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Tea Party Blocks Pact to Restore a West Coast River

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The John C. Boyle Dam in Oregon, one of several Klamath River dams. A plan for the river involves removing four dams.


KBC EDITOR: This author obviously has not read the KBRA / Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, or any facts presented by the ethics scientist, the top scientist from the Bureau of Reclamation, Dr. Paul R Houser.  He was hired as ethics specialist in the Klamath Dam removal agenda, and he was fired by Department of Interior because he was a whistleblower; Interior had the stated agenda of destroying Klamath dams and used science to try to prove it would help fish. The groups at the closed-door KBRA negotiations were carefully chosen by Interior; if they supported destroying 4 hydroelectric dams, and if they supported giving land to a tribe that previously sold that land, and if they approved of ZERO transparency in these secret negotiations that downsize agriculture and limit use of their deeded water, then they were allowed to stay at the table.
     When you read the KBRA, and the Dr Houser page, you will see that the 20 million cubic yards of toxic sediment has not been considered in the dream of the beautiful free flowing river with a mighty salmon return. The only water assurance for Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Project irrigators is that their water will be downsized at least 20%; they are assured a cap on their access to their stored water. The promise for Off-Project irrigators is, they will be downsized an additional 30,000 acre feet of water. This is in addition to the 100,000 acres of irrigated land already acquired by The Nature Conservancy and government agencies. And according to the executive director of Klamath Water and Power Agency, there is no assurance of affordable power.
     There is no exemption from the Endangered Species Act mandates or tribal demands.
     Yes, over 30,000 salmon died in 2002, in a record high salmon run, after the tribes and environmental groups demanded more of the irrigators' stored warm water to be sent down the river, killing many fish. Klamath irrigators had warned them not to send this warm water down the river, and scientists confirmed that it was lethal to salmon. Not mentioned by government agencies and eco terrorist groups is the evidence of meth lab dumps on the river near the fish kill. Farmers are still being blamed for the dead fish over 100 miles from their farms, when their farms use around 3% of the water at the mouth of the river. At that time Trinity River diverted 90% of the Klamath River.
      Yes, PacifiCorp supports an agreement that not only allows them to already charge ratepayers for dam removal, but also saddles taxpayers with the liability and the other millions or billions of dollars to remove the dams and devastation, and clean up the 20 million cubic yards of toxic sediment. Quite a deal for Klamath dam owner Warren Buffet who claims the wealthy should pay more taxes while you and I pay to destroy your clean green power that he owns.
     The author mentions being at the mercy of the courts? Environmental groups and tribes at the KBRA table petitioned against the irrigator's affordable power rate and won, so with a 2000% rate hike in our power bills, some farm leaders felt forced into an agreement they thought would help their power rate. After the feds shut off all our irrigation water in 2001, some farm leaders at the table thought the KBRA would provide them water assurance. Presently some KBRA signers are in lawsuits against Klamath irrigators on the government's taking their deeded water in 2001, and against other resource users on the Klamath River. The KBRA will not end lawsuits, but it goes into great detail how it will control how lawsuits are conducted, These are not elected officials who will control the litigation method.
     For information about the author of the last quote in Yardley's article, GreenCorp-trained environmental activist Craig Tucker, go HERE.
      Regarding Yardley's blasting the Tea Party, it just happens that the local Tea Party has the same values regarding private property rights, the Constitution, and God, as our rural communities who oppose being controlled by national and international agencies and ecoterrorist groups. These are the rural folks who grow your food.
    These are some of the reasons that all of the effected farm communities where the dams are located, Siskiyou and Klamath Counties, oppose the KBRA and replaced those community leaders who supported the KBRA against the wishes of their constituents.



KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Almost since the Bureau of Reclamation first began plumbing the Klamath River in 1906, creating a vast and fertile farming region out of arid southeastern Oregon and northeastern California, people have fought over what the river provides: water for farming, water to preserve one of the West Coast’s largest salmon runs and a source of hydroelectric power.

Then, suddenly, a truce was announced. In February 2010, after five years of confidential negotiation, an unlikely alliance of American Indian tribes, environmentalists, farmers, fishermen, governors and the federal government signed the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

The agreement was hailed as evidence of a new era in the West in which bitter divisions over natural resources could be bridged. Within a decade, it dictated, four dams would come down, enabling much of the river to flow freely and its once-mighty run of salmon to return. At the same time, farmers would be assured of water for their crops and affordable power. And Indian tribes would regain land lost decades ago.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he had expected Congress to act that year to approve the agreement, known as the K.B.R.A., and to begin appropriating the more than $1 billion to carry out what he called “the largest river restoration project in the world.”

