Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Help us fix the Klamath Resource Crisis
By Dennis Lynch and Mark Stopher for Redding Record Searchlight 7/4/10
The Klamath Basin is one of America’s treasured landscapes. It is a place of beauty and it offers its abundance to farmers, fisherman, ranchers, Indian tribes, landowners, recreation interests and the public in general.
But there is also ample evidence that much of this historical abundance has reached its limit. In just the past decade, various Klamath Basin communities have encountered hardships due to some kind of natural resource crisis:
@Bodycopy bullet:In 2001, water deliveries to farmers and ranchers served by the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project were substantially reduced to provide flows in the Klamath River and lake levels in Upper Klamath Lake for protected fish species.
In 2002, tens of thousands of returning adult salmon and other fish species suffered a major die-off before they reached their spawning grounds during a very dry, warm September.
In 2006, the commercial salmon fishing season was closed along 700 miles of the West Coast to protect weak Klamath River stocks. This total closure was partly driven by the loss of so many spawners in 2002. Extremely weak or partially closed commercial salmon seasons also occurred in Oregon and California in 2005 and 2007 for the same reasons.
In 2010, due to drought conditions, the Klamath Project is curtailing irrigation deliveries that could result in the potential short-term idling of farmland and increased groundwater pumping.
In 2010, the c’waam (Lost River suckers) fishery for the Klamath Tribes has been closed for the 24th year, limiting the tribes to only a ceremonial harvest. Other tribes who fish along the Klamath River rarely harvest enough fish to meet modest subsistence needs.
In 2010, it is unlikely that the Klamath Basin wildlife refuges will have sufficient water to support the millions of waterfowl that rely on these wetlands. Not only will this negatively affect migratory bird populations this year, but it will also impact local economies that rely on revenue from hunters and birding enthusiasts.
Having to deal with these problems firsthand, many of the communities in the Klamath Basin came together in an attempt to develop local solutions to balance the water among various interests and provide a higher level of certainty for future generations. These solutions took the form of two agreements: the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA).
The KBRA is a plan to restore and sustain natural fish production and establish reliable water and power supplies which sustain agricultural uses, communities and National Wildlife Refuges.
The KHSA offers a process for studies, environmental review and a decision by the U.S. secretary of the interior regarding whether the removal of Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Copco 2 dams: (1) will advance restoration of the salmonid fisheries of the Klamath Basin; and (2) is in the public interest, which includes but is not limited to consideration of potential impacts on affected local communities and Indian tribes.
As ambitious as these agreements are, they cannot go forward without the scrutiny of an environmental analysis, which under law, must be undertaken by both the federal government and the state of California.
This environmental analysis, which will be published jointly by the Department of the Interior and the California Department of Fish and Game, will address a number of topics to help ensure the protection of the environment, including the human environment.
We invite you to comment on the scope of the environmental analysis, and to raise issues, concerns and ideas regarding potential impacts of the program and the projects authorized under it, feasible mitigation measures, and possible alternatives.
The environmental analysis, as well as additional engineering and science studies, will ultimately be used by the secretary of the interior to inform his decision on the question of Klamath River dam removal and other restoration actions.
We will be taking both oral and written comments at the scoping meetings. If there is an issue or concern that you want the secretary to consider before he makes a determination on the Klamath River dams and other restoration programs, please attend the meetings or submit written comments before July 21. Please visit KlamathRestoration.gov for more details and to submit your comments if you are unable to attend a public scoping meeting.
On behalf of our departments, we invite you to attend one of the seven public scoping meetings to learn more about the proposed dam removal and Klamath Basin restoration project, the topics we intend to analyze, and help us ensure that our analysis covers the topics of interest to the Klamath Basin communities.
We look forward to your participation and your insights, and hope to see you at the meetings.
Dennis Lynch, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, is overseeing this project on behalf of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Mark Stopher is acting regional manager for the California Department of Fish and Game and is overseeing this project for the state of California.
Speak your mind
Scoping meetings for the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement environmental studies will be held Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Copco Community Center, 27803 Copco Road in Montague; and from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Yreka Community Center, 810 N. Oregon Street in Yreka. Meetings continue around the Klamath Basin through July 15. For more information, visit klamathrestoration.gov.
Page Updated: Tuesday August 03, 2010 03:08 AM Pacific
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