KBRA/KHSA Opinions by Patrick Higgins-McKinleyville, Calif, editor Diane Beck, and Scott Valley rancher Mark Baird.
Dear Two Rivers Tribune,
Pat Higgins, Fisheries Biologist was at the Orleans, CA DOI/KBRA Public Hearing on June 15, 2011, representing the Resighini Rancheria Tribe at the mouth of the Klamath River.
Thanks to the Two Rivers Tribune for coverage of the Klamath Basin Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) meeting held in Orleans in mid-June. The tense mood of the meeting was well captured but there were some important points made that I thought were overlooked.
The complaint I lodged with regard to Indian people being excluded from the KHSA/KBRA process was primarily on behalf of the Resighini Rancheria, who have retained me as a fisheries and watershed consultant to deal with the environmental review of this large and complex program. Although they are a federally recognized Tribe, they were excluded from discussions as was the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation. The Hoopa Valley Tribe were allowed to participate in Settlement talks but refused to sign the agreements because they force Tribes to give up water rights and legal redress to sue over water pollution for 50 years, if the deals are authorized and funded.
The KBRA within Section 15.3 clearly states what the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes of Oregon will give up under the deal: “All claims resulting from (1) water management decisions, including the failure to act, or (2) the failure to protect, or to prevent interference with, the Tribes’ water or water rights…… (including damages, losses, or injuries to hunting, fishing, gathering rights or other activities due to loss of water or water rights).” The Secretary of Interior will essentially terminate the rights of other Klamath River Tribes that are not “Parties” to the deal (KBRA 15.3.9).
DOI lawyer John Bezdek’s claim that all KHSA/KBRA processes are open is simply incorrect. All committees and processes are open only to those who have signed the agreements. Critical documents like the Drought Plan are crafted behind closed doors by Parties and then the non-Party Tribes and the public can comment, but there is no assurance that appropriate changes will be made. Thus, the KBRA sets up a class system on the Klamath River for decision making that would perpetuate social injustice for 50 years.
Program leader Dennis Lynch’s summary of the Expert Panel reports mis-stated their findings. The coho-steelhead Expert Panel concluded that the dangerous algae blooms that are causing waves of fish diseases on the Klamath River would not be prevented: “Thus, it would be premature to conclude that any problems caused by these blooms, including low dissolved oxygen, will be substantially reduced by KBRA.”
The Chinook Experts state that “the Panel has strong reservations that the KBRA will be implemented with sufficient effectiveness to achieve its stated goals” and “Without solving the water quality problems, a fully self-sustaining run of Chinook salmon to the upper basin is unlikely.” The best science clearly establishes that the Klamath River is dying of nutrient pollution and the KBRA actually blocks restoring enough marsh and shallow lake habitat to sufficiently regain ecosystem processes that would clean up the water.
The KBRA is terminally flawed, unlikely to be funded and should be abandoned. Both the Resighini Rancheria and Hoopa Valley Tribe want to see speedy dam removal but believe that the best way to achieve that end is to return to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process. Fish ladders required under FERC relicensing by the National Marine Fisheries Service would cost $200 million and make the project uneconomic forcing dam owner PacifiCorp into decommissioning. In addition the State of California has found that the pollution generated by the Klamath dams cannot be solved and would not issue a Clean Water Act 401 certification, which also would force abandonment and decommissioning.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on environmental documents for the KHSA/KBRA in September. Become informed and weigh in before it is too late.
Patrick Higgins, McKinleyville, Calif.