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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Hope and concern are the local reactions to the federal government's idea of a Klamath solution, the CIP, by KBC 10/23/04.

Irma Largomarsino, supervisor of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service's Arcata Field Office, and NMFS biologist Jim Simondet

Christine Karas, Bureau of Reclamation, deputy manager of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Falls office.

The Governors of Oregon and California have signed on. The Department of the Interior has signed on. Klamath Water Users have signed on. So last night Christine Karas, Bureau of Reclamation, deputy manager of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Falls office, brought us this silver-bullet plan to fix the entire Klamath watershed.

The stated purpose of the CIP is to
"(1) largely restore the Klamath River ecosystem to achieve recovery of the Lost River and Shortnose suckers and substantially contribute to the recovery of Coho salmon,
(2) contribute to the Tribal Trust responsibilities of the Federal government, and
(3) encourage continued, sustainable operation of existing water management facilities and future water resource improvements for human use in the Klamath Basin.
Reclamation will facilitate the program, compile and incorporate the comments into a final draft CIP for public review, with interested parties directing the CIP and its
activities. A draft CIP is available online at www.usbr.gov/mp/kbao/docs/CIP-ProgramDoc.pdf or by calling 541-883-6935."

Also, CIP is basin-wide, multi-participant facilitated by the Bureau, is modeled after programs elsewhere, allows varying levels of participation, will help implement activities undertaken by tribes, fed, state and local agencies and non-government organizations. CIP "proposes to provide resources, identify opportunities, fund research coordinate efforts, fill gaps and facilitate information sharing."

Many agencies and group representatives were there--Bureau of Reclamation, NOAA fisheries, Pacific Power, NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act), Klamath Water Users, Klamath Bucket Brigade, Upper Basin Irrigators, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fish and Wildlife Service, and local farmers and ranchers.

After a brief  presentation to 40 people, questions and answers began:

Dan Keppen, Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director, commented, "We believe a process like this is needed to recover the fish....Conceptually we support this process.  We have heartburn about this draft; it's top heavy to government agencies. That is the perception." He said that this process doesn't meet the needs of local users but BOR needs to offer that 'our major goal is to find solutions that work.'

Keppen disagreed with the wording in CIP's purpose that said "#3 'encourage' continued, sustainable operation of existing water management facilities and future water resource improvements for human use in the Klamath Basin. He said it must say " 'insure' continued water management for human use."

Edward Bartell, upper basin irrigator and water district president, said "I'm particularly concerned about the top heavy approach.  We've got to go to the communities....There are different solutions for different areas, what might be good for Arcada isn't necessarily good for the Williamson."

Irrigator Frank Hammrick asked when will the fish be recovered?  Ya gotta have something concrete--we're just chasing the rainbow.  We need a number--what is a restored sucker fish?

That has been the question asked in our basin for years---how many fish do we have? How many fish are there?  How many fish do you want?  It was asked this summer at the Congressional Hearing in Klamath Falls by many Congressmen addressing Steve Williams, Fish and Wildlife Regional Director and Kirk Rogers, Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director.. It was asked even before the suckers were listed because they thought there were only a few thousand. They put the suckers on the endangered species list. Now they know there are tens on thousands according to fish scientist David Vogel, but they remain listed with no clue how many there were, are or how many they want. And they would not have been listed in the first place if they had known how many fish there were.

Hamrick asked, "What does 'restore ecosystem' mean--take out dams and take out the farms?" Barb Hall of Klamath Bucket Brigade also asked for an explanation. Karas said it meant to restore the ecosystem to live and work in this basin. It is when we have a sustainable population of these fish to de-list them and take them off the list. Still the question that we've been asking for a decade (as over 94,000 acres of agricultural land has been converted to wetlands with no idea what the results of this 'restoration' are) is 'What is a sustainable population?'

Karas said that NOAA fisheries was working on that goal.  Irma Largomarsino, supervisor of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service's Arcata Field Office, said that NMFS has not completed a recovery plan, "We are working to get better numbers."

Meanwhile, the NMFS and Reclamation have created a mandatory water bank, with 100,000 acre feet of irrigation water to be diverted down the Klamath River and into the ocean in 2005, contrary to peer-reviewed science of the National Academy of Science (NAS) saying that there is no scientific basis for river flow/lake level management.

