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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Fish or Foul on the Klamath River?

By Frank Galusha, My Outdoor Buddy 4/25/12

(Editor's Note: I recently received a video produced by American's for Prosperity that concerns the plan to remove dams on the Klamath River. I was moved by the video and I hope you will watch it (see below). I was also moved to add a more complete introduction. This is a complex subject with potentially enormous consequences. I hope my words help you understand what I think is wrong about this plan and what could happen to the people that live in this portion of the Klamath River Watershed. Please bear in mind that I am an avid fisherman and someone who respects the rights of all our people including those who belong to the various Indian Nations that live amongst us. I firmly believe the unintended consequences of removal of these dams could harm all of us, including our fish and wildlife. Please watch the video and checkout the links to other websites given below if you wish to be more thoroughly informed.)

Watch the video, and then judge for yourself. Should the people of the Klamath Basin and Siskiyou County be sacrificed on the altar of environmentalism gone berserk? I think not! Watch the video! 

Learn more about the Klamath River Watershed. Learn even more about the region that will be affected by dam removal click here.


Your outdoor adventures have only just begun

04/25/12 – Although it cannot be proven that dam removal will actually help salmon or steelhead, the Department of Interior has been pushing ahead with plans to destroy four dams on the Klamath River in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

During this process, which has been ongoing now for over a decade, the farmers and ranchers who would be affected, as well as PacifiCorp, the company that has operated the dams, have literally been blackmailed into agreeing with dam removal even though it was not really in their best interests.

The dams are being destroyed ostensibly to allow fish to swim further upstream but there is no proof that the fish can make it any further upriver than they already do. In fact, there is significant reason to believe that the warm water of the upside-down Klamath River and its main source, the very warm and algae laden Upper Klamath Lake, would be fatal to the fish even assuming there was adequate supply of water.

Salmon never made it that far

What's more, there is no proof that Chinook salmon, the cash crop upon which both commercial and recreational anglers depend, ever swam further upriver anyway except in rare instances or thousands of years ago when there was much more rainfall, snowpack and water runoff in in this region.

It is also highly probable that dam removal could destroy the current healthy run of fall Chinook salmon by releasing thousands of tons of toxic sediment that has accumulated behind the dams. This sediment could destroy spawning beds for miles downstream. This could be an enormous calamity, especially when one realizes that the salmon runs up the Klamath have waxed and waned anyway. Some years, the runs have been sparse. In other years, such as predicted for 2012, hundreds of thousands of fish are expected to make their way upriver to where the dams are today, a distance of 180 miles. This proves that even with the dams, we can and have enjoyed healthy if not robust salmon runs.

More water reaches the Klamath today

The Klamath Basin Reclamation Project, which began early in the 1900's reclaimed land which was covered by many feet of water that never reached the sea. Before the Project, much of the water simply accumulated in Lower Klamath Lake and Tule Lake, both navigable waters, where it either evaporated or percolated into the ground -- it did not reach the sea because the area was a closed basin at that time.

This is what President Teddy Roosevelt saw that caused him to declare this area as the first National Wildlife Refuge. He saw enormous lakes that stretched for miles with unlimited habitat for waterfowl and all kinds of life.

When the land was reclaimed, much of the water was diverted to agricultural use and the land -- which was formerly under the lakes -- is still being farmed. The soil here was some of the richest imaginable due to centuries of waterfowl pooping on it. This land was opened up by the U.S. Government and homesteaders were invited to settle and grow crops that have helped feed people, livestock and wildlife ever since. This way of homesteading was encouraged all the way up to and past WWII when returning veterans were promised land in exchange for settling there.

In addition to growing crops, much of the water that had simply never reached the sea was also diverted to the Klamath River. More water reaches the Klamath River today and eventually the sea than was the case before reclamation began.

Dams provide some flood control and critical flow control

Farmers and ranchers have prospered here. Small towns sprouted and grew and a new life style and culture was created, not only in the Upper Klamath Basin around the towns of Klamath Falls, Oregon and Tulelake, California but also in California's Siskiyou County along the Klamath River as it snaked its way westward and northward to the sea. These settlers were promised not only land but also cheap power needed to pump the water from field to field. To achieve this power, and to provide a measure of flood control and flow control, four dams were built in the region. These are the dams to be destroyed by the Department of the Interior, with the backing of some tribes and numerous environmental or other special interest groups.

The deck was stacked against agriculture

Those groups met behind closed doors for years in order to create what is now known as the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA). These agreements were not achieved by universal participation. Many of the stakeholders either did not participate or were excluded purposely. Remember that when you read or hear that a diverse group participated in the meetings and all agreed the dams must go.

As a prerequisite to even getting a seat at the KBRA/KHSA tables, a participant had to agree with the plan to remove the dams and a tiered water-allocation hierarchy. Furthermore, that “agreement” assumed an unproven “environmental benefit” as a result of that mandated “acceptance.” But today, the participating profiting agencies/non-governmental organizations and Tribal Councils are frantically trying to cover over the studies and experience currently contradicting that “benefit.”

