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Dams and cattle

Looking over the dam removal agreement

by TY BEAVER, Herald and News 10/8/09
KBC NOTE: There are some links throughout this article implanted by KBC News to help clarify statements.
H&N photo by Ty Beaver - Tom Mallams, an off-Project irrigator and president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users, talks about the Klamath River dam removal agreement and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement in Yonna Valley in eastern Klamath County.

State Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, says a Klamath River dam removal agreement would kill the cattle industry in Klamath County.

But those who worked on the agreement say they don’t understand where he’s coming from.

And a number of people are wondering why the agreement takes out four down-river dams, but leaves the upriver Keno dam in place.

And a number of people are wondering why the agreement takes out four down-river dams, but leaves the upriver Keno dam in place.

Effects on the cattle industry

Whitsett, when asked how he would explain the agreements to a Basin resident, said he believed “the agreements as written will pretty much destroy the cattle industry in the Basin and that is the No. 1 commodity in the Klamath Basin.”

Luther Horsley, president of Klamath Water Users Association, said that statement isn’t true. He is a cattleman and said half of the ranchers raising cattle in the county are on the Klamath Reclamation Project.

“I think it will give some certainty to pasture on the Project,” he said.

Horsley said he wasn’t familiar enough to comment on how cattlemen off the Project would be impacted, but Becky Hyde of the Upper Klamath Water Users Association said she doesn’t know where Whitsett gets his perspective.

(KBC NOTE: for Whitsett's credentials for knowing the Klamath Basin cattle industry as a large animal veterinarian, go HERE)

She said there are some outstanding issues within the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, primarily affecting water settlements, that still are being addressed for off-Project irrigators.

“I think it’s going to take time,” Hyde said.

She’s otherwise comfortable with the other assurances the agreements provide for irrigators and said opponents have yet to offer viable alternatives with their complaints.

Whitsett replied that the agreements would substantially impact areas off the Project. About 100,000 acres (KBC link to documentation) of land above and around Upper Klamath Lake have been taken out of production, much of that pasture. The agreements call for another 30,000 acre-feet of water to be diverted to the lake, which could impact between 30,000 to 50,000 acres of land, he said.

Some pasture around Fort Klamath could still produce grass for cattle as there is some groundwater resource, but most areas would go dry, Whitsett said, and it currently isn’t economical for ranchers to not irrigate.

“These people are in a business to make a profit,” he said.

Dean Brockbank, vice president and general counsel of PacifiCorp Energy, said he thought Whitsett’s comments were directed mostly at the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, something the utility was not involved in.

However, he said ranchers and irrigators were involved in the dam removal agreement talks and “their issues have consistently been addressed at the settlement table.”

Why will the Keno dam remain in place while four Klamath River hydroelectric dams below it are removed?

KBC NOTE: Recently circulated agenda of a KBRA secret PAIL meeting including mention of Keno and Link River Dams removal discussions 1/28/09.
    Two groups at the Klamath settlement table, North Coast Environmental Center and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen, support taking out the Keno Dam as well. People at the Yreka meeting presented testimony objecting to dam removal. Most of those objecting are not allowed at the table. Eureka.

According to the dam removal agreement, dam owner PacifiCorp and the U.S. Department of Interior are to reach a transfer agreement on the Keno Dam sometime in 2011. Once transferred, the dam would be maintained for irrigation use, its current purpose.

Dean Brockbank, vice president and general counsel for PacifiCorp Energy, said the dam provides no hydroelectric power, and the company doesn’t want to be responsible for it if it is transferring ownership of its four hydroelectric dams downstream.

“It’s been important for the irrigation community and the Bureau (of Reclamation),” he said.

Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said the reservoir behind Keno is critical for irrigation diversions, benefiting irrigators as far as Tulelake and Lower Klamath Lake, and sending water to the Lower Klamath Lake Wildlife Refuge. A number of off-Project irrigators also have diversions.

Preserving the dam was an early priority for irrigator stakeholders so water supplies could be preserved.

“I never really felt it was in the crosshairs,” Addington said.

Larry Dunsmoor, fisheries biologist for the Klamath Tribes, said tribal leaders are still reviewing the dam removal document and tribal membership has yet to approve it.

Still, he said he had no concern about the Keno dam impeding fish passage because it has a fish ladder and further improvements would help with habitat restoration and water quality.

Kevin Moore, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Falls office, said the exact outcome for the dam would be determined after the Department of the Interior studies fish passage and water quality issues at the dam.

Tom Mallams, president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users, said he’s still concerned for the future of Keno Dam, saying there is less certainty it will remain if it is owned by the federal government rather than by a private company.

Off-Project irrigator opposes dam removal


H&N Staff Writer

“The real important part of 2001 was everyone was united,” says Tom Mallams about the water crisis that shut off irrigation water to Klamath Basin- and Tulelake-area farmers.

Mallams, an irrigator off the Klamath Reclamation Project, says there was no division between those on and off the Project during the crisis. Off-Project irrigators stood with Project irrigators, attending demonstrations and writing letters to lawmakers and others.

The off-Project irrigators had water, though, while their counterparts, who had more senior water rights, did not. Mallams says a group of off-Project irrigators approached the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about idling some land to provide some water to the Project, but the offer was declined.

“We should have been turned off, and I admit that,” Mallams says.

Since that time, groups that represent different camps of irrigators became opponents based on differing opinions about dam removal and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. The agreement, in addition to other things, allocates water among Klamath River Basin stakeholders, including irrigators, tribes, fishermen and conservationists.

But Mallams still is friends with several on-Project irrigators — who he says don’t want the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement implemented, though their irrigation district leadership does.

“A lot of those guys are afraid to voice opposition,” he says.

Mallams is glad the public now can be more involved in the issues of dam removal and the restoration agreement, and he encourages people to ask questions. He opposes dam removal and says he appreciates this minority position, as he and others refuse to give in to special interests seeking a precedent-setting plan.

“If the dams on the Klamath River come out, they’re going to go straight to the Snake and the Columbia (rivers),” he said.

Editor’s Note: When stakeholders released a Klamath River dam removal agreement for review, any number of people expressed various opinions about it and its possible effects. The Herald and News will take a weekly look at a variety of those opinions, as well as other questions posed by readers, by reviewing them with other stakeholders and observers.

This latest agreement was a year in the making and would take out four hydropower projects downstream of Klamath Falls. It is one element of the larger Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which deals with water rights, power supply, Tribal lands, fisheries and more.

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