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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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By Klamath Basin irrigator Bill Kennedy, who is a Klamath Water User Association director. He is responding to 'Local consensus: All four Klamath dams should go', by Terry Dillman Of the Newport News-Times December 6, 2006

Followed by 'Local consensus: All four Klamath dams should go'

Dear Terry

I thought your coverage of the FERC hearing and the issue was quite good.

I have been involved with this issue for many years as I irrigate wildlife habitat with water from the Klamath river. I also enjoy fishing and eating fish from the wild.

Dam removal has become a mantra for many. The discussion regarding healthy fisheries has been limited and focused to dam removal. Those who have limited our perceived choices see dam removal as a fix all to a complex wildlife and social issue.

If you assume that our goal is to have a robust, healthy fishery and conclude that this will happen when dams are removed from the Klamath river, it seems obvious to look at some rivers that do not have dams on them. Both the Cal Salmon river, a tributary to the Klamath, and the Smith River just north of the Klamath are free from dams. I believe that the salmon and steelhead fisheries on these rivers is also less than healthy.

There are indeed many factors that attribute to a decline in our fish populations. From marginal spawning health to ocean and harvest issues, the health of our fisheries depends upon more than just dam removal.

Several people at the FERC hearing claim that the dams are poor producers of electricity and do not have any other function. This is a somewhat limited view. While the dams are about the same age as I am, they do provide for many who are dependent upon electric power.

I depend upon electric power for irrigation drainage and for application. The hydroelectric development on the Klamath river is attractive because of the large amounts of water pumped out of the Klamath basin. This water that would naturally be in upper Klamath Lake and Tule Lake is now pumped into the Klamath river. If it was not for the coordinated development of our irrigated lands, there would be naturally low summer flows down the Klamath river.

Hydroelectric production has some very attractive attributes. It is very controlled. When the power is needed in the hot summer months, it is available at the flip of a switch. It does not take many hours or days to start up like coal or natural gas fired generation. Another benefit of hydroelectric production is that it does not create "greenhouse" gases that contribute to climate change. The natural gas fired plant operated by the city of Klamath Falls creates between 800,000 and one million metric tons of C02 per year.

Back to the discussion on FERC and dams. Is it possible to have MODERN hydroelectric production AND a healthy abundant fish population? Part of the under the table assumption about dam removal is that there will be less or eventually no irrigated agriculture that depends upon affordable power and water. With little or no irrigation there will be LESS not more water going down the Klamath river.

In the upper Klamath marsh, land at the base of Mt. Scott and to the east, close to 40,000 acres has been taken out of irrigated pasture. With this change, there is less water coming off the marsh and into upper Klamath Lake. Three years ago there was a large land base here in Poe Valley enrolled in a water bank. There was so much flood irrigated land enrolled that there was a substantial reduction in return flows to the Lost River and the Klamath river. This was a disaster for wildlife in the Lost River.

Today, after spending over 100 million dollars to improve on farm water use efficiency, we are experiencing a loss of valuable wildlife habitat. I think this aspect of our direction with dam removal disturbs me the most. My family created a private wildlife refuge on our 4800 acres in Poe Valley back in 1975. We provide food, habitat and privacy for over 400 vertebrate species of wildlife. This includes three endangered species. Our "single species" management through federal biological "opinions" is at the detriment to wildlife.

When we consider dam removal I think we need to be realistic and make decisions with a holistic approach. It may make a tremendous statement to our nation if we dismantle dams on the Klamath, the Snake, the Columbia and even the Colorado and Mississippi rivers. We may also realize that we have not "fixed" the fisheries on the west coast and we have disregarded our wildlife values, our needs for clean, reliable electricity and our nation's security.

I believe that one aspect of the timing of this FERC licensing process that is a coincidence is that we are moving towards a more diverse production of power. Because of the world demand for petroleum and reliable power, we are moving to renewable power. One producer here in Klamath Falls will go on line next year with a geothermal development to produce over 1,000,000 gallons of biodiesel. This, along with future ethanol production and hydrogen production is dependent upon a reliable source of WATER.

We want healthy fisheries. We need reliable power and we need reliable irrigated crops.

I am not willing to accept the limited choices we are being offered. I feel that we have more options. I know our worlds will look a lot different than today. That is the good news. Someone said " Change is mandatory, Progress is optional". We are making progress. With improved community relationships that have led to understanding, we are progressing towards solutions for our small part of the world.

Please feel free to give me a call sometime Terry. Thank you for your balanced coverage of this complex issue that is often simplified and polarized.


W. D. Kennedy lostriverranch@earthlink.net



Local consensus: All four Klamath dams should go

By Terry Dillman Of the News-Times December 6, 2006

For possibly the first time in anybody's recollection, recreational and commercial fishermen wholeheartedly agree on a fisheries issue.

I've been around this fleet all of my life, and I've never seen such agreement, said Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson. He considered having recreational and commercial fishermen on the same page at the same time a clear referendum against PacifiCorp's re-licensing request for four dams the Portland-based utility owns on the Klamath River.

Thompson joined about 60 folks with a vested interest in salmon fishing for a Nov. 30 public hearing at Newport's Shilo Inn.

