newspaper or to www.localnews1.net and click on Local News Page 1, "State & Local News" for the week of 12/07/07. Corrections: In Part I, I failed to note that the 2002 fish die-off in the Klamath involved a fall run of Chinook salmon that were larger in size than most years. I have also been advised that the temperature of the water in the Klamath that year had been alarmingly high for quite a long time, so much so that pleas for more water had been sent to the flow managers at the Bureau of Reclamation up to three weeks prior to the die-off. I also erred in saying the salmon were in trouble in Alaska. That was incorrect. The Alaskans have apparently not spoiled their salmon habitat as we have along the pacific coast.]
This series of articles was inspired by the "settlement talks" that have been going on for over two years. Reportedly, those talks in which over 36 separate "entities" or special interest groups are involved, will soon result in recommendations relating to removal of the dams on the Klamath River but what is actually being discussed in unknown. What will the recommendations be? How will they be implemented and at whose expense?
We should know more but we don't. That's what happens when meeting are held behind closed doors, ostensibly because we (read ordinary citizens and taxpayers) would just get in the way or hinder progress. Don't buy that! No matter how thoughtful and inclusive these talks have been, nothing keeps politicians and special interest groups more honest than scrutiny. [My calls to some of the major players, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, including Phil Detrich and David Diamond in Yreka, went unanswered. Their thoughts about what is going on and why we have this veil of secrecy would have been appreciated. Perhaps their calls will come!] After all, aren't we taxpayers footing a great deal of the cost of this "settlement process?" Why can't we be made privy to the discussions and how issues are being resolved?
Part I of this series was a history and geography lesson. Let's reiterate and expand on that and find out what is driving these talks.
To reiterate, most people do not realize just how large the Klamath Basin Watershed is. See the map again, please!
We are not just talking about the "Klamath Basin" around Klamath Falls, OR and Tulelake, CA. This watershed starts about 100 miles east of Crater Lake, OR and extends almost to the southerly end of Trinity Co. It also includes Clear Lake in Modoc County and the mouth of the Klamath below Crescent City. The Trinity River Watershed is a huge part of this system. Are you thinking BIG yet? Every resident and many who live outside this vast area have a stake in what's being decided. Every user of this vast recreational resource has a need to know what's coming down. The future of every business owner, property owner, farmer, angler, hunter, hiker and outdoor lover is on the table. Why?
Myth #6: Water drives this issue
Yes, unfortunately, this area is the victim of a perpetual water crisis. Unless we can find a way to turn rocks into water, that won't go way. As a result, we have had water cutoffs, salmon die-offs, clashes at head gates, a plethora of studies, wild accusations, warring factions, the birth of a legal industry, rallies on the capitol steps and hundreds of articles that provide heat but little light. The truth is more water may not even equate to more fish. The effects of disease and water temperature may be the limiting factors in terms of increasing this fishery. So, yes, water, water policies and dams are integral to this issue but water, per se, is not what drives this issue.
Money, politics, special interest groups and, most importantly, the Endangered Species Act, are driving these "settlement" talks. And, generally speaking, all of these factors were created by previous government interference with the development of the West: Interference that prevented the natural marketplace for land and resources from operating efficiently and causing us the least damage over the long run. We are now sowing what we reaped: The Law of Unintended Consequences.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was enacted in 1973, is the major driving force. Remember the decline of the brown pelican and the bald eagle? Do the words Spotted Owl, ring a bell? The ban on DDT probably did more to help the pelican and the eagle than the ESA did. Whether the ESA helped the Spotted Owl is arguable but there is no doubt the application of this law has brought timber production and many small northwestern towns to their respective knees.
Why worry? According to Wikipedia there are about 170 "Endangered" or "Threaten" species listed today. That number has declined somewhat under President George W. Bush, but somewhere, probably living near you there is an endangered or threatened species. One of those is the Coho Salmon. If populations of our Chinook salmon continue to decline --there are 16 distinct runs in California that have been classified into six major groups or Evolutionarily Significant Units -- they, too, could be listed as threatened or endangered.
