Supervisors Cook, Kobseff take dam issue to Washington, DC lawmakers
By Dale Andreasen, Siskiyou Daily News Aug 06, 2008
“We need more water for upper Klamath Basin irrigation and we need to improve fish habitat,” Kobseff said. “We can do that and keep the clean hydroelectric power that’s vital for U.S. consumers.”
In January, the Klamath Settlement Group, composed of representatives from 26 organizations involved with water, fish and other resource issues, released the Proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement that, among other things, calls for the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the river. The group represents interests of Klamath Basin farmers, Indian tribes and conservationists along with county, state and federal governmental agencies.
After two public meetings in March, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted at its April 1 meeting to not become signatories to the agreement. The Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Klamath Off-Project Water Users also have not signed it. In February, the Northcoast Environmental Center decided not to support the agreement, saying it did not go far enough in ensuring that ample water goes toward fish restoration.
“The settlement talks have been caught up in the romance of dam removal,” said Kobseff. “Dam removal was their solution, nothing else has really been talked about. When we talked with these Washington lawmakers, it was obvious that dam removal was the only option they had heard about.”
“In general, I think our message was well received,” Cook said. “The Congress members and their staffs were somewhat surprised to hear about possible solutions other than dam removal. They have only heard one side of the story,” he added.
Kobseff said he heard many comments similar to, “This is a new perspective, why haven’t we heard it before?” Alternatives to dam removal, he noted, have not even been discussed.
The two supervisors, along with Klamath County, Ore., Commissioner Bill Brown, traveled to the nation’s capital Sunday and spent Monday through Wednesday meeting with the staffs of California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Oregon senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden. They also met with House of Representatives members Wally Herger of California and Greg Walden of Oregon and some of their staff along with Department of Interior Chief Counsel Michael Bogart.
Cook and Kobseff said they had a short, personal visit with Senator Smith and that Senator Wyden gave them a full hour. The staffs of senators Boxer and Feinstein were “very helpful and gracious,” according to the supervisors.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Kobseff pointed out repeatedly to the nation’s lawmakers. “We’re hitting both sides of the aisle.”
When questioned about water quality issues and toxic blue-green algae blooms behind the Copco and Iron Gate dams, Cook said, “The subject of algae never came up.”
Last month, a Superior Court judge ruled that the Northcoast Regional Water Quality Control Board has the authority to regulate water quality to rid the Klamath River of the toxic algae that secretes a liver toxin known as microcystin.
Kobseff said that salmon restoration is a major concern of the board. He attributed much of the decline in salmon runs to disease problems that, he said, are negating any attempts at successful restoration. Eighty percent of the smolts or juvenile fish die from parasite disease between the inflows of the Shasta and Scott Rivers, he asserted. “The parasites, Ceratomyxa shasta and Parvicapsula minibicornis, are a huge problem.”
Cook said he senses that the Bush Administration is directing the Department of Interior to “get something done” and that the dam removal possibility is being played up as a “romantic, feel-good solution.”
He encouraged local residents to contact House of Representatives members Wally Herger or Greg Walden to “make your voices be heard. It’s not too late,” he said.