Dave Solem, President of Klamath Irrigation District, asked "If recovery plan is going to be the basis for the CIP, don't we need a plan first?" Karas explained that a recovery plan will be important but it's a process. Solem asked if CIP would define recovery goals.

Glen Howard, small farmer, asked:  when we 'restore' fish populations, what consideration will there be to historical things in the basin, like before the Project, before the dams? We can't recover what wasn't there in the first place. What consideration will there be to property rights to live and work, or is this just about 'restoring an ecosystem'?


John Nichols, Klamath Water Users board member, asked, if you do receive recovery, is there any mechanism in the process to keep other species from being listed? Other than the mention that 'restoring the ecosystem' would help all species, the answer was basically "No".

Keppen, responding to Irma from NMFS said, I think the first thing we've got to know is how many fish are there and how many do we need?  We need targets and actions listed.

Dr Doug Whitsett asked how will they categorize what has already been completed, and how will you define how these projects have affected the suckers? How will you know that the restoration is successful if you have no numbers of fish and no analysis of the success of what has already been done? We ultimately need numbers.

Questions were asked regarding 'tribal trust' responsibilities. Will this put 'tribal trust' responsibilities on irrigators' private lands like the Bureau's water bank does? Keppen explained that currently, in addition to the mandatory water that is being taken away from irrigators in the form of pumping our ground water and idling farmland, we private irrigators are being forced to provide 'tribal trust' water for tribes down the Klamath  River. This is not quantified but we have to curtail irrigation because of downstream requests.

Karas said that the tribes need this tribal trust water as one of their goals.

Solem said that we irrigators believe that the Bureau has a trust to us.

The order of importance was brought up: number one is fish, two is tribes, and three is other humans.

Solem stated that we built storage for this water for human use and now we are competing with recreation, fisheries and tribes for use of our stored irrigation water.

KBC was able to talk with the NMFS biologist Simondet and manager Largomarsino from Arcata. I asked why they were here, and the response was that they would like to see us conserve more water to send downstream.  Simondet asked if I thought the Project could be more efficient and I said yes, he asked how, and I said that, before the water bank, our land was irrigated. With aquifer depleting and depriving land of water, the neighboring land has to use more water to saturate their land. With full irrigation of our farmland, the water level being so high, the water returns to the refuge.  The more water taken from farms, the less for the refuge. Our water is reused more than 20 times.

The subject of wetlands came up. I explained that 2 feet of water on wetlands uses twice the amount of water as irrigation mainly due to evaporation. Wetlands does not save water and it does not necessarily improve water quality. They felt that our dialog was good so they could learn more about our area and situation. 

I asked why we must send water down the Klamath  River to make it higher for the fish than before the Klamath Project was built.  He said that is not a fact and that the Bureau's natural flow study was not final. I asked what he thought of Dr Ken Rykbost's studies on the Klamath River hydrology and he said 'not much'. He somehow felt that Rykbost's empirical data was 'propaganda.'  It was an interesting chat.

Before the night was over I told Simondet that we farmers had a solution to the Klamath Basin water management and he said that they liked solutions.  I said that where we farm used to be under 30 feet of water in Tulelake in a closed basin. So we can keep the water we that historically was on our land, and they could keep the historic flows in the river. Link River sometimes went dry before we built and paid for the Klamath Project.

He said he would send to KBC a letter telling about National Marine Fisheries Service and how they effect Klamath Basin irrigation. The woman from NEPA promised to do the same, so we will share that with our readers.

On another note, last night KBC was able to visit with Dale Foresee of Pacific Power regarding our power rates.  He said that our power rates were going to go up 10 to 13 times. I asked why, since the Power companies were using water that was not in the river pre-Project .  He said  it is up to the Public Utility Commission and it was not negotiable. He said the Bureau was going to take control of two dams, Link River and Keno, and Pacific Power would no longer control those.

So there you go. Please read the CIP draft report and send your concerns.  Karas assured us that we the people will be able to form the group, be on committees, and change what we do not like.  I asked her to send us a report on how this worked in other areas and she said she would.







Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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