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Hoopa vote no on KBRA  

Tribe says settlement doesn’t do enough for fish, water rights
By TY BEAVER, Herald and News 2/10/10


     Leonard Masten said he’s fished the salmon runs of the Trinity River with a pole or gillnet since he was a young boy.


   Since that time, though, he’s seen the river, as well as the Klamath River, change, becoming warmer and shallower with each passing year.


   “It’s getting to where in July, August, September, the river is the lowest I’ve ever seen it in my lifetime,” said the chairman of the Hoopa Tribe.


   Masten and others from his tribe participated in the negotiations on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement to solve some of their river’s problems and preserve the fishery on which they   depend culturally. They have pushed for dam removal on the Klamath River.


   Unanimous vote


   However, the Hoopa Tribe voted unanimously Tuesday to reject the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and related hydroelectric settlement.


   “The settlements undermine tribal water rights, do not assure dam removal, and rely on unfunded and unspecific fishery restoration goals,” Masten said in a prepared statement. “We cannot stand behind deals that require the subordination of our rights, and that may never result in dam removal.”


   Tribal representatives said they’ve yet to see independent scientific projections affirming the water allocations outlined the document.  


   “You don’t do the biggest dam removal in history prior to having peer-review science,” said Allie Hostler, Hoopa tribal spokeswoman, during an interview at the Herald and News’ office last week.


   Representatives of tribal, agricultural, fishery and environmental interests met for years on the restoration agreement   and a related Klamath River dam removal agreement before releasing a final draft in early January. Stakeholders had until Tuesday to determine whether they would support or reject the documents.


   Reservation on river


   The Hoopa reservation sits on the Trinity River in Northern California, which feeds into the Klamath River before it reaches the Pacific Ocean. Any salmon going up the Trinity must go up the Klamath first.


   Masten and Mike Orcutt, the Hoopa Tribes’ fisheries director, said the tribe isn’t opposed to working out arrangements to protect natural resources. Members have worked on restoration legislation for the Trinity and Klamath rivers.   The 2002 fish kill that occurred on the lower end of the Klamath indicated that more needed to be done and prompted their involvement in drafting the restoration agreement talks, they said.


   Not enough for fish


   But the restoration agreement doesn’t do enough for fish, they say, or at least doesn’t have science to say it does. Orcutt said water flow studies and other research were conducted on the Trinity in support of restoration legislation in California, but no such work was done on the Klamath. They added that no studies will be done on dam removal and the effects of sediment behind them until the agreements are signed.


   Tribal leaders also said one section of the agreement voids their right to sue for more water if necessary down the road, even if they don’t sign. Hostler considered that section to be a modern day equivalent of tribal termination that could doom the salmon fishery if it continued to decline.  


   Orcutt said there could still be benefits from dam removal and he and Masten said the Hoopa will continue to be involved in the restoration agreement. But more needs to be done, they said.


   “This is a big step we’re going to be taking and it needs to be a cautious step,” Orcutt said.  

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