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Letter to President Biden from Siskiyou, Modoc and Klamath County in Response to April 16, 2021 Joint Letter from Tribes and environmental groups regarding Klamath Irrigation and disaster funds

May 7, 2021

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Subject: Siskiyou, Modoc and Klamath County Response to April 16, 2021 Joint Letter       

Dear President Biden:

Siskiyou, Modoc and Klamath counties (counties) are writing this letter in response to the April 16, 2021, joint letter from the Karuk Tribe, Yurok Tribe, Klamath Tribes, et al. (attached as reference). Farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project are experiencing one of the most devastating irrigation seasons since the Projectís authorization in 1905, with less than 10% of needed irrigation supplies allocated by the Bureau of Reclamation through Upper Klamath Lake. These curtailments will have far reaching impacts to family farms and ranches, those employed through agricultural production, and those businesses that rely on active farming and ranching. In addition, the National Wildlife Refuges that lie within the boundaries of the Klamath Project will also suffer, impacting the entire Pacific Flyway.

Far too often in the Klamath Basin, all involved encounter a crisis, such as this water year, engage in triage, and say that we will take steps to prevent such a mess from arising again. Eventually, these crises calm and we revert to focusing on other priorities, leaving a void for long-term solutions. We recognize that concerted effort is needed to take long-term planning from the discussion phase, through planning an into implementation; and that these actions would be best met through a grass roots approach. Towards this end, our three counties have actively participated in efforts to foster collaboration and find consensus on projects aimed at increasing water availability and improving water quality. Each of our counties have contributed funding to facilitate this collaboration understating that the road ahead is not an easy one. 

We have been participants in broadly-based efforts that include the signatories of the April 16, 2021 letter.  Those efforts have produced consensus recommendations that we have been proud to support along with those groups, and funding has been directed to the projects we identified.

We have concerns over items outlined in the attached letter, and how they may derail collaborative efforts.  While anyone has the right to recommend funding, alone or with other parties, it came as a surprise that such far-reaching proposals were not vetted through the processes where we have worked cooperatively with those same parties.  In addition, the letter appears to use the current crisis as an opportunity to go well beyond mitigation of the severe impacts being experienced by communities in the basin.  It is unclear what some of the measures are, or how they will be beneficial.

Of more specific concern, some of those asks for funding appear to be targeting permanent retirement of agricultural land and water. The signatories have not discussed those proposals with any of our three counties.  We cannot support discussions and efforts that center around permanent retirement of family farms and ranches, and doing so would essentially eliminate the need for stakeholders to coordinate in a collaborative manner. Family farming and ranching is an integral part of the Klamath Basin, including the Klamath Project and other essential farming communities throughout the watershed. Not only are these family operations a rich part of the basinís history, but they provide the foundation for our economies. Any funding from your administration should make the prosperity of both our agricultural and fisheries dependent communities a top priority, as opposed to extinguishing one to promote another.

We are also keenly concerned with funding requests to achieve full implementation of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) consistent with the determined timeframe. There are concerns that Siskiyou County continually submits through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process.  In addition, after over a decade of assurances that the KHSA would not rely on federal funding, it appears that marketing point has been abandoned; this does not serve the public interest or inspire trust. Meanwhile, the three counties are wholly concerned with the unaddressed needs of the Klamath Project, including, but not limited to, those in section 1.9 of the Amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and the need to avoid negative cost and regulatory consequences to Upper Basin agriculture that will result from dam removal unless those problems are addressed. 

We believe that there is consensus to be found in certain other asks outlined in the letter, and recognizing that there are many arguments about the causes of depleted fisheries, we support all efforts to pursue financial assistance for these resource dependent communities for injury they may experience. We are open to further discussing funding for addressing the continued decline of sucker species and coho, so long as these efforts focus on those actions to assess and the actual limiting factors for their survival. For over 20 years, solutions have been focused on increasing lake levels and Iron Gate flows, in turn decreasing agricultural deliveries, while yielding no worthwhile benefits for listed species.

We fully understand that in the midst of this water year there is bound to be tension, fracturing and competition amongst stakeholders. We hope this letter serves to acknowledge our desire to continue to promote the need for collaboration and long-term solutions that provide a benefit for all involved, and that we are willing to work in any way we can to promote the success of all affected communities.



Ray A. Haupt, Chair

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors


Brandon Criss, District 1

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors


Ed Valenzuela, District 2

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors


Michael N. Kobseff, District 3

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors


Nancy Ogren, District 4

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors


Ned Coe, Chair

Modoc County Board of Supervisors


Patricia Cullins, District II

Modoc County Board of Supervisors


Elizabeth Cavasso, District IV

Modoc County Board of Supervisors


Geri Byrne, District V

Modoc County Board of Supervisors


Derrick DeGroot, Vice-Chair

Klamath County Commissioners


Donnie Boyd, Commissioner

Klamath County Commissioners

cc: Secretary Deb Haaland, Department of Interior

The Honorable  Doug LaMalfa
The Honorable Cliff Bentz
The Honorable Ron Wyden

The Honorable Jeff Merkley

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

The Honorable Alex Padilla

The Honorable Brian Dahle

The Honorable Megan Dahle

The Honorable E. Werner Reschke

The Honorable Dennis Linthicum


The Karuk Tribe

The Klamath Tribes

The Yurok Tribes

American Rivers

California Waterfowl

California Trout

Fly Fishers International, Northern California Council

Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermanís Association

Sustainable Northwest

Trout Unlimited





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