Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Vote ‘no’ on Klamath dams removal
by Tom Wetter, Siskiyou Daily News 9/29/10
Lake Shastina, Calif. — Background
The 2005 listing of coho salmon as an endangered species by the California Department of Fish and Game triggered most of the regulatory actions regarding water use we are experiencing today in Siskiyou County. These activities include development and implementation of a federally sponsored plan to resolve treaty issues with the tribes, and establish a commercially viable salmon fishery in the Klamath Basin. The complete plan is referred to as the Klamath Basin Settlement Agreements (KBSA). The agreements are comprised of two parts or separate documents identified as the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Basin Hydro-power Agreement (KBHA).
The KBRA calls for the establishment of a new “natural” fishery in the Klamath Basin. It calls for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River, all of which are located in Siskiyou County (these dams provide hydroelectric power and flood control for Siskiyou County and parts of Southern Oregon). The KBRA also includes the establishment of a governing agency, called the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council (KBCC). The KBCC will have authority over land use and water allocations in the Klamath Watershed, most of which is located in Siskiyou County.
Measure “G” how and why
Measure G is a ballot measure that will be included on the Siskiyou County Nov. 2 general election ballot, and is the brainchild of a group called the Siskiyou County Water Users Association. It grew out of a frustration in being denied input into terms and solutions described in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
A no vote on “G” means that you don’t support the removal of Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Copco 2 dams on the Klamath River in Siskiyou County. Measure G is termed an advisory vote, meaning the result isn’t legally binding. Nonetheless, a strong voter response will help send a message to government officials, including Ken Salazar and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who have repeatedly marginalized and dismissed concerns raised by our board of supervisors, consultants, local experts and leading citizens.
Why should you care? On the surface it seems like the Klamath Basin Settlement Agreements (KBSA) and associated California state regulations only affect a couple of rancher/irrigators in the Scott and Shasta valleys and some folks unfortunate enough to live along the Klamath River. But I assure you, if you live in or make a living in Siskiyou County, you will be affected by the decision to adopt the KBSA and remove the dams. The reason is the economy and the answer is in the numbers. It will cost more to live here and it will cost more to do business here.
The economic outlook in Siskiyou County is already grim. The following economic profile is based on recent data from the Census Bureau, the California Department of Finance, Caltrans, California Counties Data Book, and reports that were used for California Department of Fish and Game’s 2008 Environmental Impact Report.
• Siskiyou County has the lowest “Median Household Income” in California.
• 14 percent of families and 19 percent of the population live below the poverty line.
• 65 percent of households with children are classified as low-income versus 43 percent for the state.
• 27 percent of children live in official poverty versus 19 percent for the state.
• Unemployment in Siskiyou County is currently 24 percent versus 12 percent statewide.
• Siskiyou County is dead-last for all California counties in family economic well being.
• Shasta Valley agricultural operations in 2006 ($95.15 million) amounted to 56 percent of the total economic output for Siskiyou County.
• Countywide agricultural activities generated $170 million in 2006 (includes Scott Valley).
• “When agricultural production declines, so do purchases from local businesses (fuel, seed, equipment, etc).” “Recent analyses predict a 14-percent decline in agricultural crop values by 2015.” This analysis was done before the current economic crisis.
The hydro-power agreement identifies costs associated with removal of the dams ($450 million maximum) and calls for the establishment of new sources of power for the customers in areas affected by dam removal. Additionally, it allows PacifiCorp to pass $200 million of the demolition cost on to their customers. These costs, according to agreement documents, will be allocated, with $16 million paid by Siskiyou County ratepayers and $184 million by Oregon ratepayers. These costs don’t include rate increases to cover costs associated with the establishment of new sources.
As mentioned above, the KBSA is a federal program. It’s important to note that there are associated regulatory efforts by state agencies. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has developed the Klamath Basin Plan that establishes new water quality parameters for Siskiyou County, and the California Department of Fish and Game has instituted a new watershed-wide permitting program called the Incidental Take Permit program that establishes new requirements for diversions. The additional costs of compliance with these regulations will be borne by irrigators, water users and communities in Siskiyou County.
The Klamath Basin Settlement Agreement was developed by a small group of individuals and entities that were initially selected by government agencies. All of the meetings were closed to the public and all of the participants signed confidentiality agreements to keep the proceedings secret. It is very clear that there are groups who will benefit from these agreements if they are implemented. It is just as clear that there are groups and individuals who will be negatively impacted.
There are 46 signers of the KBSA. All of them have been part of developing and, more importantly, supporting the Agreement. For these 46 individuals and entities, the agreement provides guarantees of a self-appointed governing board (KBCC), access and control of restricted natural resources, low-cost electric rates, access to public funds, and economic benefits associated with these attributes.
A very large portion of those negatively impacted live in, or own property in, Siskiyou County. We haven’t been part of the process that developed the agreements. We won’t have access to the governance process (KBCC). We won’t have full access to natural resources (water) currently under our control. We will be at a disadvantage in getting public funds for local projects, as they will be diverted to support the agreement’s priorities. We will be saddled with much higher electric costs, and we will suffer the economic impacts of living in a highly regulated, high-cost, economically disadvantaged area.
Increased costs for electrical power and compliance could make Siskiyou County agriculture operations uncompetitive and unsustainable. Agriculture is the biggest part of our economy in Siskiyou County. However, it isn’t the only area of the economy in trouble. In the past two years Siskiyou County has lost freight rail service, gold mining, 37 jobs at Roseburg in Weed, 80 jobs at Danone bottling in Mount Shasta, 24 jobs at Mercy Medical Nursing Home, at least 40 jobs with the county and 15 jobs at Country Drug in Weed. When jobs leave and economic activity declines, property values, tax revenues and county services decline as well.
After the spotted owl was listed in 1995, we saw the closure of 18 mills and the elimination of nearly 6,000 living-wage jobs. We never recovered and are still dependant on timber harvest subsidies to maintain our county roads and help pay for our schools. We can’t afford to allow the destruction of our agricultural industry.
All of us in Siskiyou County need to stand together to help assure our economic future. We can’t afford to have our local cost of living go up while our local economy suffers additional damage through higher energy costs, more regulatory and compliance costs, and the continuing erosion of jobs. These impacts will be far greater than just losing our libraries.
Please join me and your neighbors throughout the county say yes to our future by voting “no” on G.
Tom Wetter is a Lake Shastina resident.
Page Updated: Thursday September 30, 2010 02:17 AM Pacific
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