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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Have You Had Enough Yet?
by James Foley, Klamath River, California, Property and Mining Rights Advocate 10/8/09

As I sit here in Northern California and think about the direction we in Siskiyou County are being herded, I can’t help but wonder where the voices of the majority of our citizens are in relation to removal of dams on the Klamath River. I wonder because, as a relatively new resident I have been trying to provide both balanced and realistic comments and suggestions, both written and oral at watershed meetings and before the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.) Conspicuous by their absence are the multitudes of everyday citizens whose civic fate hangs in the balance, they are not being heard.
By attending these meetings and reading what the liberal press puts out, it is easy to see that the agenda of special interest groups is getting prime exposure. Newspapers as far away as Portland and San Francisco are hearing and reporting a very distorted and one sided propaganda campaign aimed at the removal of our dams. I have seen a report about activists pushing Northwest dam removal in a press conference in Washington DC
This monumental propaganda campaign is made possible by funding from environmental groups whose goals are often very different from their stated goals and ideology.
My purpose in writing this is not to castigate my fellow citizens, but to motivate them to action. At the heart of my message is this; We don’t usually think of history as being shaped by silence, but, as English philosopher Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.”
The organizations (and they are always organizations) that aspire to herd the public in directions favorable to their agenda are not only well funded, they are also well organized and dedicated to what they believe in, even while portraying their special interests as in the best interest of all. They are dedicated enough to freely support their purposes with money and time, two things that are totally lacking in our general population when it comes to opposing the environmental steam roller.
There is a third thing that is lacking in our general population when it comes to issues of this nature; ORGANIZTION. Make no mistake; there are organizations out there that are fighting the environmental onslaught as best they can. But they have limited funds, almost no resources, and for the most part are fighting the battle alone due to lack of support from those they are fighting for.
The Green Machine, as it has been called, can mobilize hundreds of people for a call to demonstrate and thousands for a call to write letters to legislators and agencies. They are prolific in lobbying legislators and training and installing their people into positions of authority within regulating agencies. They have had forty years to train and prepare for their mission.
On the other side of these environmental issues is this sobering fact; it is almost impossible to get the general population to even see the danger, let alone be motivated to support those who are in the fight. Perhaps because they do not see the danger, it becomes increasingly difficult to motivate them to write letters, speak at comment hearings and send in comments to protect what they are about to lose.
The environmental movement that we see today is a far cry from the environmental movement of the 60’s. In the beginning it had as its cause a noble effort to protect that which we were in danger of losing through bad management practices. But this noble movement has transformed itself into a powerful force that seeks to destroy our social structure and control land and resources through an agenda that portrays them as the keeper and protector of all things in our environment. Any actual use of our natural resources is seen as an attempt to destroy it and a crusade is immediately mounted in opposition to ANY natural resource use or development.
There are many examples of environmental organizations and activists that were dedicated enough that they were able to shut down entire industries, all at the expense of, and to the detriment of our communities. They have learned to use programs such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA ) as a tool to accomplish their goals. Our once vibrant logging industry has been decimated because of a supposed endangered species known as the Spotted Owl. Who paid? Our communities paid, citizens paid in job loss, our economy suffered, the price of lumber skyrocketed because we now have to buy lumber from other countries. Housing prices soared because of the increased cost of material. Further, the ESA has been used to terrorize land owners and keep them from developing the land they own on the premise of this bug, or that lizard, or the possibility that their land may be critical habitat for some endangered species.
I tell you all this because this is exactly the situation we find ourselves involved in as residents of Southern Oregon and Northern California. This time the cry is; SAVE THE SALMON. I am not against trying to restore and better our salmon stocks; this is a worthy endeavor, but to use salmon as a club to beat your neighbors into submission is unconscionable and self- serving. Although very vocal, these groups are not the majority in any community. Many times they do not even live in our community and will not be around to be subjected to any repercussions as a result of their activism.
A short look at the salmon situation on the Klamath River will show a picture quite different from what special interest groups are portraying and the liberal press is repeating.
The premise is that dams are destroying our salmon stocks. Conversely, history paints a quite different picture. Many of our senior residents parents who were born before the dams were put in place spoke of massive fish die offs that they witnessed. The written record of the first government people to explore this great basin tells of having to pitch their camp far from the river at night because of the horrendous stench of dead salmon. This record also tells of the extremely poor water quality they encountered, they said it stank.
Now, 100 years after the dams were built, we are told that dams are the reason for poor water quality and fish deaths. In the time since the dams were built, returning salmon stocks         have peaked and ebbed numerous times. This should be undeniable evidence that dams are not the cause of salmon decline. The cyclic nature of both mammals and fish are well documented; it is natural. But environmental activists see it as an opportunity to further their agenda.
This year (2009) there have been numerous articles written about the huge return of salmon on, not only the Klamath, but the Trinity and Smith Rivers as well. Just two short years ago we were assured that salmon were in danger of extinction in these same rivers. The voice of reason that pointed to the cyclic nature of fish was shouted down by fishing, tribal and environmental activist publications.
