Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

ONRC Alert #180 - April 23, 2004. 

The federal relicensing of the Klamath River Dams afford conservationists with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fisheries restoration on the Klamath River. This antiquated complex of dams lack functional fish ladders and block access to over 350 miles of historic spawning habitat for salmon, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey. Although Scottish Power (parent company of PacifiCorp, see below) invited the participation and input of conservationists, Tribes, and fishermen, as the license application was developed the final product ignored all calls for the return of native fish to the upper basin and into Oregon. In fact, fish passage was totally ignored in the document.

While the utility's recent recommendations have betrayed conservationists and tribes, still Governor Ted Kulongoski may have the last word. (Please see sample letter below) to send or fax 503.378.6827 and see additional background on our Klamath website under "Electric Power and other Subsidies":

Since the construction of the Klamath dams, salmon and steelhead populations have plummeted. The Klamath once produced up to 1.1 million adult fish annually, making it the third most productive salmon river in the Continental U.S. Current runs of Klamath River fall Chinook salmon are less than 8 percent of pre-dam populations. For Coho salmon, the numbers are less than 1 percent. Chum and pink salmon, once abundant in the Klamath, are extinct. Coho salmon are now listed as Threatened Species.

For thousands of years, Native People such as the Klamath, Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok Tribes sustained themselves on the bounty of the river. Their cultural practices were founded on the annual returns of salmon. As white settlers came to the area, a sustainable commercial fishery developed, which grew to contribute over $4.5 billion to the national economy. Today, the Tribes struggle to catch enough fish to feed their elders and lack a dependable base for a modern tribal economy. Along the coasts, fishing ports are suffering from economic decay, and canneries have closed.

In 2002, the environmental costs of Klamath River dams and diversions reached epic proportions when 33,000 fish died in the largest fish kill in US history. This number represents over of the total number of salmon that returned to spawn that year. Poor water quality and high water temperatures were cited as the major causes for this unprecedented event. Dams are a leading cause of water quality degradation and warming.

Klamath River Dams are owned and operated by PacifiCorp. In turn, PacifiCorp is a wholly owned subsidiary of Scottish Power (New York Stock Exchange symbol - SPI). Headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland, Scottish Power is the 28th largest energy company in the world, worth over $14 billion.

This means that if citizens do not act, a corporate board of directors across the Atlantic could determine the fate of the Klamath River.

Currently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is reviewing Scottish Power's license application. The state of Oregon can help demand protection of the Klamath's "beneficial uses" in the license. This includes water quality, recreation, and fish habitat. This means that Governor Ted Kulongoski has the power to require a feasible strategy to bring salmon home to Oregon's upper Klamath Basin. This strategy should include functional ladders and dam removal. Please modify or send the sample letter below, adding the date with your name and full address. Thank you.

Sample Letter

Governor Ted Kulongoski
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047

Dear Governor Kulongoski,

Currently Klamath River dams are undergoing federal relicensing. This may mark the only chance in our life-times to modify these dams in order to provide threatened salmon access to over 350 miles of historic spawning habitat, and bring these salmon home to Oregon.

I'm thus writing to ask that you see to it that the State of Oregon actively demands the protection of the Klamath's "beneficial uses" in any future licensing of the hydropower dams on the upper Klamath River. This is necessary to protect not only fish habitat, but water quality and recreation as well. Oregon should help lead the effort to require a feasible strategy to renew southern Oregon's fishing industry and to bring salmon back to the Klamath Basin. Please urge our state agencies to require that adequate fish passage be fully provided, and alternatives that evaluate dam removal be fully addressed.

IT IS IMPORTANT ECOLOGICALLY. The Klamath is one of the most diverse regions of the west and offers one of the best opportunities for restoration in the state. The Klamath once hosted 1.1 million fish each year but today hosts 100,000.

IT IS IMPORTANT ECONOMICALLY. The bounty of the Klamath once contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the national economy through fishing and canneries. With construction of the Klamath dams, the economic base for north coast communities in both Oregon and northern California was slowly destroyed.

IT IS THE MORAL THING TO DO. Klamath Basin tribes are suffering from the loss of the fish. The Hoopa, Yurok, Karuk, and others lived along the river for thousands of years and developed cultural practices based on the fishery. Loss of the fishery intimately affects the Tribes' culture and robs them of an economic base for modern Tribal economies.

Thank you for helping a find a solution in the Klamath Basin that supports conservation of the resources and unlike the Bush Administration, doesn't favor one economy to the exclusion of many others.


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