Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Good Cop Bad Cop
The Oregon Natural Resources Council, ONRC, now called 'Oregon Wild', was supportive in 2001 of shutting off irrigation in the Klamath Project to 1400 family farms.
In this article, Oregon Wild objects to farming on public lands called refuges, although according to Ph. D. Robert McLandress, UC Davis ecology, "...Klamath Basin is the most important waterfowl area in North America. Waterfowl eat 70 million pounds of food here... and more than half comes from the farms." HERE for Audio
In the KBRA/Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, the stakeholders, including Craig Tucker with the Karuk Tribe, and Glen Spain, PCFFA, claim to support refuge farming.
Interestingly, (1) Tucker, at the KBRA negotiation table and a leader in dam removal efforts, is on the board of directors of Riverkeeper, who opposes the KBRA. He started the Klamath Riverkeeper group under Klamath Forest Alliance umbrella. Klamath Forest Alliance founder Felice Pace, greatly responsible for shutting down Siskiyou County timber industry, publicly opposes the KBRA. Why is it ok for Craig Tucker to help draft and support the KBRA, and with another name Klamath Riverkeeper, oppose it?
Lets talk about refuge farming. (1) Tucker and Spain say they support farming on the Klamath Basin Fish and Wildlife refuges; that's what they're telling the farmers, and that's what the farmers think who want to sign the KBRA document. But what's this, "Commercial agriculture within the national wildlife refuges should be phased out in an equitable manner and refuge lands should be returned to a natural habitat condition" ?
Who said that??
Also, Klamath farm leaders advertise the KBRA as a way to avoid 2001 water shutoff again because of the assurances in the KBRA. In 2001 it was the Endangered Species Act/ESA that shut down irrigation, even though the National Academy of Science later stated that the water shutoff "was unjustified."
According to the adjacent article, Spain assures his partners in the Klamath Coalition, Oregon Wild, (3) that the ESA will not be weakened. In the written word of the KBRA, the ESA and biological opinions will be supported.
What is it that will benefit Klamath irrigators if there are no regulatory assurances?
Why do Tucker and Spain continue to proclaim the KBRA is good for farmers?
For more on Spain and Tucker, visit our
Whose Who Page
Group critical of water agreementOregon Wild, the environmental organization formerly known as the Oregon Natural Resources Council, has been highly critical of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.
Ani Kame’enui, the Portland-based healthy rivers campaign coordinator, said Oregon Wild is generally concerned about the Klamath River Basin ecosystem and specifically about management of the six Klamath National Wildlife Refuges.“What the settlement would do is manage the Klamath right back to a fish-kill and that wouldn’t be good for irrigators and it obviously wouldn’t be good for salmon,” Kame’enui said in a statement. end refuge farming, but we do increase bird habitat. The KBRA not only ensures water deliveries to refuges, but increases the size of Upper Klamath Lake by 100,000 acre-feet and invests in riparian restoration of the Williamson, Sprague and Wood rivers. This is a significant expansion of migratory waterfowl habitat.
“Oregon Wild is guilty of letting the perfect be the enemy of the very good,” he said.Benefits to refuges
Ron Cole, the refuges’ manager, said the KBRA benefits refuges.“Leaving the National Wildlife Refuges out of the KBRA would have left the refuges worse off than they have ever been before,” he said. “By having the refuges involved in the negotiations, the KBRA provides numerous benefits to the refuges they have never had since their creation over 100 years ago.”
Cole noted these benefits: the refuges become a part, or purpose, of the Klamath Reclamation Project (they currently are not); the refuges will receive a water priority equal to agriculture (the refuges currently are below agriculture in priority); the agreement provides refuges their own allocation of water separate from irrigated agriculture (the refuges now only receive water if it is in excess of the needs of agriculture).In addition, Cole said
“The KBRA water deal needs to be fixed. Salmon and farmers both need water, but the only guarantees in this deal are for irrigators. That’s not compromise.”Oregon Wild was originally part of the KBRA discussions, but was unable to reach agreement with other stakeholders and did not continue. Kame’enui said several major defects exist in the current drafts.
A major concern, Kame’enui said, is that the KBRA “locks in commercial agriculture on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife refuges for 50 years, all but eliminating the possibility of restoration in the near future and for potential water storage.”Stakeholders in the discussions disagree. (2) Glen Spain, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association’s Northwest regional director, said without the agreement, the refuges will be locked into the current status, which provides water to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge only after all other needs are met.
(1) Craig Tucker, Klamath coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, also challenges Oregon Wild’s claim.“I am no refuge expert, but I do know that the KBRA provides a strong assurance that the refuges will receive water greater than historic allocation,” Tucker said.
“We don’t meet Oregon Wild’s need to completely the refuges will receive 20 percent of the lease land revenue, which will be used in refuge conservation efforts. The revenue now goes to Bureau of Reclamation. He said the KBRA also gives the refuges “the ability to order water and apply it exactly when the refuge wants to. Currently the refuges receive water at times when it does not need it, often at times when it is harmful to wildlife management.”Dam removal
Kame’enui, listing another criticism, said Oregon Wild is concerned that neither agreement requires removal of any dams.“The KHSA (Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement) is a planning process that merely might, after 12-plus years, lead to dam removal,” she said. “The KHSA gives to the Interior Secretary the determination whether dam removal is ‘in the public interest,’ thus delaying action while unnecessarily duplicative federal and state analysis occurs.”