That could mean big trouble for you if you own property or a business in the Klamath River Watershed. It doesn't even take "listing" to imperil your business. The mere reduction in the number of salmon you can catch and/or possess can wreak havoc on a lifetime of work, your job and everything you own. Just ask any of the business owners that have tried to survive along the Trinity or Klamath River for the past several years. Or ask any commercial fishing boat operator off the coast of California, Oregon, Washington or British Columbia. Remember, these coastal and rural county towns and outposts have already lost their timber-harvest related businesses. Now they depend on tourism or a fair share of the salmon that are allocated to the commercial or recreational anglers.
One of the "salmon groups" noted above is the Upper Klamath-Trinity River Chinook Salmon. In the Klamath River, Chinook salmon once ascended into Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, to spawn in the major tributaries that enter this lake (The Williamson, Sprague, and Wood Rivers), but access to this region was blocked by Copco Dam, built in 1917. Now there are several more dams. But wait! There are other endangered species in this watershed, including the sucker fish that live in Upper Klamath Lake. These fish are also revered by the Klamath Indian Tribe. What's more, these waters are full of parasites or diseases such as Ceratomyxa Shasta (C.shasta) and Parvicapsula minibiconis (P.minibicornis), all of which can be deadly to young and old salmon as recent U.S. Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State University studies show. What's more, counts of "Redds" - used salmon spawning beds - on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers are down significantly from the average over the past five years. No wonder every stakeholder is concerned!
Myth #7: The dams must go!
The people who advocate for dam removal, mainly the Yurok and Karuk Indian Tribes, many "green" or environmental groups and some ill-informed camp followers, could be cutting off their noses despite their faces. No one knows for sure what dam removal would mean. Tons of silt and sediment is piled up behind these dams.
An article by Jeff Barnard, Associated Press, September 26, 2006 reported that a study by the California State Coastal Commission showed that removing dams "would not be as expensive as feared because the build up behind the dams contain very low levels of toxic leftovers from gold mining, farming and plywood production."
A year later, on September 18, 2007 an article by Jim Cook and Marcia H. Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisors, left some doubt about that, noting that PacifiCorp [owner/operator of the dams] has made it a clear they don't want to take responsibility for any damage that might occur if the dams are taken down. "They have no clear idea as to what is in the tons and tons of sludge and sediment... or how to remove it safely."
If the dams were removed, that silt could flood the Klamath mainstem perhaps destroying many salmon spawning beds. How much harm could that cause? If too much water is sent downstream what would happen to the endangered sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake? How's that for irony. We could be pitting one ESA protected fish against another? Would we be able to control the water sufficiently during wet and dry years without the dams? And how could we replace the lost electric power? The power being generated now is fairly "green." Got a better idea?
Human nature has played a big role, too. It's natural for man to take all he can get from the land, which is why the settlers of the West, including this area, have been fighting over water and water rights since we first arrived. Today, those battles have evolved into a big money business for power companies, farmers, resorts, developers and their coterie of legal beagles. If a truly equitable solution evolves from this settlement process we will have indeed witnessed a miracle.
There are many more amazing misperceptions about this watershed. "Dam removal could save our salmon," "Reclamation was wrong!" "Farmers and natural resource industries are dispensable," "Rural counties don't count," "The Klamath could be the same river it was hundreds of years ago," and so forth. These will be discussed in future columns. Let's hope the "settlement" talkers have done the same. (My thanks to Anders Tomlinson and many other KR watershed watchers for their insight into these issues)
EasyWriter's columns are copyright protected and published exclusively on the Internet by LocalNews1.LLC. Unauthorized use will be prosecuted.
Special Report, Part III
IT'S THE KLAMATH RIVER WATERSHED, STUPID!
