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Klamath Water Users host Endangered Species Act tour for Senate committee staff
Irrigators, Tribes, County Commissioners, fishermen and The Nature Conservancy discuss ESA amendment
By Jacqui Krizo, Klamath Courier Reporter, October 19, 2005
 Tour of the Klamath Project

On Columbus Day weekend, Klamath Water Users Association hosted a tour of staff members from the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee from Washington D.C and Resources staff from the D.C. Office of Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. The Senate will be deliberating over H.R. Bill 3824 that calls for peer-reviewed science and compensation for private landowners for Endangered Species Act impacts.

"ESA legislation has passed the House of Representatives and will now be considered in the Senate", said Greg Addington, KWUA Executive Director. He felt this was "a great opportunity to show why commonsense changes need be made to update this 32-year old law."

The focus of the tour was on the Klamath Reclamation Project and the impacts of the Endangered Species Act as well as differing viewpoints from outside the project.

Sunday, October 9 was spent touring the Klamath Project in both Oregon and California and visiting with local farmers and area leaders.

A Senate staff guest from D.C. told the Courier that it was great to have the opportunity to actually see the Klamath Project. She didn’t realize how vast it is, how many people it impacts, and how much wildlife it supports. The Klamath Basin is in the heart of the Pacific flyway, the most important migratory bird route in the West. The Basin’s farms and ranches provide over 50% of the food needed for the waterfowl.

- Meeting of Tribes, City and County officials, irrigators, and Senate ESA committee members

The meeting at the Red Lion Inn in Klamath Falls was held on Monday, October 10th and focused on the Senate staff hearing a wide range of views regarding the ESA. People who attended and gave presentations on Monday were the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa, and Klamath Tribes, The Nature Conservancy, off-project irrigators from north and south of the project, a Klamath County Chamber of Commerce representative, and County Commissioners from Klamath County, OR. and from Humboldt County, CA
– Commissioner Brown tells about 2001 impacts, heroes, Dr Hardy, waterbank and TMDL’s

Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown, sixth-generation resident from Langell Valley, spoke to more than 45 guests about the economic impact of the ESA on the Klamath Basin. He explained that in 2001 Klamath Basin endured $200,000,000 loss to the local economy.

Brown said, "A lot of heroes in the community stepped forward." Klamath Relief Fund collected $300,000 that they distributed to farmers and farm workers in cash, food, medicine, and livestock feed. Local convoys have taken the big Klamath Bucket Brigade bucket over 20,000 miles in the United States to places enduring severe hardships inflicted by the ESA. Many farmers were lost because they could not get bank loans because of the water uncertainty and because they couldn’t pay their bills that year.

"The message is not to kill the ESA, but it’s the tremendous need to improve and upgrade it," said Brown. The entire Klamath Crisis was based on flow recommendations from Dr. Thomas Hardy’s research, which was proven flawed, yet now the government has hired Hardy to do a third study on flows. Brown said that would be like if he were a doctor, a guy dies, and the same doctor does the autopsy. "Three Hardy opinions are not good."

Brown is concerned about the water bank which fallows productive farmland and is depleting the aquifer while not replenishing it. He commented on the grasshopper infestation and Canadian Thistle growing in dry fields, consequences of the water bank.

Another viable concerned raised by Mr. Brown are the affects that a listed species will have on the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process. This is a process used to achieve water quality standards. These are regulations are being imposed with no concern to social/economic impacts. Brown explained that there are plans to introduce a Chinook Salmon into the Klamath Basin waters. That would create a situation where the water could never meet the TMDL requirements for an ‘endangered species.’

Other threats to the Klamath Basin due to the ESA are forest restrictions, conservation easements, wolf introduction, and the power situation; "These are just some concerns," said Brown. "We need to amend the ESA quickly."

-Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott discusses ESA damage-

Elliott’s first year in office was 2001, and he recalls his first meeting with the tribes "I asked how many suckers there were when they were listed, how many there are now, and how many the wanted before they could be delisted. The answer was, ‘I don’t know.’ "

Yet they shut down 200,000 acres of farmland, impacted 1400 family farmers, and destroyed contracts with places like Frito Lay and the Tillamook Dairy. Then the federal government said there was "minimal economic impact!" he exclaimed.

Klamath County Commissioners Bill Brown, John Elliott, and Stephanie Bailey from the Klamath Chamber of Commerce detail impacts of the Endangered Species Act to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee from Washington D.C and Resources staff from the D.C. Office of Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. Congressman Walden's representative John Snider listens in the background.

