Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


Cameras spotlight water issue

(H&N photo by John Stoops) Greg Addington of Klamath Water Users, left, debates Leaf Hillman of the Kurok Indian Tribe about Native Americans’ needs to access salmon runs versus farmers’ needs to irrigate agricultural crops. Moderator Judith Jensen is in the middle.

April 28, 2006 by STEVE KADEL H&N 

Removing four Klamath River dams would do the most to restore salmon populations to their traditional numbers, a California tribal official said Thursday.

Leaf Hillman, vice chairman of the Karuk Tribal Council, added that fish hatcheries also have hurt salmon.

“They provide lots of competition with wild fish,” he said.

Hillman spoke during a discussion televised live from the Oregon Institute of Technology library's KCTV studio via public access channel 7. Sponsored by the nonprofit Educational Solutions of Klamath Falls and the OIT library, it was the first session in a public affairs series on water issues in the Klamath Basin.

Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, appeared with Hillman. The two agreed on many issues related to boosting salmon numbers on the Klamath River - a departure from more adversarial stances taken by irrigators and Native Americans in the past.

Addington said the Klamath Water Users Association could support dam removal if irrigators were promised three things in return.

He said farmers need a dependable supply of water each year, they need affordable electrical power to run irrigation pumps, and they need to be protected from harmful sanctions if another endangered species - salmon - was reintroduced to the Upper Klamath Basin.

The discussion was televised live and also will be released in DVD format. The public affairs series forms the basis of Educational Solutions' high school project to explore how the Klamath watershed can be shared.

Ten audience members sat in the studio Thursday evening as moderator Judith Jensen prepared Addington and Hillman for the event. “We're four minutes out from showtime,” called out Bill Stine, interim director for OIT's Klamath Community Television.

Water wars

Once cameras began rolling, Addington and Hillman showed how far different water-user groups have come in their quest for collaboration.

“There has been a lot of fighting,” Addington said. “People call it the Water Wars. It may give us winners and losers, but it's not going to give us solutions.

“We want to work with other stakeholders in the Basin. That's where the solutions are.”

Hillman, former director of the Karuks' Department of Natural Resources, said the fall Chinook harvests “are certainly not sustainable” for the tribe's 3,400 members. They harvested fewer than 200 salmon last year, he said.

Hillman added that tribe members' longevity has declined in past decades.

“It can be attributed directly to the lack of healthy food,” he said. “It does not bode well for the survival of our people.

“Indian people in this basin haven't been salmon people for 100 years. There are no fish. The Klamath stocks are in dire condition.”

While saying the Klamath Reclamation Project plays a part in declining salmon numbers, Hillman said agriculture must continue its key role in the Basin's economy.

“We want farmers to be farmers,” he said. “We believe agriculture and a fishery can exist together.”

The Karuk have supported Reclamation Project members in seeking continued low power rates for irrigators, Hillman said. They filed motions urging the traditional rates be maintained as part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's relicensing of PacifiCorp, which provides electricity for the Reclamation Project.

“We took some heat in our community for that, but we have a lot in common with irrigators,” he said. “We are looking to survive and create stable communities. We understand this (low power rate) is something your community needs.”

Addington described the Reclamation Project's efficient water use, which returns a high percentage of water to the Klamath River. There's no evaporation as in pre-Project years, he said, because the water is constantly moving.

Putting more Project land out of cultivation wouldn't help the river, Addington said, because idling thousands of acres wouldn't return more water to the Klamath. That shows how efficiently the system operates, he said.

‘No silver bullet'

Addington believes the Project makes an easy target for those seeking to boost salmon numbers because it's operated by just one agency - the federal Bureau of Reclamation. It will take a watershed-wide approach to solve the Klamath River's problems, Addington said.

“There is no silver bullet. Solutions will come from people who live here, from one end of the system to the other, not from people outside.”

Addington expressed optimism that solutions to the salmon question will be found because competing interests are developing trust in one another.

“Trust is face-to-face time, talking about issues together,” he said.





Page Updated: Friday May 20, 2016 01:28 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2005, All Rights Reserved