[Note: To see Parts I and II of this series go to prior issues of this newspaper or to www.localnews1.net and click on Local News Page 1, "State & Local News" for the weeks of 12/07/07 and 12/14/07.
Myth #8: Dam removal could save our salmon
This widely held belief shows just how little we know the history and geography of the upper part of this watershed. A discussion of this basin (or, more precisely, the basins that existed here a century ago) shows that when these geologic features are described thoroughly and distinctly it becomes clear their existence was then unrelated to man's later decisions to build dams on the Klamath River.
To provide a complete understanding it would be necessary to go back in time many thousands of years. Just as in many parts of our world, this area has undergone many climatic changes. There have been dry periods and wet periods and many geological changes which deserve to be treated in full. There will not be time to go over all of this history in this series of articles. However, a best effort, albeit condensed, will be made to acquaint the reader with this complex system. [To gain greater insight into the situation and see many revealing photographs of this area just over 100 years ago, please go to Tule-Lake.com* and click on "Watershed."]
Why the misperception? Let's begin with some word definition. What does the word "basin" imply? A basin catches and holds water, right? Like your kitchen sink! Let that sink in for a moment!
How about the words: "The Great Basin?" Bingo! Now we're getting closer. The Great Basin is a contiguous watershed that has no direct outlet to the sea. It's a "disconnect." That is precisely what we had in the Klamath Basin before the Reclamation Project was started. In fact there were two or three basins where water accumulated, and most of that water never went to the Klamath River or the sea.
Just over 100 years ago, before the Reclamation Project and the building of dams on the Klamath River, much of the water that now supports farming, wildlife refuges, recreation, hordes of businesses and homesteads, power generation and Klamath River fish drained into Clear Lake (Modoc County), Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Lake.
Where did that water go then? Nowhere! It just sat there and either soaked into the ground or evaporated. It did not reach the Klamath River. In fact, if you look up the boundaries of The Great Basin, you'll note that far eastern part of the Upper Klamath Basin (Clear Lake for example) is actually in the northwestern corner of The Great Basin.
Originally, some of the water that accumulated in Clear Lake flowed through the Lost River, first northwest, then south into Tule Lake, another basin. After 1912 and the completion of the Clear Lake Dam and the Lost River Diversion Canal, that excess water was diverted and sent down the Klamath River.
Similarly, excess water from Oregon's Upper Klamath Lake was flowing into Lower Klamath Lake in California through the Oregon Straits. Before the Reclamation Project was begun in the early 1900's, that water never made it to the Klamath River or the sea either.
The size of these lakes was quite impressive. They were large but relatively shallow and separated by a ridge (Sheepy Ridge) but both were navigable waters. Ferry boats took tourists from Laird Landing near the southwestern corner of Lower Klamath Lake to Klamath Falls (originally called Linkville). Sightseers could go by ferry through Upper Klamath Lake to a trailhead which led to Crater Lake, Oregon. Other Ferry Boats took passengers across Tule Lake to towns such as Malin and points north and south. The point is, through the seasons, water advanced and receded between these three basins and the Klamath River. It wasn't until man instituted the Reclamation Project that more of this water was directed consistently to the Klamath River.
There was no farming in some parts of the basin then. The town of Tulelake didn't exist. That land was under water, many feet deep in some places. So, if you could go back in time for a century or more and remove all the dams, canals and ditches that man has created, that is where the water would end up again - in these large catch basins.
A Reclamation Project Engineer is quoted at the aforementioned website (Tule-Lake.com) as saying in 1907, relative to the scope of the endeavor, "It contains an irrigation problem, an evaporation problem, a runoff problem, any one of which is difficult in itself but all of which together form a most perplexing whole. In nearly all reclamation projects water has to be conserved. In this project there is more than enough and the question of disposing of it becomes an important part."
