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Weekly column in Siskiyou Daily News by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County Commissioner 4/8/11

Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement Draft Drought Plan response


Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement: When the States, tribes, other Counties, agencies and organizations signed the Klamath Settlement Agreement, it included both a process to accomplish dam removal and a process for “restoration” of the Klamath River basin. One of the products of the Restoration Agreement (KBRA,) is a Draft Drought Management Plan.

This was created by a group dubbed the “lead entity,” comprised of Klamath Tribes, Karuk Tribe, Yurok Tribe, Upper Klamath Water Users Association, the Klamath Water and Power Agency (KWAPA,) the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, Oregon Water Resources Department, California Department of Fish and Game, and Trout Unlimited.

The plan starts out by designating the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) as responsible for declaring a drought. This is curious, because in Siskiyou County, Oregon has no jurisdiction. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is designated to hold the project funding purse. NFWF is a non-profit, originally created by Congress. Under the KBRA, the agencies agreed to redirect some of their funding in their budgets to the NFWF fund for Klamath restoration. This will be used to fund the Drought Plan. NFWF will also be made a part of the “lead entity.”

The Drought Plan would reduce diversions or use of surface water so that instream flows can be maintained. The fund would be used to compensate users for their loss. KWAPA would distribute money on the Klamath Project and a federal agency designated by NFWF would distribute the money off-Project.

In addition, a TAT or Technical Advisory Team will be given a federal charter. The TAT will consist of representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Bureau of Reclamation; Bureau of Indian Affairs; NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service; USDA; three State of Oregon agencies; California Dept. of Fish and Game; the Klamath, Yurok and Karuk Tribes; Humboldt County; KWAPA, a representative of off-Project irrigators; a representative of conservation groups; and a representative of commercial fishing interests. The TAT will create an Annual Water Management Plan and provide recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior concerning “Managed Environmental Water,” storage and releases down the Klamath River at Link River Dam. The TAT will also make recommendations to the State of Oregon on drought conditions.

Within seven days of a declaration of Drought or Extreme Drought, KWAPA and a NFWF designated federal agency will determine the amount and sources of water likely to be available. The TAT will develop alternative water management scenarios to protect species of concern. Actions such as voluntary conservation, use of “new” stored water, use of groundwater substitution, water transfers and leasing or forbearance agreements could be used. A sliding scale of diversion limitations, water use retirement provisions and land idling could be used so that water can be managed whereby “no Klamath Basin interests bear an unreasonable portion of burdens imposed.”

In the case of “extreme drought, under Alternative 1, the “Fish Managers,” (Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, California Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service,) will have the power to reduce the water available for diversion in the Klamath Basin from March – October. Under Alternative 2, the amount of diversion reductions will be deferred until more information is known about the status of fisheries restoration, water quality improvement, and other actions in the Agreement.

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors has jurisdiction over groundwater. The Siskiyou County Flood Control and Water Conservation District was created by Congress under the Klamath Compact. It has jurisdiction over the entirety of Siskiyou County, with the exception of the Klamath Project. Included in its responsibilities is: “to declare the rights in natural flow of any stream or surface or subterranean supply of waters used or useful for any purpose of the district or of common benefit of the lands within the district or to its inhabitants.” The Klamath Compact between the States of California and Oregon, ratified by Congress clearly states that the preference for permitted use of Upper Klamath Basin waters will be: (a) domestic use; (b) irrigation use; (c) recreational use – including use for fish and wildlife; (d) industrial use; (e) hydroelectric power; and (f) other.

The Board and the District recently sent a letter of concern regarding the Drought Plan, stating that the proposed plan is in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act and encroaches upon local jurisdiction. It declared: “Please be advised that the County of Siskiyou and the Siskiyou County Flood Control District are, by this correspondence, placing you on notice that you are not to undertake or implement any drought plans or activities within their jurisdictions until such time as appropriate review, coordination, consultation and necessary approvals have been obtained.”

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