Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Rex Cozzalio testimony for Oregon Senate Bill 76A
We are 4 generations living immediately below, both before and after, where Iron Gate dam now sits, trying desperately to have the history and realities of the Klamath we love be heard in a din of economically and politically driven rhetoric. I am in the water over 50 times a year for over 50 years, as my grandfather before me. We are one of a handful of families living on the river continually for such length of time and are one of only 2 families with that continual knowledge and experience on the river observing the most direct effects of the dams below where the dams are now and above any other significant confluence. This is in contrast to most making definitive statements and suppositions without background or substantiation, and is experience remarkably consistent with those equivalent Klamath histories elsewhere on the river. We are approximately 190 miles from the mouth, over 120 miles above the Yurok, and around 75 miles downstream from the Klamath Tribal controversy. While many Karuk are non resident, with no Klamath reservation, very few living on the river and a number in opposition to dams removal, the council negotiating position utilizing dams removal is centered in Happy Camp about 65 miles downstream below a number of major confluences. The water traveling through our property represents approximately 15% of the water at the Klamath mouth (Rykbost).
- Without question, contrary as it seems to accepted rhetoric and ‘common sense’, due to its unique conditions, the Klamath water quality, quantity, riparian stability, and even in river algae, are better at our location since and as a consequence of the dams than before. In addition to massive consequential environmental damages as a direct result of dams removals, simply returning to the frequently destructive flooding, erosion, riparian devastation, greater in river algae, and low summer water levels without options would be a travesty.
- Virtually all cited ‘record runs’ occurred decades after dams were in place. ‘Human impacts’ to the Klamath watershed have decreased in nearly all aspects since late 1800’s, including Siskiyou population, except for the increased pollution (erosion, ash alkali, sediment) from increased forest fires over last 20 years subsequent to 30 year forest shutdown and access roads decommissioning. Direct ‘impacts’ to the Klamath such as cattle are a miniscule fraction of historical numbers during ‘pristine’ times. Mining and river road construction are virtually nonexistent and were at their height during the ‘bountiful salmon’ times. While agricultural areas and irrigation allocations have remained essentially unchanged the entire time, both have developed dramatic improvements in efficiencies and reduced impacts since the early now ‘praised’ salmon days. The so called salmon ‘decline’, even including the newly defined counting methods that help create that numerical ‘decline’, has only occurred within the prior 15-20 years, with the dams in place for 100. Even this brief citing of facts concludes a complete disconnect between causative realities and ‘theoretical conclusions’ by a few justifying massive asset reallocations.
- Aside from the rhetoric, there is no direct scientific evidence linking the existence of the Klamath dams to federal ocean fisheries shutdowns (I believe only one shutdown directly referred to the Klamath and that was for ‘protection’ of the DNA identical ‘non hatchery spawned’ untagged indistinguishable Klamath salmon, not due to shortage of actual ocean known salmon numbers). The interests stating such ‘dams to salmon’ link have provided no guarantee of salmon increase on dams removals or consequence to those making failed decisions imposed upon the unrepresented should their imposed conclusions prove false.
- Current scientific study of results, not proposed theories, is confirming what discounted vested locals have always affirmed. Record 2008 Columbia sockeye runs, 2008 Frasier/Columbia salmon tracking survival statistics, Columbia salmon tracking transport survivability and habitat preference statistics, Klamath salmon tracking migration statistics, actual tested degraded water conditions of ‘best science’ created upper Klamath water treatment marshes, tested improved water conditions of upper Klamath irrigation return water as opposed to input ‘natural’ water, apparent decreased riverine water quantities as a result of agricultural decommissioning (upper off project 100,000 acres), and no relatable improvement of sucker fish numbers as a result of Klamath Lake ‘best science’ water level increases. All of the recent studies confirm no direct connection of current ‘habitat’ conditions to salmon numbers, but instead lead to alternate scientific conclusion including prior local assertions of ocean cyclical nature, international offshore fishing, increased predation, and downriver witnessed alleged illegal takings for commercial purposes.