Therefore, before man's intervention, during late summer or in drought years, the Klamath River got no water from Upper Klamath Lake. Photographs exist that show people standing in the middle of the Link River, which connects Upper Klamath Lake to the Klamath River, when it was totally dry, picking up dead and dying fish. The name of an Indian Village at that point meant "The river that flows two ways." Perhaps the Natives were referring to the fact that springs also begin to appear along the river here and dribbled in both directions?
There is an even more important point: "The Upper Watershed above Iron Gate Dam comprises 38% of the total Klamath River Watershed but supplies only 12% of the runoff" - Anders Tomlinson, Tule-Lake.com. That means that 88% of the water in the Klamath comes from springs and tributaries south of the dams.
*Although I have been influenced by Mr. Tomlinson's artful use of words, his photographs, art and his collection of historical documents reproduced at Tule-Lake.com, the text of this and other articles are my responsibility. The subject is complex. Any errors are mine. I do not purport to speak for him. --FG
Special Report, Part IV
IT'S THE KLAMATH RIVER WATERSHED, STUPID!
[Note: To see Parts I, II and III of this series go to prior issues of this newspaper or to www.localnews1.net and click on Local News Page 1, "State & Local News" for the weeks of 12/07/07, 12/14/07 and 12/21/07.
Myth #9: We can make the watershed like it was then.
Talk about pipedreams. This is a good one, especially when you consider that the environmentalists are telling us that Global Warming is going to doom the polar bears in our lifetimes. If you believe that I've got an island called Manhattan to sell you. Maybe you can restore it to the shape it was in when those Dutchmen "stole" it from the Indians for a few beads.
Mother Earth has changed a lot in the last few centuries and we had little or nothing to do with it. If you don't believe that, go take a look at Mt. St. Helens or try to find Krakatoa (officially, Krakatau), which, until it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in August, 1883 was an island off the coast of Java and Sumatra.
The Upper Klamath Basin may not have experienced such a cataclysmic event in the last 125 years but it has changed dramatically nonetheless, and so has the Klamath River mainstem.
But let's suppose we try to go back in time. Suppose we remove all but one of the dams. Does that assure us that salmon could survive in Upper Klamath Lake and make their way back up the Williamson, Sprague and Wood Rivers?
A few years ago some salmon were planted in pens in Upper Klamath Lake as an experiment. What happened to them? The public was told that they escaped. If so how? And why wasn't this experiment repeated again and again? What's more, we'd still have to get the salmon over the remaining dam. A good fish ladder might do, which was created for suckerfish. Presumably, salmon could use it as well, but how many would survive in the warmer water and how big a toll would diseases found in today's Upper Klamath Lake take?
If the fish ladder isn't sufficient, the fish would have to be trapped and hauled around by truck. That solution is being considered now, as an alternative to removing Iron Gate, Copco and other dams. But does anyone know what impact that would have on fish that have already fought their way up through 155 miles of the Klamath River from the ocean? We already know that the fish that arrive at the Iron Gate Hatchery are battered and beaten, almost dead when the females are stripped of eggs and the egg fertilizing milk is taken from the males. We also know that drugging, trucking and transplanting fish takes its toll. How well are mature salmon going to do when they are manhandled in this way and then dumped into a lake that hasn't supported their kind for decades?
We've also heard that salmon are far more valuable than the potatoes and other crops grown in this basin, but how valuable will Chinook be if they don't survive or if few if any make their way up those Oregon Rivers and reproduce successfully? And how will we get their offspring back down the system safely, over the dam and down the Klamath River if the water is too low, too warm or disease laden in the spring?
But let's go on. Let's suppose that removal of some dams and the resulting flow of silt does no permanent damage to the salmon habitat in the mainstem of the Klamath. That's entirely possible. Besides, let's not forget that Chinook are known to spawn in Bogus Creek, the Shasta River, the Scott River, Indian Creek, Elk Creek, Clear Creek, the Salmon River, Bluff Creek, Blue Creek, and the lower reaches of some of the other smaller tributaries to the mainstem. How many spawning beds do these hold? How much data do we have on the success of spawning efforts in these and the many other small tributaries along the Klamath? Maybe we have enough natural habitat? Maybe we don't need to get that many salmon further upriver? Maybe that and more hatchery production is the solution? But have we forgotten something else? Yes! The mainstem isn't what it once was!
