Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

Sep. 19, 2003



Two Tours Planned to Bring Together Klamath Tribes and Basin Water Users

Two tours have been planned to bring together tribal interests, upstream irrigators and Klamath Project water users in the coming weeks. The Klamath Water Users Association will organize and host a tour of the Klamath Project on September 25th, similar to one the association hosted for coastal fishermen earlier this summer. The tribes will host their own tour of the forests lands above Upper Klamath Lake on October 17th. The tours are associated with recent informal meetings between local farmer, ranchers and water managers and leaders of the Klamath Tribes.

“Individual irrigators and association representatives have been meeting with the tribal leaders to assess if we can find common ground while we learn more about the problems that have divided us,” said KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen.

“We have been talking about the possibility that all of us may be better off trying to encourage a settlement that would do more for all of us than what we can expect from continued legal conflict,” said Jeff Mitchell of the Klamath Tribes.

The tours are intended to foster this philosophy. Thursday’s Project tour is intended to outline the proactive efforts undertaken by local irrigators to help meet Endangered Species Act regulations intended to protect endangered sucker fish and threatened coho salmon. The tour is also intended to provide a “reality check” regarding the limitations of Upper Basin water supplies and the rigid regulatory scheme that results in great uncertainty for local irrigators. The tribal tour will provide a glimpse of upper basin conditions and actions the tribes believe will help the ecosystem and the economy.

The meetings between tribal interests and irrigators have been informal, and have focused primarily on trying to identify common areas of concern.

“We are not negotiating agreements or settlements, and none of the irrigators have held themselves out as representing the agricultural community,” said Keppen. “This is simply another opportunity to investigate. We will keep talking with the tribes and upstream interests as we try to learn more about each other’s needs. However, we will also continue our work with state and federal agencies and elected officials at all levels to advocate for Klamath Project water supply certainty.”

If any sort of conceptual settlement can be agreed upon, it would require congressional action to be implemented, which will require a great degree of local and regional support. Meanwhile, all parties await news on the efforts undertaken by President Bush’s federal Klamath Working Group, which is taking a hard look at how the federal agencies operate in the Basin.

Thursday’s tour of the Klamath Project will start at the recently constructed $14 million A Canal fish screen and move through the Project as the water flows. Tour participants will observe the effects of idled land, pumped groundwater, and the relationship between farming and refuge waterfowl.

KWUA Participates in UC Berkeley Conference on CVPIA

A decade ago, landmark legislation with sweeping implications for federal water users in California was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George Bush. Ten years later, many of the water policy experts who participated in the creation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) gathered together in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district to examine the success of the law and its implications for future water policy in the West. They were joined by students, attorneys, scientists and representatives from agriculture, the fishing industry, cities and environmental groups last Friday in a day long conference sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources and Boalt School of Law. Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director Dan Keppen participated in the closing panel, which focused on the potential success for other CVPIA-type legislation in California and the West. The Klamath River watershed was a hot topic of conversation.

Art Baggett, Chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, also sat on the closing panel and stressed the importance of coordination and local leadership in solving the water problems faced by Californians. Water quality, said Baggett, will play an increasingly important role in watershed management.

Keppen focused on the similarities inherent in the political environment at the time CVPIA was being negotiated and what is currently happening in the Klamath River debate. Many in the California agricultural community felt that the CVPIA debate was based on myths and faulty assumptions about agriculture’s use or misuse of water, where growers were considered the “bad guys” by the environmental community, and the Central Valley Project (CVP) was blamed as the source of California’s water problems. A similar philosophy is finding its way into the Klamath debate, said Keppen, and opponents of irrigated agriculture have tried to portray the Klamath Project as the source of the ills of the Klamath River watershed, even though the Project only represents 2 percent of the land area and uses only 3.4% of the water.

“If we are going to fix the Klamath River, that fix better be based on a watershed-wide basis,” Keppen told the audience. “Reclamation reform alone will not solve our challenges. We need to see watershed reform, based on sound science, an open decision-making process, certainty for all users of water, and actions that actually recover imperiled species.”

Many in the environmental community and their supporters view the CVPIA as a landmark “reclamation reform” law that fundamentally shifted the operation of the Central Valley Project away from cities, farms and power users and towards the environment. Beyond listing environmental restoration as an objective of water project operation, the CVPIA also specifically reallocated water supplies to the environment, mandated a doubling of wild salmon populations in the state, and changed the way long-term federal water contracts are designed and implemented in California.

"It is hard to think of any other system of government that is more conservative, more resistant to change, than water policy, even when there is an obvious need for change," said former Sen. Bill Bradley, co-sponsor of the CVPIA, at the conference.

Diverse Interests Show Support for KWUA Lower River Recommendations

An August 27th letter sent by the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) to Governor Kulongoski, U.S. Interior Secretary Norton and California Resources Secretary Nichols regarding Klamath River fish migration issues has been endorsed by a diverse group of interests in the past two weeks. Last week, three congressman formally supported the letter, which was personally delivered by Congressman Greg Walden to Secretary Norton, and formal endorsement letters have also been sent by other organizations, including the Klamath County Commission, the City of Klamath Falls, the Oregon Wheat Growers League, and Curry County, a fishing-based community located on the southern Oregon coast.

KWUA’s letter was intended to constructively address the types of problems that arose last fall on the lower Klamath River, where 33,000 fish died.

Recent findings argued by KWUA in federal court show that water temperatures in the upper Klamath River downstream of Iron Gate Dam during September 2002 were unsuitable for salmon. Large numbers of salmon entered the lower Klamath River earlier than usual and were exposed to two uncharacteristic cooling and warming conditions likely causing disease outbreak from warm water and crowded conditions. According to these findings, the combination of these factors was chronically and cumulatively stressful to fish and is probably the most plausible reason for the fish die-off.

Alliance Begins Water Supply Enhancement Study

The Board of Directors of the Family Farm Alliance (Alliance) has launched an aggressive and forward looking project aimed at pulling together a master data base of potential water supply enhancement projects from throughout the West. The "Western Water Supply Enhancement Study" is the Alliance's response to Interior Secretary Gale Norton's “Water 2025” initiative. The Alliance is developing a database of potential water supply enhancement projects from throughout the West and will be presenting them in a formal report to the Secretary of Interior.

The Alliance has hired a Fresno based engineering firm, Provost and Pritchard, to develop and manage the survey. The final product will be a comprehensive report, which will be hand delivered to Secretary Norton, on potential water supply development projects and needed changes in regulations, laws and administrative policies that will make them possible.

To access the survey and read a letter of explanation from Alliance President and Poe Valley rancher Bill Kennedy, click on the link below.


Thursday, September 25, 2003 – Klamath Project Tour with Klamath Tribes and Upstream Irrigators. 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Friday, October 17th, 2003 – Klamath Tribe Tour for Irrigators.

Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893 kwua@cdsnet.net

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