Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Memorandum to Ed Sheets, Facilitator
DATE: March 16, 2016
You mentioned in your introductory comments at the C.I.T.T. meeting of March 15th, that you are a “neutral facilitator.” While your professional career and outcomes on behalf of the federal government and Indian tribes is plentiful throughout the Northwest, I am hard-pressed to discover any counterbalance in your work that served and protected farmers, landowners, small businesses, tourism, recreation, commercial fishing and timber industries, or other private sector components impacted by the results of your decades of “highly successful” federal work.
I understand that your present consulting contract places you in a leadership role for two significant projects: the CSKT Water Compact on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, and as lead facilitator for a 50-member stakeholder group discussing the removal of four dams in the Klamath Basin area (Oregon and Northern California).
It is this background and your remarkable success as far back as your work with Senator Warren Magnuson that causes me to seriously question your interest or ability to truly be “neutral.” I mention this, Mr. Sheets, because the stark and current reality in place on the Flathead Indian Reservation, whether or not the CSKT Water Compact secures Congressional ratification, is this:
100% Federal/Tribal control of former Kerr Dam, inclusive of wholesale/retail rate setting for Power without caps and without review or scrutiny by Montana Public Service Commission (PSC).
100% Control of all access to water, the taking of water rights attached to land patents, control of diminished allocations of water to irrigators within the Flathead Reservation and 100% Operation and Control of the Flathead Irrigation Project, overseen by the Flathead Joint Board of Control.
100% Federal/Tribal control of all electric power for all residents, inclusive of wholesale/retail rate setting without caps and without reviewed by the Montana PSC.
Three Governments: Federal, State, and Tribal, are not just indifferent, but outright adversarial to irrigators and landowners. Approximately 35,000 residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation have no government to turn to when power and water is diminished or outright denied in quantity, and dramatically increased in cost. The State has completely abandoned its duty to protect its counties and municipalities, state waters, citizens and property within the Flathead Indian Reservation. The Tribe has no legal duty to non-tribal members. The Federal government has fomented and facilitated a condition whereby the two primary elements for life on land—water and electricity—are in 100% control of federal and tribal governments unavailable and adversarial to 35,000 residents on this reservation. [Actually, the CSKT Water Compact impacts 11 Western Montana Counties and 350,000 residents, but this memorandum is specific to the C.I.T.T. tasks].
The existing conditions noted above are entirely monopolistic; violate Federal and State Constitutions and a laundry list of federal and state administrative statutes. It is unfortunate that the only remaining source of relief for abandoned Montana citizens, tribal and non-tribal, is an expensive judicial route.
As costly as litigation will be in this atrocious circumstance imposed upon Montana citizens by all of the above governments, the economic peril to three counties, five cities, hundreds of businesses, schools, and the entire crop and cattle industry is even the more costly.
Specific concerns include:
• The C.I.T.T. pre-implementation team is heavily biased and seated with tribal advisors, lead by a questionably “neutral” facilitator;
• Data upon which C.I.T.T. implementation tasks are determined will be primarily provided by a tribal government with no transparency or duty to farmers and irrigators;
• Four million dollars allocated within the CSKT Compact to “On-Farm-Efficiency” will likely be absorbed in studies and staff expenses, with no availability of grants or funds to farmers who actually desire to make on-farm water efficiencies;
• On-farm (read “private property”) efficiencies will likely be mandatory, enforceable and likely will include penalties;
• There are zero, absolutely no incentives or assistance to irrigators coping with the pending devastation of the CSKT Water Compact. This lack of consideration is not among the concerns of the C.I.T.T. process.
The Proposed CSKT Water Compact being “pre-implemented” by the C.I.T.T., even before judicial court challenges or Congressional ratification, kick-starts an immediate and perpetual downward economic spiral for all stakeholders: counties, municipalities, landowners, irrigators, ancillary agricultural businesses, and household incomes.
Perhaps it truly doesn’t matter at this point, whether you are a “neutral” facilitator or not. The current conditions on the ground on this Flathead Indian Reservation augmented by a ratified CSKT Compact are the guaranteed economic Death Certificate for those who live within three counties and the Flathead Indian Reservation. The CSKT would shoot its own reservation economy in the foot, and you hold the rifle.
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