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Klamath Forum:

Water Deal would require major expenditures not previously disclosed

by Felice Pace, from Philadelphia, founder of Klamath Forest Alliance, owner of Klam Blog.

(KBC NOTE: An environmental activist's take on the KBRA)

The Klamath Justice Coalition is the grassroots, Indigenous-led group which – with help from Klamath Riverkeeper, the Seventh Generation Fund and others – has organized and led protests and direct actions from Portland, to Omaha and Scotland to call on PacifiCorp and its stockholders to take down the dams. Lately the Justice Coalition has been holding forums and discussion so that river residents can find out what is actually in the KBRA and KHSA, the dam and water deals. Yesterday, the Coalition – along with the Eureka Times Standard and others sponsors - held a panel discussion at Humboldt State University. About fifty people – including council members from the Hoopa Tribe and Yurok Tribe – attended.

For those who are regular readers of this Blog, not much of what was discussed at the Forum will be new. But there was one new piece of information revealed which may prove important as the focus shifts from negotiations among stakeholders to the US Congress.

Craig Tucker, who represents the Karuk Tribe, spoke first. He presented a power point promoting the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and emphasized that the roughly $1 billion dollars of federal spending which the KBRA calls for is needed for restoration activities.

Several other speakers later pointed out that much of the money Tucker claims is for “restoration” is actually subsidies to the Irrigation Elite. Study of Appendix B1 and B2 of the proposed (KBRA) confirms that this is the case. Of a total ten year budget of $985,202,000 only $322,495,000 – or 32.7% - would go for restoration projects. Of the remaining 67.3%:

• 34.4% ($338,002,000) would go directly to the Irrigation Elite – the small group of wealthy irrigators who receive water from the federal Klamath Project. Public oversight of how that money would be spent is constrained by the proposed KBRA. Most of this money is for studies; it is unclear if any of it would be used for restoration.
8% ($80,000,000) would go directly to tribes. This would likely be used to support tribal fisheries and water resources departments.
2.4% ($23,200,000) would go directly to counties (most to Siskiyou County). There’s no telling how this money would be spent but it is unlikely it would go toward restoration.
4.8% ($47,500,000) would go for “Regulatory Assurances”. Irrigators have demanded protection from state and federal endangered species laws. The bulk of this money would go for development and agency review of Habitat Conservation Plans which – once approved – would provide a permit to Upper Basin Irrigators to “take” endangered species including Coho Salmon, Bald Eagles and Bull Trout. This is the sort of wink-and-nod ESA procedure which allows proponents of the deals to claim they are not changing any laws at the same time that they tell irrigators they won’t have to worry about the ESA.
11.9% ($117,541) would go to pay for “monitoring”. The funds would actually go to the entities doing the monitoring whether agencies, tribes or irrigators. We already have lots of monitoring in the Klamath River Basin but additional monitoring would be needed for reintroduced salmon and for the sort of active real-time water management the KBRA envisions.
5.4% ($53,159,000) would go to actively reintroducing salmon into the Upper Klamath Basin. Many salmon advocates favor passive restoration, i.e. allowing salmon to reinhabit the Upper Basin on their own once the dams are removed. Passive restoration would be much cheaper; only monitoring the salmon’s progress would be required. ESA-listed salmon which passively find their way to new habitats automatically receive full ESA protection; salmon which are actively reintroduced by humans (as proposed in the KBRA) do not have full ESA protection. Actively reintroduced salmon populations can be removed at the discretion of federal and state wildlife agencies.
.4% ($3,307,000) would go for “governance” including managing the money and supporting the advisory committees and technical teams the KBRA would establish. There is an old adage which suggests that one should “follow the money” if one wants to know what is really going on in politics. Judging from the KBRA’s proposed budget the proposal is more about subsidies to the Irrigation Elite than about restoration. Furthermore, as was pointed out at yesterday’s Forum, much of the restoration work proposed by the KBRA is for restoration projects which will take place whether or not the KBRA is turned into federal legislation and passes Congress. KBRA promoters, however, continue to insist that without KBRA implementing legislation there will be insufficient funding for restoration.

Jay Wright and Scott Greacen represented the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) at the Forum. Wright explained that the NEC strongly favors dam removal but is concerned because the proposed Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) does not commit PacifiCorp, the federal government or the states to dam removal but only to a process to consider dam removal. He said the NEC does not think it is a good idea to force dam removal and the controversial and costly KBRA into the same legislation. The NEC has joined with Oregon Wild, Water Watch and other conservation organizations to advocate for clean dam legislation which Wright claimed would result in the dams coming out much sooner.

The Yurok Tribe and the Hoopa Tribe each presented their positions. The Hoopa do not favor the tribal waiver of rights which is in the KBRA and KHSA. They are also seeking assurances that funding for the Klamath River Basin will not be taken out of funds required to restore the Trinity River. The Yurok Tribe’s Troy Fletcher presented the Yurok Tribe’s view that the waiver only applies to past actions and is in other ways so limited that it is not important. KlamBlog can not help but wonder why the Bush Administration insisted that the waivers must be part of the deal if they are unimportant.

Back and forth between those representing the Hoopa Tribe and those representing the Yurok Tribe occupied much of the meeting. These two tribes have a history of conflict going way back. That conflict seems to be alive and well in spite of the fact that many members of each tribe have ancestors from both tribes and that they participate in each others traditional ceremonies.

One of the few new pieces of information presented at the forum came from long-time Klamath River activist Felice Pace who is also the primary author on this blog. Pace pointed out that the proposed KBRA calls for a drought plan. This indicates that under the flows and irrigation water allocations proposed in the KBRA there would not be enough water to meet flow targets in very dry years and during extended droughts.

Pace said he had worked with government and other specialists to determine how many years there would have been insufficient water supply to meet KBRA flow targets if those targets and KBRA proposed irrigation water allocations had been in place over the past 30 years. What they found was that in 7 out of the past 30 years there would not have been enough water supply to meet both KBRA flow targets and KBRA priority water allocation to the Irrigation Elite. Under these circumstances the water fish need would have to be leased from irrigators.

Pace said that the largest yearly deficit would have been 55,637 acre feet (an acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover 1 acre of land with water 1 foot deep). In 2009 the California State Water Bank paid $275 per acre foot of water. At this price, meeting the flows KBRA proponents say fish need would have cost over $15 million dollars in that one year alone. Pace asserted that leasing water to meet the needs of salmon is not sustainable and bad policy to boot.

The cost of the Drought Plan that KBRA flow and irrigation water allocations would necessitate is a major reason opponents of the KBRA say the deal is not a good idea. If Congress goes along with the KBRA and gives the first right to Klamath River water to irrigators then irrigators must be paid if some of that water is needed for fish. Under the Public Trust Doctrine as expressed in California Water and Fish & Game Codes, fish have a right to the amount of water they need to survive and thrive. Federal legislation implementing the KBRA would preempt those Public Trust rights.

Toward the end of the Forum, Kathy McCovey and Georgianna Myers of the Klamath Justice Coalition made pleas for unity. They expressed concern that Klamath River tribes and others who had previously made common cause to get the dams down were now divided and observed that divide and conquer had long been a federal policy with respect to tribes. This led to calls for a tribal summit and to pleas for unity from some of the council members present.

The Klamath Justice Coalition made a video of the Forum. To make a contribution in support of their Coalition’s work or to request a copy of the Forum video contact Georgianna Myers: sregonlady@gmail.com.


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