Representatives for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) were in town to reel in public comments about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. At issue is the pending re-licensing for Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, Copco 1, and Copco 2 on a section of the Klamath River that straddles the Oregon-California border.

Thompson and about 20 others called for dismantling all four dams - an alternative not featured among the options described in the DEIS, which include removing the two tallest dams, building fish ladders, trucking fish around the dams, or maintaining the status quo. While a few attendees expressed doubt about their input making any difference in the decision-making process, they almost didn't get a chance to provide direct face-to-face testimony.

FERC's original list of public hearing sites excluded the Oregon coast's top fishing communities.

United States senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) joined U.S. representatives Darlene Hooley (D-5th District) and Pete DeFazio (D-4th District) in requesting an extra hearing on the Oregon coast, preferably in Newport, the state's largest salmon trolling port. In an Oct. 26 letter to FERC Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher, Wyden and Smith said management of the Klamath River for weak stock and Endangered Species Act-listed fish species has negatively affected the livelihoods of fishermen, farmers, and tribes.

The DEIS evaluates environmental consequences of issuing a new license for continued operation and maintenance of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project located mainly on the Klamath River in Klamath County, Ore., and Siskiyou County, Calif. The existing project covers 219 acres of land administered by the U.S. Bureaus of Land Management and Reclamation.

During prior public hearings, opponents said the outdated dams (built in the late 1950s and early '60s) provide little power, no flood control, miniscule water storage, and serve no irrigation purpose, while simultaneously blocking hundreds of miles of former salmon habitat, creating river conditions hostile to salmon downstream, and negatively impacting ocean fisheries and downstream fishing communities. They urged FERC officials to consider other options - chief among them, dam removal or full fish passage - to achieve the greatest benefit for salmon and fishing communities, and said FERC has ignored mandates from NOAA Fisheries and other agencies.

Comments from NOAA Fisheries on FERC's initial look at the dams indicate the energy commission violated federal law requiring them to analyze a full range of alternatives, which includes removing all four dams.

PacifiCorp recently revised its proposal to truck adult and juvenile fish around all four dams. The latest plan would truck adult salmon returning to spawn around the three lower dams and build a fish ladder over J.C. Boyle, the top power generating dam located farthest upstream. Some adults would get a truck ride around J.C. Boyle. This new proposal would also modify all four dams to allow young fish to migrate downstream under their own power.

But for those folks at the Newport public hearing, the real solution remained painfully obvious.

They gave you clear direction in 2002, and it was ignored, said Paul Englemeyer, who among many other affiliations, is the statewide conservation representative on the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council. It's time to get rid of them.

Newport fisherman Michael Becker said problems with the Klamath salmon runs - most, if not all, stemming from the presence of the dams - cost Oregon's coastal counties $15 million in 2005 and $30 million in 2006. Such a financial impact devastates coastal communities struggling to provide family-wage jobs.

One by one, they walked to the microphone to voice the same sentiment. Failure to remove the dams could irreparably harm the coastal salmon fishery, with collateral damage that would far outweigh any economic benefits. While not the only perceived culprit, he Klamath Hydroelectric Project is nonetheless, in their view, a major contributor to fishery woes along the Oregon and California coasts. Another ocean harvester who works for the public noted the fleet's importance to coastal towns, saying the dam's benefits are out of balance with other economies. The future of coastal communities hangs in that balance, as the Pacific Northwest morphs from a salmon cradle to a grave. One insisted that FERC scrap the current DEIS and start the process over.

Jeff Feldman, a Newport fisherman and a fisheries and seafood specialist with Oregon Sea Grant Extension, said any recommendation other than dam removal is procrastination at best.

We're at a defining moment, said Onno Husing, director of the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association, urging FERC to do the right thing.

Season report calls 2006 a disaster,

Husing submitted copies of what he deemed a profound piece of evidence - the 2006 season end briefing report (Oregon Commercial and Recreational Ocean Salmon Fishery) prepared by Corvallis-based The Research Group for OCZMA and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Based on 2006 ocean troll landings and recreational trips made through October, the report describes commercial landings in terms of volume (pounds), value (harvest revenue), prices (adjusted to 2006 dollars divided by round pound fish weight), and effort (days fished or delivery counts).

The state and federal governments have declared the season a fishery resource disaster because of extensive federal fishery management restrictions for this season (area, time, and trip limits), the report noted. Ocean troll salmon harvest volume in 2006 was the second-worst year since 1971, only exceeded by the 1994 season, when the area north of Cape Falcon was closed. It would also be the second-worst harvest value using last year's average prices. However, average troll Chinook prices jumped 68 percent over last year, raising total harvest value to the fourth worst since 1971.

We rarely are all on the same page as we are tonight, Husing concluded.

Now he and others must wait to see whether FERC officials find that page and bookmark it. In making recommendations, FERC must balance the value of the electrical power the dams generate against the cost to fish. FERC has estimated the cost of dam removal at $77 million, while adding fish passage facilities under National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) requirements could exceed $220 million.

The on-going FERC process is focused on producing a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) by April 23, 2007.

Terry Dillman is a reporter for the News-Times. He can be reached at 265-8571 ext. 225, or terrydillman@newportnewstimes.com.


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