Our Klamath Basin
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
(Calif. Congressman) Mike Thompson says he
will introduce Klamath River legislation in January
12/14/09 by Felice Pace, Klam Blog
(KBC does not share environmental
activist Felice Pace's views on Klamath irrigators, however we
appreciate his sharing information on Thompson's upcoming
In response to a question during an electronic Town Hall
meeting the evening of December 9th, North Coast Congressman Mike
Thompson indicated that he would be introducing Klamath River
legislation in January.
Here’s the question that was put to Thompson by a constituent:
"One thing on our minds in Humboldt County is the Klamath Dam
Removal Deal. Given that a number of parties have expressed
concerns with the Klamath Settlement Negotiations and the linkage
between dam removal and the $985 million Restoration Deal, how do
you think you will proceed on introducing legislation?"
Thompson did not appear eager to talk about the Klamath River
during a meeting dominated by health care. But he did give a clear
indication that he was working with the Interior Department on
Klamath legislation. Since the Interior Department is a party to
the proposed Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and
the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) this
response appears to indicate that Mr. Thompson plans to introduce
the legislation which those remaining in negotiators are drafting
behind closed doors.
Those with concerns about the Klamath Deals hoped Mr. Thompson
would consider ideas, concepts and proposals from all his
constituents and other Klamath River stakeholders who are not
party to the closed door negotiations or who have rejected the
resulting deals before drafting his own legislation.
Leading Northern California environmentalists - including Greg
King, Diane Beck and Felice Pace - and prominent environmental
organizations based in Mr. Thompson’s district - including the
Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) and Friends of Del Norte -
favor dam removal but reject the proposed dam and water deals.
Those opposing the deals are concerned because they do not commit
to actually removing the dams, delay the removal unnecessarily, do
not sufficiently protect water quality in the interim until the
dams are removed and because the dam deal is linked to the
controversial and costly KBRA. You can read Klamath Campaign
Coordinator Jay Wright’s article explaining the NEC’s “new course"
on the Klamath Deals on line.
Thompson indicated that he would be introducing legislation with
an Oregon congressman but did not indicate whom that might be. The
Upper Klamath Basin is represented by Greg Walden. Walden is
running for reelection; he has yet to take a position on the
Klamath deals. Peter DeFazio – who represents the Southern Oregon
Coast - has also been involved in Klamath River issues. Last year
he worked with Mike Thompson to obtain funding for fish disease
research on the Klamath. DeFazio is a Democrat.
If Mr. Thompson decides to carry legislation being drafted by
those remaining in Klamath negotiators he may face opposition from
more than those who want to see a better dam removal deal. There
is fierce opposition to the deals in the Upper Basin and in
Siskiyou County. That opposition includes irrigators who believe
that the deals give the Irigation Elite - the small group of
irrigators who dominate irrigation on federal Klamath Project - an
unfair competitive advantage via the KBRA's power and other
The KBRA would require close to $1 billion dollars in spending and
many millions more to purchase water from irrigators to meet
salmon flow needs during drought years. Nearly half a billion
dollars would be new spending. Thompson still caucuses with the
Blue Dog Democrats who are deficit hawks. Organizations which
fight government waste and subsidies – including Taxpayers for
Common Sense - may get involved. While deal spending is being
marketed as “restoration” two-thirds is actually subsidies to
irrigators, tribes and counties.
One of the details on the Klamath Deals which has not yet been
worked out is how to pay for them. The Obama Administration’s
Office of Management and Budget is reportedly concerned about the
spending – much of which would go to the Irrigation Elite.
Congress so-called “pay go” rules would require that Mr. Thompson
and other sponsors of legislation identify where they would cut
funding to compensate for the new spending.
Another unresolved detail is the proposal to provide the Klamath
Basin’s Irrigation Elite with access to cheap power from the
Bonneville Power Administration. That proposal is likely being
opposed by the aluminum and internet industries which have built
plants along the Columbia River to take advantage of cheap
Bonneville Power. Giving the Irrigation Elite access to Bonneville
Power means less of that power would be available for existing
Most Bonneville power comes from Columbia River dams. Those dams
have been implicated in the decline of salmon populations in the
Columbia River Basin. Bonneville power for the Irrigation Elite
would make those irrigators complicit in the Columbia Basin’s
salmon decline. Likewise, the linkage of the proposed deals to the
California Water Bond initiative could implicate the deal makers
in approval of a Peripheral Canal to carry more Northern
California water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and to
Southern California cities. If the Peripheral Canal is built many
California water watchers expect new attempts to divert more
Klamath and Trinity River water south during the winter. River
research indicates that high winter flows play a key role in
sustaining river ecosystems - including salmon.
If they make it through Congress as negotiated, the Klamath Deals
will carry implications not only for Klamath River Salmon but for
Columbia River and Sacramento-San Joaquin Salmon as well.
Friday December 18, 2009 02:54 AM Pacific
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