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Yurok Tribe funded to help Cal Fish & Game get it right!

by environmental activist Felice Pace 7/11/10. Pace is a founder of Klamath Forest Alliance, a group responsible of timber industry closure in the guise of protecting spotted owls. KFA is an umbrella group that helped Karuk spokesman and environmental activist Craig Tucker (an author of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement/KBRA) found Klamath Riverkeepers

KlamBlog has learned that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded Yurok Tribe $25,000 to “provide assistance to the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) for the development of an adequate Environmental Impact Report for the analysis of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) in support of the Secretarial Determination called for in the KHSA.”
The discretionary, non-competitive grant was awarded at the end of June and will allow senior fisheries biologist Mike Belchik and other Yurok staff to review and comment on all draft documents produced by the contractors hired to write the environmental report and conduct related studies. The grant announcement directs the tribe’s staff to “focus their efforts on assuring accuracy of the technical elements of the environmental documents.”

Curiously, the Yurok Tribe’s tasks as defined in the grant announcement put more emphasis on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement - the Water Deal – as compared to the Federal Register Notice of Intent (NOI) and accompanying Press Release issued jointly by Cal Fish & Game and the Department of Interior.

In the NOI  Interior and Cal Fish & Game define the scope of the EIS/EIR to include “the nature and extent to which the potential environmental impacts of implementing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) should be analyzed in this EIS/EIR.”  The Yurok Tribe’s grant announcement on the other hand seems to assume that the question of whether the KBRA is analyzed in the EIS/EIR has been settled!

The Dam and Water Deals are, of course, joined politically. But it is not clear that there is a significant nexus between the two that extends beyond politics. Environmental Impact Reports are supposed to be about environmentally related actions and impacts. That includes economic and social impacts but politics is supposed to be non germane. Furthermore, the KBRA is already being implemented by the federal agencies which are – contrary to what the press reported – the real driving force behind it and among those who gain the most through it.  

There is one place, however, where the KHSA and KBRA – the Dam and Water Deals - do potentially share environmental, economic and social impacts. That place is the former bed of Lower Klamath Lake - including Keno Dam and Reservoir and the Keno Reach of the Klamath River. Under the Dam Deal both Keno facilities are transferred from PacifiCorp to the US Bureau of Reclamation which will maintain them for the benefit of irrigators. That transfer could have significant environmental, economic and social impacts. Most importantly, it is not clear whether the KBRA will delay or even prevent effective clean up of Keno Reservoir which is regularly so choked with agricultural wastewater that fish kills occur. The quality of the water in Keno Reservoir is in turn likely the main stumbling block to restoration of salmon to the Upper Klamath River Basin if and when the dams are removed.  

More on that in a future post.

Now, however, we want to point out that the Yurok Tribe is not alone in receiving recent, non-competitive grants from the US Fish & Wildlife Service:
  • On July 5th the Klamath Tribes received a $25,000 discretionary, non-competitive grant to “assist with drafting of the EIS and EIR ethnographic sections pertaining to the Klamath Tribes” and to “review and comment on drafts of the EIS and EIR and studies used to prepare them, as appropriate.”  Here’s a link to the full announcement.
  • Back in May the Sacramento-based Water Education Foundation  received a $42,000 grant to develop “a comprehensive booklet in order to advance the public’s understanding of the various issues related to the Secretarial Determination (SD) on Klamath River dams. The educational poster map of the Klamath Basin will help give the public’s understanding of the various issues related to the SD on Klamath River dams. The poster map will help the public to foster a greater understanding of the complex water issues associated of the Klamath Basin. The map will be printed and distributed to the public and will be a major piece in the overall effort to ensure meaningful public involvement in the Secretarial Determination process, a top priority of Secretary Salazar.”  This grant was justified as non-competitive because the WEF “(1) understands and has pervious experience in writing about the Klamath Basin water issues and who is aware of the sensitivities and positions of the stakeholder parties in the Klamath Basin; (2) has a reputation and strong track record of developing nonpartisan education materials about complex Western water issues, and (3) is local to members of the Communications Team so frequent, in-person meetings can be arranged as this project carried out; and (4) has experience publishing education material for federal sector clients.”  Here is a link to the full announcement on the grants.gov web site.
By comparing the official federal grant numbers for the three awards summarized above, it appears that there have been 17 other non-competitive grants quietly awarded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for tasks associated with the Secretarial Determination for PacifiCorp’s Klamath Dams. KlamBlog has requested information on those 17 other grants and will pass it along when it is received.  
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