Elliott expressed his anger that there was no FEMA assistance, no declaration of disaster, and no peer review of the science later found to be flawed. He told the Senate staffers that many of the people impacted were farm laborers who have been Klamath Basin residents more than 25 years. He said Klamath Falls elected officials declined a pay raise in 2001 to use that money to help feed and clothe victims of the ESA water shutoff, and the federal government only offered indifference.

"They shut down industry all in the guise of saving endangered species."

- Chamber tells about ESA impact to the Klamath Business community-

Klamath County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stephanie Bailey said 83 per cent of the business community lost up to 40 per cent of their business in 2001. People didn’t buy clothes, vehicles or other merchandise; "We lost businesses; we lost people. What is it doing to our work force?" The business community created an ag relief fund of $25,000 to feed and clothe farm laborers because of an ESA inflicted disaster that was "avoidable and unnecessary".

"We want our best and brightest youth to remain in the community; our children are a critical component of our industry, however, they are leaving since there is no water certainty. There is no certainty of water or ESA effects in the future.

Bailey said if a company waited 30 years to review or modify their business plan, they would be out of business. "Screaming change is necessary" to the ESA.

  • Save Our Scott and Shasta speaks –

Dave Dealey of the SOSS said that the only difference between him and the first speakers is, "It hasn’t happened to us yet."

SOSS was formed four years ago with the state listing of coho salmon, and they were aware of the Klamath crisis and saw the potential ESA disaster coming that could happen in their area. He said that, with the ESA decimating their timber industry because of the "endangered" spotted owl, all their community has left is agriculture. They found that these owls were numerous, and not just in old-growth forest, and flew to other habitat if theirs was disturbed. They fly!

Dealey said, "I retired from the timber industry. I’d seen what happened to our industry and couldn’t stand to watch it happen to agriculture. We lost over half of our sawmills….the timber is still there and growing and dying and going to waste, not being harvested, and is a tinder box for fires. There is no management….We found them (spotted owls) everywhere out there, mostly in new growth…they (the Feds) created major devastation to an industry which had been a major contributor to the economy of the West."

Dealey said his community has done "a tremendous amount of work to protect fish and habitat," and it is important that fact is recognized in the recovery process for coho salmon.

He said he’d like to see ESA changes, basing decisions on sound science, not what someone thinks or wants to promote. He said "it's the same with the coho; a lot of assumptions and decisions are made with no scientific knowledge to back them up."

"ESA issues also impact coho like timber," said Dealey "Our community’s economy is dead."

-Tribal members carried a uniform message-

Ron Reed, cultural biologist for the Karuk Tribe, said that he didn’t agree with single species management, however he wants the ESA to remain as it is. He said few Chinook salmon were caught at Ishy Pishy Falls and he feels critical habitat designations should remain intact. He wants his children to be able to fish and hunt.

Yurok Larry Hendricks said, "the shift of dollars from the mouth of the Klamath to the Upper Basin happened when dams went in." He blamed dams and the Klamath Project for blue green algae and impacts to fisheries.

Yurok Chairman Howard McConnell blamed the water management in the Upper Basin for fisheries being decimated.
Yurok Chairman Howard McConnell said water was over-allocated to irrigators and dams should come out, yet he wants agriculture to remain. He does not want the ESA amended, and if the government takes personal property or water, he does not want the landowners to receive compensation.

Klamath tribal members Alan Foreman and Jeff Mitchell want the ESA to remain unchanged. They feel suckers are on the "brink of extinction", even though according to fisheries scientist Dave Vogel, there are tens of thousands of suckers now, and when they were listed as endangered they were believed to number less than 1000. They were miscounted.

Klamath Tribal Chairman Alan Foreman said the water was over-allocated, even though there is more water in Klamath Lake and in Klamath River than before the project was built.

Water that would never have left the basin is now stored in the lake or diverted into the river. And Link River used to go dry, so pre-project water levels would never have been able to meet the current biological opinion for how much water is required to be in the river.
A common theme among tribal members was a basic agreement that the ESA isn’t really recovering species, however they clearly view it as a safety-net and fear that "updating" will remove those protections.

-The Nature Conservancy wants more land; Addington responds -

Mark Stern from the Nature Conservancy told about the tens of thousands of acres of land they have acquired in the Upper Klamath Basin. They converted much of this farmland and pasture into wetlands as did Fish and Wildlife, causing a sharp decline in the cattle industry. However, on some of their land they have farm and ranch operations of their own. TNC is buying land adjoining the lake, flooding it and claiming it will store water, help water quality, help suckers, and reduce demand. They now want to acquire a few thousand more acres on the Williamson River Delta..