The Klamath River of today is shallower, wider and warmer in many places than it was in the "good old days." Some of this happens by nature. Some is caused by the dams. Banks are eroded. Bars are created. Pools get filled in by runoff and erosion. Brush intrudes upon the sides. The water is forced to make wider, gentler turns. As a result the river is now wider, warmer and slower, especially during drought years. This means that today's Klamath mainstem doesn't contain as many deep, shaded pools where salmon can stop, rest and refresh themselves in deeper, colder water. And, when the canyon was narrower, it didn't take as much water to provide passage for the fish! If we remove the dams will that make the Klamath River narrower, deeper, colder and fast-moving again?
Bottom Line: An argument could be made that there is plenty of habitat available. It could be that the effects of erosion, river bed changes, disease and temperature are the primary limiting factors. More water does not necessarily equate to more fish.
There are still more amazing misperceptions about this watershed. "Reclamation was wrong!" "Farmers and natural resource industries are dispensable," and so forth. These will be discussed in future columns. Let's hope the "settlement" talkers have done the same. (My thanks to Anders Tomlinson and many other KR watershed watchers for their insight into these issues)
Special Report, Part V
[Note: To see Parts I-IV of this series go to prior issues of this newspaper or to www.localnews1.net and click on Local News Page 1, "State & Local News" for the weeks of 12/07/07, 12/14/07, 12/21/07 and 12/28/07.
IT'S THE KLAMATH RIVER WATERSHED, STUPID!
Here are two more misperceptions that make resolving this issue difficult. These myths and those described in early articles in this series, coupled with how these legends are propagated by our media and absorbed by the average poorly educated citizen, will bring us to a conclusion.
Myth #10: Salmon are more valuable than...(fill in the blank)
We've been told that salmon represent a far greater economic value than do potatoes and other crops grown in the Klamath Basin, therefore, water should not be diverted to irrigation. That's undoubtedly true, IF you dismiss the human equation and the value of croplands to other wildlife -- not just waterfowl but all kinds of wild creatures. The Lost River Dam diverts water to irrigation that feeds crops on which wildlife depend in and around the Klamath Basin Refuges. Does that dam have to go, too?
Without this and the lower dams we might not be able to catch, hold and allocate water properly for any living thing, including, of course, people. How valuable (or available) will Chinook be if they don't survive or if too few make their way up those Oregon rivers and reproduce successfully? And how will we get their offspring back down the system safely during drought years. Without stored water supplies the Klamath River could run too low, become too warm or become infected by disease. The disease-causing agents are not just in the behind the lower dams. They are also in Upper Klamath Lake. How are we going to eliminate that hazard?
If wild salmon becomes really scarce, it could also be priced out of the market. Farmed salmon already has a foothold in our markets. They do not look as appetizing or taste as good as wild salmon but if that's all our fishmongers have and wild salmon are not available at any price, their total market value becomes meaningless - and certainly less than that for horseradish or mint. Worse yet, major media reports as recent as December 13 tell us that farmed salmon carry sea lice that are already threatening wild fish in British Columbia. That hardly sounds appetizing but whatever we do we better make sure we don't compound the problem and make things even worse for both wild and hatchery raised Chinook.
When the first miners arrived at Happy Camp they thought the Klamath was a tributary of the Trinity. At that time the Klamath was a much narrower, deeper river. Even if we remove the dams, the river may never restore itself to those conditions or it may take a while. The Trinity River Restoration Program is trying to do that for the Trinity but progress is slow and the major beneficiaries so far have been steelhead, not salmon. At the moment, it is the Trinity River, not the Klamath that runs through a deep, river-carved canyon especially near Burnt Gorge. It takes time for man to mess things up and even more time to correct his mistakes.