In 2002, the year of the large fish kill the numbers of returning salmon stocks were the third largest in recorded history. You will not see that in the liberal press. There is no peer reviewed science showing that dams are responsible for salmon decline. Most of what you read in the liberal press regarding salmon decline and dam removal is opinion, not fact or science. There is historical evidence showing a 2% per year increase in salmon stocks, due to hatchery efforts. There is also a mounting body of recent scientific evidence to show that adverse ocean conditions may have more of a catastrophic effect on salmon that any actual river condition could.
Special interests have harped on low water flows below the dams because of irrigation in the upper basin. Again the facts are bothersome, so they just ignore them, or simply do not address the response to their claims. This is a quote from the Capital Press and attributed to consulting hydrologist, Mark Van Camp. “A consulting hydrologist, Mark Van Camp of Sacramento, told the water users an analysis of the draft BuRec historic water flow study shows that downstream flows have increased 30 percent over discharges before settlement. That’s apparently because the irrigated land uses less water than evaporation loss from the thousands of acres of wetlands that existed before the shallow lake beds were diked, drained and put to the plow.”
So, rather than the “less water” because of irrigation that is repeated ad nauseam, there is actually more water than before the dams. Facts are bothersome things when you are trying to show something that science, the facts and history do not support!
It is patently wrong to remove our dams on the premise of saving salmon when there is no scientific proof that dam removal will accomplish that goal. This is why it is so important to explore every option or alternative before taking the drastic and dangerous action of removing our dams. Could it just be possible that there is no salmon crisis and groups with a different agenda are just using the fish to accomplish their self serving goals?
Pacificorp has offered to truck fish around the dams, which is a very reasonable alternative to tearing down the dams. If salmon are the real issue, as these groups portray, why would they not support trucking fish around the dams?
Tearing down fully functional dams that benefit our communities before trying alternatives that might be viable is unconscionable. This is especially true in light of the lack of any science showing that dam removal will help salmon. This dam removal hysteria on the part of special interest groups is socially irresponsible simply because of what is not known about the results of such drastic measures. I liken it to shooting an arrow up in the air and then running back and forth in panic, hoping that its return does not result in it becoming embedded in the top of your head.
There are wetlands, refuges and endangered species behind these dams (an entire ecosystem has developed since the dams were built). Any action to remove the dams may conflict with the Endangered Species Act, the Corps of Engineers wetland policies and federally sanctioned refuges. It may result in years of litigation and will be in conflict with other federal agencies congressionally approved mandates. Also not seen is the environmental impact on these environmental programs that environmental activists have supported and pushed to implementation in the past. Do we now throw it all away on the wild eyed premise that dams kill fish?
Now we come down to where the rubber meets the road; COST. What is the cost of dam removal and who will pay for it? We hear all kinds of estimates depending on what different factions are trying to prove. I submit to the citizens of both Oregon and California that the cost, although unknown, will be astronomical and far beyond anything that has been published so far.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) estimates that the annual cost of removing only Iron Gate and Copco dams at approximately $14.4 million, including power losses. This is just the beginning. Who will pay for it? You will as a rate payer.
Who will pay for the loss in property values and resulting loss to our county’s tax base suffered by those who have put their dreams and life savings into their lakeside property and who will now have prime mud flat property after dam removal? You will as a tax payer and rate payer.
Who will pay the commercial fishermen’s loss if the dam removal results in even more damage, or even complete elimination of Klamath River salmon? Why, you will of course, as a taxpayer.
The loss of recreational opportunities and support businesses will be substantial. Who will make up the difference? You will in increased prices and travel to both recreate and buy supplies and services.
With dam removal we will once again be at risk for the major flooding and drought below the dams that was prevalent before the dams were built. This is historical fact. Who will be responsible for the catastrophic effects of drought and flood? Not those who were responsible for their campaign to remove the dams!
If the dams come out and the resulting sedimentation covers the spawning beds of not only salmon, but other species as well, resulting in the decimation of the very species that dam removal is supposed to save, who will pay? Not the special interest groups, they will distance themselves from this scenario like the plague and this is a very real possibility.
The Klamath River dams have been in place for almost one hundred years. They were built for very specific and beneficial purposes; i.e. flood and drought mitigation, cost effective, clean, power generation and regulating seasonal water flows. They have served these purposes very well and by doing so, they have benefited and enhanced the lives of people and helped our community’s growth, both in Northern California as well as Southern Oregon.
It is socially irresponsible and morally reprehensible to expect our society to systematically tear down our infrastructure because of the wild eyed ideals of a few, to the detriment of the many.
Perhaps if the people who so adamantly push their agenda on the rest of us had to pay for the consequences of their actions or be made to pay for any crusades they want, they might think twice before going blindly ahead and expecting others to pay the bill. It costs them nothing, so they have nothing to lose, can you say the same?
The individual citizens of our communities must push back against an overwhelming movement that threatens to force their radical agenda on the rest of us. If you have read this far, I would ask; Have you had enough yet? Will you sit back comfortably and be herded like cattle, or will you fight back?
There will be two opportunities for citizens to be heard in the near future, will you attend and make your voice heard? The first meeting will be in Klamath Falls on Nov. 10, 2009 Two sessions: 1 PM TO 4 PM  AND  6 PM TO 9 PM
The second will be in Yreka Calif. On Nov 12, 2009 at the Miners Inn in Yreka at 1 p.m. and again at 6 p.m.
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              Page Updated: Monday November 09, 2009 04:07 AM  Pacific

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