KBRA proponents said the process is necessary to determine if dam removal is economically and scientifically feasible.Spain, who believes dams negatively impact water quality, predicts the process will provide information on why the dams should be removed and recommend the best removal methods to protect and preserve fish.
(3) He also challenged Kame’enui’s claim that the KBRA will weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting that any changes to the ESA would require legislation in Congress.Kame’enui also discussed other several concerns, including claims the agreements come at the expense of fish and wildlife and not of farmers.
Various KBRA supporters discount those concerns as ideological beliefs and are critical of Oregon Wild’s attitude.“The KBRA provides a collaborative balance that no litigation outcome could remotely approach,” said Larry Dunsmoor, senior aquatics biologist for the Klamath Tribes. “It provides flow improvements, a major reintroduction program for salmon and steelhead, a vitally important ecosystem restoration program, and improved and firm water supplies for the refuges, among other important elements for effective resource management.”
Tucker is also critical: “Oregon Wild has yet to offer any viable strategy to increase river flows, remove dams and increase bird habitat. They have throughout this effort played Monday morning quarterback while tribes, irrigators, fishermen and other conservation organizations have worked diligently to provide solutions that benefit all stakeholders.”
Ani Kame’enui is the Portlandbased healthy rivers campaign coordinator with Oregon Wild, a group that has been critical of the water agreement.
Activist focuses on Klamath Basin issues Taking a job as healthy rivers campaign coordinator for Oregon Wild, the group formerly known as the Oregon Natural Resources Council, fit her desires.
Kame’enui, 30, who was born and raised in Eugene, has been the main Oregon Wild spokeswoman since starting with the environmental group in March 2007.While her primary current focus is on Klamath Basin issues, including the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and its impact on Klamath Basin National Wildlife refuges, she’s based in Portland because her duties include river protection, wilderness expansion and mining reform.
“Most of my time is committed to the Klamath — Klamath issues and advocacy,” Kame’enui said. “We’re in a kind of limbo with the draft agreements. The viability of these agreements is certainly in question. It’s going to be a hard fight for those in support of them.”
Kame’enui — her father is Hawaiian and her first and last names reflect that heritage — has a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering, with a focus on water resources from the University of Washington. She worked on water resource issues in Washington, D.C., and taught science before returning to the Pacific Northwest two years ago. As Oregon Wild’s healthy rivers coordinator, a focus of her work is on protecting the six refuges managed under the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges complex in Tulelake.
“Our priority started as working on the refuges. That campaign has grown because it’s a dynamic issue,” she said.Kame’enui said issues involving the six refuges — Lower Klamath, Tule Lake, Clear Lake, Bear Valley, Klamath Marsh and Upper Klamath — have been concerns for Oregon Wild/ONRC for more than 20 years. She credits Wendell Wood, who has long been involved in Klamath Basin environmental issues, with helping the organization target refuge issues.
AgricultureA key concern is the long-term management of the refuges, which she believes are under intense pressure from commercial agriculture. She said Oregon Wild hopes to see agriculture phased out of 32,000 acres of public lands “in a way that is economically feasible.”
Kame’enui said her organization was initially optimistic that talks that led to the KBRA would improve conditions for the refuges and the Klamath Basin watershed.“I think in the beginning those negotiations started off on the right foot. I think the process got hijacked by special agendas,” Kame’enui said. “I’m not convinced this (agreement) does anything better than the status quo.”
Agreements effect on river flow habitat debated Ani Kame’enui of Oregon Wild, an environmental group, said one of the group’s concern is that guaranteeing 330,000 acre-feet for irrigators has no scientific basis and will, in an average four of every 10 years, leave too little water in the Klamath River to meet the current coho salmon biological opinion flow requirements.
Craig Tucker, Klamath coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, said the argument is flawed because “flow and habitat effects cannot be reliably linked to population effects, making it difficult to assign numeric targets for fish production.”He also challenges Oregon Wild claims that the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement has no restoration goals. Kame’enui said the agreement “establishes no target salmon run sizes or harvest goals. Thus its ‘success’ cannot be measured.”
Tucker also believes Oregon Wild overemphasizes the importance of fall-winter flows and ignores technical flow recommendations, which show the importance of water flows from March through May.“These flows still provide 90 percent of potentially available habitat to fish,” he said. “We wanted to be cautious and conservative in the winter since the next spring could be a drought and we will need that water. The assertion that flow ‘shortages’ would cause the collapse of the Klamath River fall chinook fishery is without basis in scientific fact or analysis.”
CollaborationLarry Dunsmoor, senior aquatics biologist for the Klamath Tribes, said Oregon Wild errs on water flow issues.
“The KBRA does not dictate a flow regime in the Klamath River,” he said. “Instead, it sets up a collaborative process for distributing water between the lake and river. One illustration of a possible flow outcome is provided in the KBRA, but the actual flow result will be determined by federal water managers being advised by technical experts from among the parties.”Dunsmoor also said Oregon Wild focuses on water flows independent from the KBRA package, “which means they ignore the interaction of flows with dam removal, improved fish habitat and water quality, and increased access to large areas of cold water, to name just a few. The potential flow regime illustrated in the KBRA provides important increases in Klamath River flows during the spring and early summer period when smolts are out-migrating to the ocean.”
He said the KBRA flows were designed for a Klamath River without the lower four dams and with extensive ecosystem restoration along the river and in tributaries above Upper Klamath Lake.
Page Updated: Saturday October 31, 2009 02:55 AM Pacific
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