Yet more than two years later, that has not happened, and it is unclear when, if ever, the agreement will be enacted.

A month after it was announced, seven people gathered at Jack Charlton’s machine shop south of downtown Klamath Falls and formed the Klamath County Tea Party Patriots. Four of them were farmers wary of losing their water. One was Mr. Charlton, who fixed their equipment. Mr. Charlton recalled the anger and worry in the room that night. Many felt the government was more worried about endangered fish than endangered farmers.

“It was like, ‘Where have I been?’ ” he said. “ ‘Have I been asleep all these years?’ The last thing that they want to take away is our water.”

The Tea Party Patriots became a local political force, eventually paralyzing the high-powered deal by defeating many of the local officials who supported it, including all three Klamath County commissioners, and sending a signal to Congress that it lacks enough grass-roots support.

The restoration deal “is not going to go anywhere at all,” said Tom Mallams, a farmer and newly elected county commissioner who, with Tea Party backing, unseated a 15-year incumbent. “It’s slowly dying on the vine.”

The fight over the Klamath reached a heated peak in 2001 when a severe drought prompted federal water managers to shut off irrigation to ensure enough water for endangered fish. The next year, Vice President Dick Cheney came to the aid of angry farmers, making sure irrigation was not cut off again.

That summer, 70,000 salmon died. Several years later, commercial salmon fishing on the West Coast was shut down in part because of the decline of salmon populations in the Klamath. Scientific research indicated that removing the dams was the best way to save the salmon run.

But without the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement or another brokered alternative, the Klamath will remain at the mercy of the courts and the powerful legal forces that various groups invoked there, including the Endangered Species Act, tribal rights and Western water law. Environmentalists, tribes and fishermen who support the agreement cite the Endangered Species Act to argue for removing the dams. Farmers and others generally opposed to the agreement cite generations-old water claims made with the Bureau of Reclamation.

The deal’s supporters, particularly environmentalists most adamant about removing the dams, say more court fights are inevitable if the deal is not confirmed by Congress — regardless of local political developments.

Tribes in both states have claimed the management of the river violates their 19th-century treaty rights to fish, gather and hunt. Fear and self-preservation prompted the talks that led to the agreement, in light of more droughts being predicted, tribal water rights gaining momentum in court and the power company that owns the dams worrying about its prospects for relicensing. Nearly all of the more than two dozen parties involved compromised their interests to reach a consensus.

For irrigators like Tracey Liskey, a third-generation farmer who supported the agreement — and just lost a race for state representative — the K.B.R.A. promised a version of stability: a reliable though not ideal amount of water they could count on to get their alfalfa, hay and other crops through the dry summer. At the other end of the river, where it meets the Pacific in California, some tribes and commercial fishermen supported the agreement because it offered more security that river flows would not fall below what it takes to maintain a healthy salmon habitat.

The power company, PacifiCorp, agreed to the deal when it became clear that relicensing the dams would be more expensive and more trying than removing them. And while some tribes rejected the agreement, most believed it offered them a way to remove the dams and restore the river. A group of three called the Klamath Tribes agreed to give up some control of the water to regain tens of thousands of acres for timber production that they had relinquished decades earlier.

The Klamath Tribes have recently received favorable rulings in state administrative courts on lawsuits they first filed in the 1970s to gain control of the water upstream. If the tribes eventually win — a decision is due late this year — opponents of the agreement could find themselves wishing they had been more supportive. “It’s about economies, and the Klamath Tribes’ economy is just as important as anyone else’s economy,” said Jeff Mitchell, a member of the Klamath tribal council who has been central to negotiations for the agreement.

Mr. Mallams and some of the agreement’s other most vocal opponents do not draw water directly from the irrigation system, but they benefit from it in other ways, including from the affordable power supply the dams have provided. They frequently accuse supporters of the agreement of wanting to remove the Klamath dams as part of an environmental campaign to remove much larger dams on the Columbia River that provide the backbone of the power supply in the Northwest.

Mr. Salazar said in an interview that he remained optimistic that Congress would eventually approve the deal. Some supporters say opponents are stirring division with no clear agenda.

“I always refer to us as the radical middle because there’s nothing radical in the Klamath about fighting over water,” said Craig Tucker, the Klamath coordinator for the Karuk Tribe of Northern California and a supporter of the 2010 agreement. “What’s radical is learning how to share."



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