- The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) group, and the Agreement in Principle’s (AIP) Federal Klamath Working Group, are both entities operating in exclusionary secret meeting with predetermined conditions; involving multiple government agencies without public process; making negotiations with minority groups with few vested interests gaining self negotiated participant benefit; negotiating unrepresented public properties, funds and individual vested assets; and seeking imposition of those otherwise unconstitutional secretly held determinations through legislated mandate bypassing rights of public and private interests, leaving instead only a limited sham of judicial recourse unattainable for the majority, and with no guarantees or compensation for those majority unrepresented vested interests for failed policies. The KBRA is the only group and ‘agreement’ recognized and included within the AIP in entirety. Passage of Oregon sb 76 virtually guarantees implementation of the AIP and therefore the KBRA and its principles, and the placing of that financial burden upon the ratepayers and taxpayers receiving no voice. Under the draft KBRA, anyone protesting their edicts is allowed only to present objections directly through the KBRA ‘committee’. Any consideration or compensation for affected assets under the AIP are only being considered within the current secret negotiations directed by the Secretary of Interior from those entities allowed to ‘sit at the table’ and whom agree to all conditions of those secret meetings.
- Pacific Power does not represent the ratepayers. While their actions may be understandable, ultimately they represent their company and shareholders. This leaves ratepayers unrepresented under the AIP and thrown under the dam in exchange for liability protection and substantial financial company concessions, most of which is born by the ratepayers.
- The SB 76 2% ‘cap protection’ is misleading, both in claiming it does not give ostensible state compliance to the terms of the AIP, and in splitting up the total ratepayer costs stated to the public due to dams removal in which the far greater and open ended costs for ‘restoration and operational requirements’, infrastructure, hatchery operation, etc., etc., would be submitted directly to PUC which under 76, as with the AIP and KBRA, bypasses public process and representation leaving only litigation to the highest courts to protest.
- State approval of SB 76 would sanction unsubstantiated and unproven KBRA requirements under the AIP upon AIP signing, subjecting those unrepresented to massive water cutoffs guaranteed both now and in the future to regions as far removed as the Rogue Valley, placing a primarily non vested and non voted power structure in place with no assurance of benefit and no consequence for failure.
- With all of the extensive historical (including government documentation), physical and anecdotal evidence supporting that migrating salmon seldom ever made it above Copco (Spencer Creek), there is little likelihood of permanent successful introduction into the basin, even using the genetically enhanced varieties currently being selected by FWS for pre-introduction above dams and contradictory to the rationales justifying dams removal. Even under Iron Gate improved water conditions, the salmon are dying, with extremely limited energy reserves remaining by the time they reach our property and with ‘little likelihood for the strongest to make it much past Copco’ (prior Iron Gate hatchery manager Curt Hiser statement). Pre Iron Gate, coho were never known in upper Klamath midstem. Two failed attempts were made to plant coho varieties in the upper mid-stem Klamath in the 1960s until the third attempt of the Cascade variety under the improved Iron Gate river conditions produced the marginal returns today justifying ‘threatened’ status and the consequent regulatory impositions. Historical pre dam water conditions would not support even that limited coho amount which conditions at this location were considered marginal at best even for Chinook, nor could those historic conditions meet the currently being developed CA Water Quality TMDLs ‘cold water fisheries water quality’ upon which pre dams ‘computer modeled’ ‘salmon habitat’ those TMDLs are being based and which historically unattainable requirements will be transferred to the Oregon border. If this were not true, why would the Klamath Tribe, under the KBRA and ‘removed dams restored conditions allowing salmon upstream in huge numbers’, have negotiated ‘fishing rights’ to our below dams area, historically held by the Shasta Tribe, if they did not know the fallacy of their statements.
- Without a successful basin salmon introduction after removing the two deepest, coldest lakes having a fraction of the surface area of those immediately above, where will the next flurry of additional regulation and cost move to, and what state will then be responsible?
