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Why did they put the Klamath Basin through all of this?

June 2, 2009 Brandon Criss, Guest writer Herald and News
Brandon Criss is a farmer-rancher in the Butte Valley Area. He is chairman of the Siskiyou County Republican Party, which opposes removal of the Klamath River dams.

Just read this section of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement: Section 18: “Drought Climate Change and Emergency,” Section 18.1: “Nothing here is intended to limit the applicability or effect of the Endangered Species Act or other applicable law.”

Isn’t that clause the problem we had in the beginning? They shut off the water in 2001 because of the Endangered Species Act. If that sentence is argued by environmentalists and advocates of the KBRA not to mean what it says, why is it in the agreement?

Then read section 18.2.2: “The parties intend that an extreme drought shall be declared only in exceptional conditions. Water years 1992 and 1994 are the extreme drought years in the period 1961 to 2000.”

What about 2001? Isn’t that year why this whole thing was negotiated to prevent it from ever happening again?

Why did they take it away?

Now environmentalists and advocates for the restoration agreement say that those days of uncertainty of 2001 will end if everyone just agrees to the restoration agreement and then everything goes back to normal. Farmers young and old then can now know for certainty that they will have enough water throughout the growing season to grow their crops.

If that is the case, if the environmentalists, tribes and government agencies that shut off the water in 2001 will now let Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers have water they already denied to them; why did they take it away in the first place?

How are farmers going to get irrigation water if water is supposedly needed for endangered species such as the suckerfish or salmon? Is there now plenty of water for man and fish?

If so, why did they put Basin farmers and ranchers through all of this mess? Why didn’t they just build water storage capacity in the first place and solve the problem then? And if additional water storage solves the problem, then just get it done.

It is also argued by environmentalists and advocates for the restoration agreement that there will be better electricity rates if the agreement goes through. Why did the environmentalists have to shut off the water in 2001 in order to now say they will help in electricity costs? Couldn’t they have just helped out with this problem without shutting the water off?

Why according to the environmentalists, government agencies and advocates of this agreement do we have to demolish Klamath River hydropower dams in Siskiyou County that provide clean electricity for 70,000 homes? If they say this electricity can be replaced with wind and solar power, why not just build those now and provide electricity for 140,000 homes and reduce our already high power costs?

These dams also provide flood protection to downriver communities. The Seiad Valley fire chief voiced concerns at a Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting last year that his community will flood without the dams. Why is it a condition of the environmentalists and agencies who shut off the water in 2001 that Seiad Valley, Happy Camp and downriver communities must flood periodically to guarantee Basin farmers water and fair electricity rates?

A business decision?

Environmentalists and advocates for the restoration agreement say that it is a business decision by PacifiCorp to remove them. If it is a “business decision” by a private company, why did the Klamath Basin have to go dry in 2001 for the Basin to agree to dam removal? Why is dam removal even in the agreement, if it is a private company’s decision?

Then also, how does “Helping the Klamath Tribes acquire the Mazama Tree Farm” (Herald and News, April 29, 2009, p. A7) improve water flows and water storage for suckerfish, salmon and farms?

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement does not secure water for the farmers. They already have agreements that are being violated. The benefit for the entire region is to keep the dams, increase storage capacity, build the fish ladder diversions, and honor the existing water right commitments to the farmers and ranchers.

The author

    Brandon Criss is a farmer-rancher in the Butte Valley Area. He is chairman of the Siskiyou County Republican Party, which opposes removal of the Klamath River dams.

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