In the Upper Basin nearly 100,000 acres have been converted from private agricultural land into government or TNC land. "How much is enough?" asked Commissioner Brown. "We’re taking (out of agriculture) Kilham property, Barnes Ranch, Agency Ranch, how much is enough? Sprague River Restoration! How much does that add up to?"

Klamath Water Users Executive Director Greg Addington said, "we’re all interested in fish recovery, not lifting ESA safety nets. The Act is not recovering species."

"From Water Users perspective, Williamson River Delta may be a possible project for sucker recovery, but given the inflexibility of the current ESA and the rigid requirement for lake levels, it could negatively affect irrigator’s water supply. That makes if very difficult for us to support".

Wetlands are believed to evaporate twice as much water as is used in irrigation.

Addington said that dam removal and fish passage would open Chinook habitat, "but that’s a frightening thought" for irrigators. There would not be a safety net for water users under this ESA. There is no incentive for landowners".


Dan Keppen, Executive Director of Family Farm Alliance, suggested that the ESA amendment should allow equal representation from all stakeholders, not 5-1 like in the past. He said all biologists should work together.
More guests commented

He said "implementation of the ESA caused the devastation in 2001. "There are more urban demands and no new infrastructure in 30 years. So by default, ag is expected to serve other demands. The ESA is a tool to reallocate water away from agriculture. And we need a process where science can be agreed upon. Keppen said that if the science had been peer-reviewed, 2001 would not have happened.

He said feds could help by developing storage like Long Lake. This would provide tribal and environmental water.



Jill Geist, Chairman of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, said the Humboldt County fishing industry has been decimated. She disagrees with Pombo's ESA reform bill; she believes the ESA is an effective management tool, and she doesn't want property owners to be compensated for ESA impacts.
Jill Geist, Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, said she believes the ESA did work. She said it is "the only tool available and it "has been our safety net. It has been a management tool." And she doesn’t want it to be amended to compensate private property owners impacted by the ESA.

Off-Project irrigator Edward Bartell said the ESA needs to use ‘best available science." The Act needs to be changed to reward people for doing the right thing on their land, not punish them. And people should be compensated for ESA conservation and restoration projects.

Project and off-Project irrigators have done hundreds of riparian and conservation projects, however they are not exempt from severe land and water-use restrictions regardless of how much restoration they have done on their property.

Keppen added that in the Sacramento Valley, they were successful in doing a lot for fish that was not related to water flows. He suggested Klamath stakeholders fund successes and build trust.

One Senate staff person said more money has been spent on salmon related issues than any other species anywhere else. He said 1.5 billion dollars per year is spent on the West Coast on salmon.

Chadwick consensus group and CIP discussed

Geist asked, "Where is the CIP (Bureau of Reclamation Conservation Implementation Program mandated in the biological opinion for the Klamath Basin) ? "I’m not seeing that outreach. Where is it?" She said there was a meeting a year ago where people gave input, but where is it?

Keppen said that the Chadwick process seemed to sidetrack the CIP, he felt that Chadwick was going nowhere.

Farmer and rancher Bill Kennedy said the CIP worked in Colorado. And there was a lot of encouragement in the Basin for CIP to proceed.

A tribal representative questioned the Bureau’s ability to run or coordinate the CIP program because they introduced it years ago and it is still in draft form.

  • Conclusion –

As Addington put it, we all want the same thing; we want to see the species recovered.

The difference of opinion is how to go about reaching that goal. The irrigators feel that ESA does not recover fish and decimates communities and uses flawed, non peer-reviewed science. And if society is demanding these actions, they must be willing to compensate those who are affected.

KWUA and Family Farm Alliance board member Bill Kennedy said the way the ESA is set up, finances are not taking care of work on the ground; money needs to be on the ground and not in the courthouse and administration. The ESA needs to be amended

The tribes, Humboldt County Supervisor and the fisherman present, seem to feel that the only solution to recovery is more water from the Project Irrigators. They feel the ESA is a tool to help them.

The Oregon Trollers feel that it is not the fault of Klamath Project irrigation, but of ESA agenda-driven flawed science with no peer review, that caused regulations decimating the fishing industry in recent years while sporting several record salmon runs. But the trollers were not in attendance.

Lunch, cookies and beverages were provided by Klamath Water Users.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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