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Regulation of Project water not deserved

by Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director and attorney Paul Simmons, letter to Herald and News 7/2/21

Glen Spain is an effective fisheries advocate who has been consistent for years in the message that dam removal will have a broad range of benefits, including to Klamath Project irrigators.

Today, I leave that debate to others. What jumped out from his commentary is that Project water is regulated and re-allocated in order to mitigate impacts the Project does not cause.

Mr. Spain identifies the current hydro dams as “a primary reason” for a “need for augmented river flows." Specifically, the hydro dams “foster the very disease hotspots” that have led to demands for augmented river flows to mitigate the disease.

Augmented river flows — flushing flows — are intended to dislodge microscopic worms, hosts of the C. shasta parasite, from downstream river substrates. It’s an inefficient use of water: consider that 12,000 acre-feet (roughly four billion gallons) per day has been released during the flushing events.

That’s enough water to irrigate nearly ten square miles of family farms for an entire year.

Setting aside the (good) arguments about whether this practice is legal, it is not fair or right to require Project irrigators to mitigate impacts they do not cause, especially when the burden is so destructive to rural communities.

C. shasta is a problem. Respected scientists believe that removal of the hydro dams would restore natural sediment movement that disrupts the worms. Time may tell. But the current practice of releasing stored water from Upper Klamath Lake inflicts harm on irrigators to mitigate a problem they do not cause.

No one uses a fire hose when the driveway needs sweeping. My organization has advocated several pathogen control strategies that do not simply throw water at the problem. Those strategies deserve testing.

Dams or no dams, it’s wrong to regulate Project water “because we can."

Paul Simmons
Klamath Water Users Association
Klamath Falls



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