Myth #11: The Klamath Reclamation Project was wrong
Tell that to the descendents of the people who have called this home since before the World Wars and you'll be run out of town fast if not physically bombarded with hard thrown Yukon Gold potatoes. The farmers and the wildlife here are totally interdependent. And many of the small rural county businesses are equally dependent on what the farmers produce, especially those crops that attract wildlife that attract hunters, anglers, bird watchers, refuge and park visitors and nature lovers.
The U.S. Government started inviting homesteaders into this country about 100 years ago, after the plan to reclaim the land was started -- with the promise that if they farmed the land they would get to keep their homesteads and be provided with water.
We now have many human beings living off the land and water there. Their toil is also benefitting wildlife of all types. Without them, waterfowl and other wildlife could not sustain themselves. For proof, look at what happened when the water was cut off in 2001. Geese, ducks and other critters quickly abandoned the place.
Better yet, the people here have formed rock solid communities with good schools and 4H programs that are creating excellent leaders. To pit these hardworking people and their contributions to our overall economy against those who live or work along our coastal shores or along the rivers is just plain wrong. If you had your water cut off, you'd be at the head gates with a blow torch, too. If your livelihood depended on the decision of a single judge in a far way court, you too would be mad as hell and yelling "I'm not going to take it anymore!"
What's the answer to this malaise? Stay tuned. Part VI of this series provides some thoughts I wish those settlement talkers were considering. (My thanks to Anders Tomlinson and many other KR watershed watchers for their insight into these issues)
Special Report, Part VI
[Note: To see Parts I-V of this series go to prior issues of this newspaper or to www.localnews1.net and click on Local News Page 1, "State & Local News" for the weeks of 12/07/07, 12/14/07, 12/21/07, 12/28/07, 01/04/08.
IT'S THE KLAMATH RIVER WATERSHED, STUPID!
How to untie the Gordian Knot
It's my understanding that the "Settlement" talks have been civil. All parties are doing their best to accommodate the others. Well, previous talks have also been relatively peaceful but led nowhere. So in the end it's quite possible that nothing much substantial will result from these talks. It could be just a continuation of the "industry" that has grown out of this crisis. It could be just a job, a way to get a paycheck, a way to utilize the money that has been raised from various advocacy groups.
I know that sounds cynical but being skeptical about what goes behind closed doors goes with the territory. If there wasn't so much money involved, so many interests at stake and so much ignorance and passivity on the part of most of the public I'd be more optimistic. Not knowing precisely what is being discussed, how any recommendations will be implemented and who will pay for them, puts us all in the "stupid" class. About all I can do is to try to give you a little background.
Hopefully, this series of articles have given many readers a better understanding of the situation in this watershed. I hope I've provided some good lessons. If I've erred, please correct me. We should never stop learning.
Watching a few episodes of Jay Leno's "Jay Walking" has convinced me that we are turning out citizens who can't figure out who is buried in Grant's Tomb.
What seems to be lacking in the general population is an
appreciation for our nation's history, our Constitution as it was
originally formulated, our Bill of Rights and economics
This lack of appreciation for capitalism began with my generation, those born in the 1930's and '40s. I was there and I remember how some of my teachers tried to fill my head with these notions.
We still have big complement of rugged individualists, entrepreneurs and free-market thinkers, but the majority of our people have become entitlement oriented.
This holds true for every entity that is fighting over the Klamath Basin Watershed.
This incestuous relationship with our government prevents us from "Seeing the forest because of the trees." We can't see the big picture, just our little place in the overall system.
If we are a farmer, we expect water to come from somewhere, if not in the form of rain, then by government mandate.