- Threat of lawsuit continues at this time from many groups already demanding removal of Keno dam as well as others, re-exposing known natural geologic impediments then demanding additional removal. Upon successive removal of dams, each loss further reduces vital water retention required to meet mandates, therefore exacerbating the frequency of water cut-off caused destruction, contention and suffering. At that point of retention loss, even the AIP ignored presently available solutions including pending Long Lake project enhancing current retention assets at far less cost, would not be enough to avoid that suffering, despite later ‘embrace’ by then politically empowered AIP and KBRA after removal of the dams and billions of pre incurred expense.
- With no dam correlation to certain salmon improvement, without probable success of salmon introduction, the extremely likely additional major costs and regulatory impacts will move upriver totally within Oregon upon any introduction failure.
- Without the dams, any capability of experiment to manipulate flows to achieve desired sustainable conditions will be lost. Many superior options are available and recommended today to vastly better accomplish manipulated alteration of an established and historically productive environment have emerged subsequent to the FERC shutdown of options and are being ignored under current monetary and politically driven ‘negotiations’, options which satisfy virtually all concerns including water for the basin flows and agriculture and increased salmon survivability (ARED program)at far less cost than proposed KBRA and AIP, while maintaining all earned assets.
- By many of their own participants’ admission in senate testimony, the KBRA is significantly flawed, with few answers, and with a majority of unrepresented interests excluded and subject to imposition, with only vague ‘promises’ that they will ‘work it out’ along the way. With the KBRA central premise for participation being acceptance of removal of dams, excluding the majority not agreeing, a scenario is being mandated within the AIP for a minority of interests to assure benefit to themselves on the backs of the conscientious majority in opposition, sacrificing the dams solely because it brings about a politically expedient forced ‘settlement’.
- By its very content, the AIP mandates the special interests’ massive costs of administering their ‘continued restoration and research’ currently promised at 1 billion (Kempthorn letter to Schwarzenegger). Over one half billion federal dollars within a 5 year period alone (2003-2008) and hundreds of millions prior to that has failed to produce any known statistical improvement. In fact, a major ‘best science’ action, in which 1200 lost their homes and futures, actually reduced fish numbers by their own counts (suckerfish) as predicted by locals and history. That ‘best science’ now resulted in taxpayers additionally paying for building and operating a hatchery for ‘research’ as they ‘apparently did not understand the requirements of sucker fish’. The majority of local knowledge without financial incentive and Klamath history again predict the unrecoverable failure of AIP ‘promises’ to the Klamath and its people, without the AIP providing any liability for wrong decision, simply the assurance of increased costs for progressive reaction and oppression.
- Even under the remote possibility that the sole AIP recognized group (KBRA), with its requirement of dams removal being ‘intrinsically linked’ within the AIP, should find the Secretary of Interior determining the dams to stay, the costs incurred to Oregon ratepayers will not be mitigated, it will be compounded, due to the then additional FERC, agencies, and the KBRA ‘mitigation’ demands for continued dams operation which ratepayers will bear.
- By conclusion, as they stand the dams are helping to protect Oregon from increased liability, cost, and regulation. To endorse the AIP by authorizing Oregon ratepayers to pay for removal of dams does not reduce cost or liability to the state of Oregon, it instead sets in place an irreversible process that will compound those costs. To protect its interests, Oregon should rather refuse to endorse the AIP, and demand consideration by FERC of the far less costly alternatives already available which would add to the options and resources, minimizing conflict within the State of Oregon, while allowing for concurrent recoverable experiment defining the feasibility of salmon introduction to the basin and its impact on other species.
I beg you, please do not impose this pre-determined travesty upon the Klamath environment, her people, and the unrepresented ratepayers of Oregon.
Rex Cozzalio, Hornbrook, CA 5/26/09
Page Updated: Friday May 29, 2009 02:25 AM Pacific
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