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Too many questions remain on restoration agreement

Steve Rapalyea, Herald and News Guest Writer, August 17, 2008

We, in the Basin Alliance think as it stands, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement stinks for a number of reasons:

The Hoopa Tribe and two major “conservation” organizations do not think it gives enough water to the salmon and will not sign on. It means they could sue using the Endangered Species Act any time.

Removing the dams is no guarantee salmon will return to the Upper Klamath Basin. The spring-run Chinook were totally exterminated by Copco No. 1 many years ago and it is very doubtful the fall run had any consistency. Some years no water flowed from the Upper Klamath Lake before Link River Dam was installed. There is documentation of natural blockages preventing any runs from getting to the lake some years.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service reserve the right to shut off water to enforce the Endangered Species Act. How is that any better than now?

Dam removal is a very expensive experiment for dubious returns. What will replace the power generated by the dams if they are removed?

Who represented one of the real “ stakeholders,” the Pacific power customers, who include the people of Klamath Falls? Who will compensate the people with waterfront properties on the lakes that will no longer exist?

Any fish reaching Upper Klamath Lake would not be usable at all for a commercial fishery as the Tribes seem to envision. They would be far too poor quality in a best case scenario.

Something for nothing?

Why should the taxpayers foot the bill to buy land to establish a separate country for the Klamath Tribes, especially when they are giving up virtually nothing? Isn’t this fostering separatism, apartheid and racism?

Doesn’t this agreement prejudice the water adjudication against the off-Project irrigation? Is not the Tribes wanting to negotiate with individual irrigators nothing more than divide and conquer?

If the Tribes get the “Mazama Project” and get the land put into trust it will be removed from the tax rolls. How would this be better for the people of Klamath County than the land being on the tax rolls and in its current sustained yield management?

If the Mazama Project is placed in trust for the Tribes it can be traded for national forest land if it “benefits the Tribes and the Forest Service” on an agency-to-agency basis. Could something as simple as the Forest Service not having to manage the forest be benefit enough to trade land that has not had major timber harvest for many years for land that has been more recently harvested, which would also benefit the Tribes?

Do we really want a “sovereign nation” with Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species and Clean Water Act authority in Klamath County? If the Tribes were buying the Mazama Project’s private property, remaining on the tax roles and with the same rights and privileges as any other corporation and not as a "nation," the only real objection would be the taxpayer funding.

Isn't this whole area Klamath Tribal homeland with or without a special exclusive "reservation" and "super-nation" status?

Since Indians do not fish for fun (according to Tribal leadership) why not get their salmon at Iron Gate and Trinity hatcheries after they have been spawned out at the hatcheries? These fish would be better quality then fish going further upstream,

No real guarantees

Is the establishment of an unelected, regional board to settle water and other disputes, which will be composed predominately of "environmentalists," Tribes and fishermen who would far-outnumber other interests wise or legal?

Is the acceptance of this agreement by Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators a desperate response to the threat of more lawsuits by "environmentalist," tribes and commercial and sport-fishing interests against which there are really no guarantees? Blackmail at the finest.

There are only a few of the far too many unanswered questions. Because a lot of people have put a lot of effort into putting together a piece of garbage is no reason it should be supported by anyone.

About the author Steve Rapalyea is the vice chairman of The Basin Alliance, which he says is a nonprofit organization with a 10 to 15 member board of directors from diverse backgrounds. It was initially formed in 2003 to keep the Fremont-Winema National Forest in public ownership when, it says, the Klamath Tribes made an attempt to have the forest given to them as a reservation. The group says its main goal is to keep public lands public and to advocate for equal rights for all citizens
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