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Guarino gives board KBRA update

by David Smith Siskiyou Daily News March 5, 2010

Yreka, Calif. - Updates from County Counsel Thomas Guarino and Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales were featured at Tuesday’s Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting, with a look at the Klamath River agreements and the Siskiyou County Wildfire Protection Panel (SWCPP).

Guarino first discussed a number of issues related to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which lays out a plan for the restoration of the Klamath River basin contingent upon the removal of four dams along the river.

According to Guarino, a meeting for the interim Technical Advisory Team (TAT) is scheduled for March 23 in Klamath Falls, Ore. The TAT, as described in the KBRA, will “review and evaluate data gathered under and outside the Agreement, make recommendations for management of resources, provide technical expertise, and evaluate implementation of the Agreement as it relates to management of Environmental Water that affects Upper Klamath Lake and the lower Klamath River mainstem ecosystems in the period before, during and after Facilities Removal.”

Board Chair Marcia Armstrong asked about the scoping process for the environmental review as part of the obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), specifically whether or not the analysis will include a look at the alternatives to dam removal, such as building fish ladders or other avenues for providing fish passage around the dams.

Guarino said that the county has advocated for the inclusion of alternatives in the analysis, adding that normally, those analyses are required for NEPA reviews. He said, however, that there is a possibility that those alternative analyses could be circumvented in the legislation that is required to implement the KBRA, which is currently being drafted.

Armstrong also asked if the county would be required to accept all of the studies that will be used in the determination of whether or not the dams will be removed. Guarino said that there are studies being used that the county believes are not up to standards set by President Barack Obama, due in part to what he called “artificial time pressures” forcing the use of some studies that have been done by third parties.

Guarino added that in order to contest the studies, the county would have to produce its own to provide evidence of the inadequacies it believes exist. He explained that the county may find funding for its own studies through the Department of the Interior, however.

Armstrong then asked if the county would need to have its own scientific expert in order to participate with the TAT. While Guarino stated that he feels he is qualified to “vet”?the underlying science, he believes that the county is at a disadvantage without the resources to staff its own technical experts.

Answering another question from Armstrong, Guarino said that the county should be prepared for county ordinances to be pre-empted, as the agreements state that while all the necessary permits will be obtained, local ordinances will not necessarily be allowed to delay or interfere in the process.

Guarino said that topic would be discussed by District 1 Supervisor Jim Cook, who is in Washington, D.C. this week, in part to meet with various legislators’ offices about the dam agreement legislation. Armstrong explained that at the special meeting of the board in which Cook’s trip was approved, she had misspoke when advising him to visit Congressman John Doolittle’s office. Instead, she said Tuesday, she had meant to suggest visiting Congressman Doc Hastings.

Guarino also gave an update on the county’s letter to California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, in which the county requested Brown’s opinion on whether or not it can legally sign the KBRA. Gaurino said that since Brown’s office has already advised the state on the matter, he is expecting that Brown will not be able to advise the county due to the confidential nature of the negotiations.

Costales, who presented the board with the SCWPP’s recommendation to continue a “Declared Emergency” to assist with the clean-up of winter storm damage, expounded on the function of the SWCPP and on the county’s current salmon recovery project in an interview Wednesday.

The salmon recovery project, according to Costales, will utilize the injection of fertilized “eyed-egg” salmon embryos into the streambed, which he said has shown in trials in Alaska to improve fish production by up to 20 times the natural rate.

Costales stated that he planned on traveling to the Salmon River area Thursday to discuss details of the project as well as to converse with interested parties on how they may contribute to the project. An update on that trip will follow in an upcoming edition of the Siskiyou Daily News

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