If we're an Indian, instead of assimilating, we're conditioned to live on so-called reservations, and to be molly-coddled because our ancestors were mistreated.
If we're a commercial boat owner we expect to make our boat mortgage payments either directly or because we've petitioned the government to compensate us for bad years. The same applies to business owners who took a gamble on a market and found it coming up short. We want government help, too.
If we are a recreational angler, we expect our Department of Fish and Game to guarantee us a good supply of whatever we like to catch or shoot.
If we are environmentalists, we expect the Endangered Species Act to be honored no matter what the consequences. Raising money to do is Job One.
If we are a developer or utility company, we expect the legislators to pass laws that will favor our investments and profit-making abilities.
If we are part of a governmental regulatory body, we (the designated experts) expect to provide solutions and receive numerous benefits in return.
In short we all think we are entitled to something.
If for a century or more we have all been highly dependent on the same product -- in this case water -- and that commodity has been in short supply, what should have happened? The law of supply and demand should have caused the cost of water to go up. If water is in very short supply the price should skyrocket, much like the price of plywood in Florida when a hurricane is approaching. But that almost never happens in the case of water. That's because somewhere, somehow every one of us has had an ancestor or predecessor who successfully negotiated a deal with the government.
That's the predicament we're in today. The water we've got has been promised too many times to too many different entities at below market prices. So, instead of salmon, we have spawned several generations of lawyers and scientists who spend all their time and much of our money fighting each other in court or competing for the right to do another study.
At the moment, these various entities are traveling, taking rooms in our nicest hotels, eating good meals and meeting quietly in private settings, assuring each other that the hatchets have been buried. All we can do is hope that the spirit of compromise holds up and the various constituencies that pay for this palaver are willing to accept the terms of peace. It all depends on whether all sides are ready to give up something so that the best interests of all the entities are considered. If not everyone will resume their former positions and start demanding that their interests must come first in the eyes of some judge or governmental body.
This is the dilemma. Instead of being a free market, the market for water is highly regulated and controlled. What has happened is what always happens under those conditions. Shortages occur, some customers go without or without enough, others (those with the most clout with government) get their share or more, and few, if any, are complaining about price - only about availability. And those that aren't users are profiting handsomely by pumping it, studying it or litigating it or are being paid to allocate, store and manage it.
Unfortunately, private industry has not been allowed to develop, manage, store, allocate or sell water. That task has been given to government, including the courts and various regulatory agencies. They are doing their best but it's not good enough. They are not smarter than the market - those thousands of invisible hands described so well by Adam Smith in 1776, the year we declared independence from England.
If we had -- instead of water utility companies and decades-old water deals -- a number of private firms making, storing and selling water to the highest bidders, the money now being tossed down the drain could be used to buy water for the salmon and/or whatever else the market would support. (I know, our politicians and our economically illiterate public would never allow profiteering by "Big Water.") Well, the Saudi's are turning saltwater into fresh, why aren't we?
Worse yet, I doubt if anyone in these so-called settlement talks is a privately owned business that is solely devoted to the care and reproduction of our precious salmon stocks. It would be better if we had a dozen or more such companies at the table competing for the right to raise more and better salmon. Don't believe it? Imagine that the nation's stock of Texas Longhorns had been turned over to the government of the City of Abilene at the end of the Chisholm Trail! Wouldn't we be asking "Where's the Beef?"
Well, why should the salmon hatching business be any different than raising cattle? If you give enough people a chance to compete in an open market and make a profit it's almost always in their best self-interest to deliver the best product possible. That would be my solution.
I know it can't happen now, except perhaps in some small ways, which can be discussed in a subsequent article, but it's certainly something for future generations of pioneers to think about. It's the premise, the concept, the principle that is important - and something our school children are not being taught. Think about it! I sincerely hope that those involved in these settlement talks have given some thought to how privatization of our natural resources might help us all. Except for providing for the common defense, government never does anything better than we, the people, can do - if we are given the chance.
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