Those prerequisites and assumed benefits ensured that the outcome of the meetings would be what was desired by the so-called stakeholders who signed the agreement. Many of these stakeholder groups had actually nothing to lose but everything to gain by having the dams removed.

The Endangered Species Act also plays a huge role in this fight.

The ESA pits one species (sucker fish) against another (salmon). Upper Klamath Lake must be kept at artificially high and unnecesarily high levels to protect sucker fish that actually thrive when water levels are low. At other times, when plentiful, water is being poured down the Klamath "to protect" a coastal species (coho salmon) that doesn't belong in the warm Upper Klamath Basin or even in the Scott and Shasta River Valleys in Siskiyou County. Much of that water could be poured into the rufuges and stored for use by the birds during their spring migration. Some of that water could be retained for birds that return in the fall. Here is another key point: Prior to construction of the dams, coho were rarely if ever caught in the Klamath River. This species was essentially introduced by the hatchery at Iron Gate dam -- a hatchery that was mandated as mitigation for dam construction and a hatchery that will be destroyed if the dams are removed. What will happen to our salmon runs if there is no hatchery? The ESA is what needs to be destroyed or at least reconstructed. And if dams are ever built again by man on rivers used by salmon, we can and should do whatever it takes to provide fish passages. Not doing so was a huge error but we cannot go back now and correct our error without incurring other unintended consequences.

Control is the game

Meanwhile everything possible is being done to make the farmers and ranchers give up their holdings in what appears to be an effort to literally "re-wild" the region and drive agriculture off. This game not only takes away the water farmers need; their low power rates have also been increased. Over the past seven years the cost of power has been raised 2000 percent. Truism: Whoever has control over the water and the power, can control the land and the people -- that is exactly what the framers of the KBRA/KHSA wanted. But in a way, their scheme has already back-fired.

Those agricultural interests that did agree to sign the KBRA were told doing so would provide them with a degree of "certainty" of water. But there can be no "certainty of water." The Klamath Basin National Wildlife refuges operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also signed the agreements for much the same reason, yet this year, there has been such a shortage of water overall that the refuges got far too little and for a while there was a severe outbreak of avian botulism when too many birds tried to use the scarce water on Lower Klamath Refuge.

Why was there not enough water in Lower Klamath? Farmers were falsely blamed just as they were unfairly blamed for the salmon die-off in the Klamath in 2002. The truth is the birds that flew into the refuge this year were unlucky. What water was there was stagnant. According to Project Irrigator Bill Kennedy, its possible the water on the refuge was not moved around enough. "The lucky birds, and there were thousands of them, landed in the farmers fields where they found good food and water and could disperse," Kennedy said.

Then why was so little water available on Lower Klamath? There had been a severe drought in the winter of 2011/12. Water is allocated to fish, then to agriculture and then to the refuge. In most years, even low water years, the refuges, including Lower Klamath, have received more water. Now, because the power rates had been raised 2000 percent, the farmers can no longer afford to pump water (water that had drained from their lands into Tule Lake) into the refuge known as Lower Klamath. The farmers, not the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, had built a tunnel from one refuge to the other and for decades had been paying to have the water pumped and moved through a mountain so the birds and other wildlife and leased farm fields there would prosper.

The final ironies

Agriculture has not only fed people and livestock; the waterfowl of the region have depended upon it. One fourth of all grain fields on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges are left standing to feed the ducks and geese.

 “Waterfowl eat 70 million pounds of food here, and more than half comes from the farms,” said Ph. D. Robert McLandress, UC Davis ecology.

Taking out the dams will not create any more water. Dam removal will make it harder to control flooding and to control the flow of water into the Klamath when the fish we have left really need it.

Taking out the dams will destroy agriculture at a time when we need food and the cost of food is rising.

Taking out the dams will mean the loss of green hydropower at rates the farmers and ranchers can afford.

So who benefits? Some of the tribes, mainly the Karuk, will profit from deconstruction and government grants. The fight to remove dams has become a full employment act of sorts. The Klamath Tribe will also benefit. The Klamath Tribe stands to receive thousands of acres of forest (reservation land they sold back to our government twice) including a nice place to build a big casino. Also benefiting will be numerous environmental groups who suck money from naive and gullible big-city donors who have been brainwashed by environmental whackos.

To get an idea of how the farmers and ranchers will suffer, listen to the video below provided by Americans for Prosperity. You'll discover that our government, including our president and the Secretary of the Interior, Kenneth Salazar, has been spinning the news to make dam removal look hunky-dory. And if you do your homework you'll also find that many other government agencies, including the CA Water Quality Control Board, have also played loose with the truth. The outcome was pre-ordained by those who would benefit and/or those special interests who simply wanted the dams to go from the get-go regardless of the outcome.

Watch the video, and then judge for yourself. Should the people of the Klamath Basin and Siskiyou County be sacrificed on the altar of environmentalism gone berserk? I think not! Watch the video!

Learn more about the Klamath River  Watershed. Learn even more about the region that will be affected by dam removal click here.



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              Page Updated: Thursday April 26, 2012 02:46 AM  Pacific

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