Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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District 4 Supervisor Grace Bennett: My personal view of the KBRA
Yreka, Calif. ó I recently attended a meeting to explore the new ERI for dam removal on the Klamath River. Three minutes isnít enough time to speak about all of the information you wish to present, so here are the rest of my comments:
Many people believe that if the Klamath River dams are removed, all of this clear, cold water will suddenly appear and go rushing down the river Ė this is not the case.
The water that comes from Oregon to California is the problem. This water is the source of the pollution. The natural phosphorus from the soil around the Upper Klamath Lake causes algae to grow. This lake is shallow, gets warm in summer and has many nutrients and organic matter in it. To increase storage they are talking about flooding the wetlands around the Upper Klamath Lake. This will only add more phosphorus because the phosphorus is in the soil. Once the water leaves the Upper Klamath Lake it picks up more pollution from Klamath Falls, Ore. as the city puts their treated sewer water into the river. A few more miles down river, water is returned from the farming community and wildlife refuges. This water between Keno and the Copco Dam is the most polluted in the system, according to Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) reports.
The most recent study from the NOAA Fishery states that the salmon will have to be trapped and hauled around this area of the river after dam removal. The Copco and Iron Gate dams help settle the phosphorus and organic matter, and the water is cleaner when it leaves Iron Gate than when in enters. There are 84 streams that enter the river below Iron Gate to dilute this nasty water; the dams hold and settle the nutrients and phosphorus.
These 84 streams provide 471 miles of great habitat for spawning fish, plus the 263 miles of the Klamath River; this surely should be enough area for the fish to use as spawning grounds.
Over the past 20 years, there has been a concentrated effort to improve habitat and restore salmon in the Klamath River. Weir dams have been removed from tributaries, new pumping stations installed, ditches have been lined to improve water supplies, fish screens added to all ditches and irrigation practices have been analyzed and changed to improve crop production and use less water. Logging practices have been drastically changed to protect water sheds. Streams have been fenced so cattle arenít in the streams; this makes the streams narrower, thus lowering temperatures. Many experiments have been tried; some have worked and some havenít.
These numbers are estimated.
The Siskiyou County Road Department has completed over 62 projects since 2008 to improve fish access to these streams. The Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD) has completed over 1,200 projects, and the Shasta Valley RCD, starting in 1986, completed over 1,500-plus all of the work the farmers, ranchers and loggers have done to improve their land.
The fish populations have not increased, millions of tax dollars have been spent, and now the next grand effort is to take out the dams on the Klamath River. Over the past few years the federal government has spent $50 million a year in the Klamath Basin for environmental and management programs.
If the decision is made that the dams are to be removed and the Congress of the United States passes legislation to enact the KBRA, over a billion dollars will be spent on still more restoration projects over the next 10 years.
According the KBRA, this is where this money will be spent and the jobs will be created for the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Game, the BOR, California Department of Fish and Game. Several more federal and state agencies have plans to spend $63 million on restoration projects on the Sprague, Williamson and Wood rivers; $67 million for the fringe wetlands around Upper Klamath Lake and fish diversions for the Keno Dam; $92 million for water conservation and ground water management; $47 million is budgeted for acquisition of lease of water rights, water conservation and land management programs; and $7 million for modification of dikes on the Wood River.
A total of $385 million would support implementation of the water deal Ė things like paying for farmers to idle land and not farm, provide lower power rates to pump water, $65 million for tribal economic development and environmental management; each tribe will also get $14 million for fisheries management. The Salmon River restoration group will get $10 million for their projects. The Klamath tribe would like fishing rights on the Klamath River from Iron Gate to Interstate 5. This tells me that they donít expect the fish to get to Klamath Falls where their territory is, and they also get $21 million to purchase the Mazama Forest. The wildlife refuges get more water. There is $100 million budgeted to acquire water on a year-to-year basis for environmental needs.
And in all of this, there are no provisions to improve the quality of the water after it has gone through the Klamath Project and the Wildlife refuges and is returned directly to the Klamath River. No provisions to restore the lakebeds after the dams are removed. No provisions for repairing the road below the dams used to haul off the debris of the dams. No provisions to remove the sediment that will be allowed to wash down the river suffocating spawning grounds. No provisions for flood control; the dams give us nine hours to prepare for a flood event. No provision to make the water line for the city of Yreka safe. No provision for the protection of the Shasta Tribal burial sites and their ceremonial site, which are under the lakes.
This is a tremendous amount of tax dollars to be spent with very little hope of it helping the water quality and quantity of the Klamath River.
Is there a local company that can take out the dams? Probably not; there goes another $450 million to an outside contractor. Where are all of these jobs that have been talked about? It seems to me that the money goes to government agencies, tribes and a few so called nonprofit organizations.
There is a fish bypass designed that would allow fish to go past the dams and spawn in the upper part of the river. This would cost $5 million. Wouldnít it be better to see if this works before taking out the dams? Dam removal only provides about 25 miles of new habitat for the fish because there is no scientific evidence that the salmon ever went above Spencer Creek. Hatcheries have doubled their output of smolts; returns have not improved. Maybe the problem isnít the dams, water quality, or quantity; maybe it is the ocean where the salmon spend two-thirds of their lives.
Get ready Ė in a few years after dam removal you will need a lot more money because you will need an EPA super fund to clean up the Klamath River system.
The people of Siskiyou County deserve better; we are the ones who will have to suffer the consequences of dam removal and problems that are left behind. I am tired of being in the middle of some one elseís experiment.
Page Updated: Friday November 04, 2011 11:46 PM Pacific
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