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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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February 5, 2012

Jacqui Krizo, a KBC News editor

Public Comment on Revised Critical Habitat Proposed for Lost River and Shortnose Suckers.

I am commenting on your Revised Critical Habitat Proposed for Lost River and Shortnose Suckers. You have designated 241,438 acres, 274 miles, essential to recover the suckers, of which there are tens of thousands.

I oppose the Proposed Habitat for the following reasons:

Water levels and water quality

I attended your public meeting in Klamath Falls on January 19th. Expecting an informational meeting, I was disappointed that there was no presentation, and really no answers. Your federal employees were spread out so we could not hear everyone’s questions and answers.

Some questions I did hear were about the effects of this designation. When asked by a Klamath water user if your massive designation would affect lake levels and water deliveries, the response was, “not now,” with assurance that there is nothing to worry about, it’s just a little designation that should not affect us.

This is contrary to everything I read in your proposed habitat document. It clearly states that you think there was sucker stress with low water in Clear Lake and you will be focusing on possible lake level management, and stream flows, in every area designated, and imposing water quality mandates which would affect logging, grazing, agriculture, and anything possibly getting some sediment or cow poop in the water. You find the need to put more ag land into wetlands and expand your lakes and reservoirs.


National Research Council Chairman said on wetlands, lake level management and water quality: http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org/science/sciencewkshop020304.htm

Dr William Lewis Jr., University of Colorado, spoke regarding the NRC conclusions on suckers in February 2004 at a workshop in Klamath Falls of scientists.

Lewis explained that the suckers were listed since 1988 because of over harvest. He said they stopped fishing in '87 but suckers did not recover. The lake has gone from 3' range under natural conditions to experiencing 6' deep in current dry years. With charts and graphs he showed the habitat and water quality, algae and chlorophyll. He said that the committee looked extensively at water levels, and they find 'no hint of a relationship'. He also said that there was no relationship between lower water levels and extreme ph levels. And "the committee cannot support the idea that water levels effect algae growth.' "It cannot be achieved by lake levels." '92 was the lowest water year, and they expected it to be the least favorable for fish. “The lowest water year produced the same amount of larvae as other years."

He said that fish kill information does not support that fish are dying by changing water level.

He explained that Clear Lake does not have the habitat that scientists are trying to create in the Upper Basin for suckers, yet Clear Lake has stable populations of healthy suckers..."These have all the characteristics we want in recovered population…”  

Lewis was asked about making more wetlands for suckers, and he responded that there are 17,000 acres of restoration already. He cautioned that we shouldn't put too much faith into wetlands regarding the suppression of algae.

He added that we should not count on retiring agricultural land for saving suckers. He said that the water is always ph loaded, "the increase doesn't matter if it's always been saturated."  He said that Klamath Lake is 140 square miles...that is not feasible to change. Tribal biologist Larry Dunsmuir felt like lake level management was necessary for emergent vegetation, and Lewis responded that Clear Lake has no emergent vegetation yet production of larvae is not shut off in Clear Lake. Dunsmuir told Lewis he was premature and not factoring in sucker life span. Lewis reiterated that, looking at the data, “water level management just does not line up.”

Contrary to Dr. Lewis’s statements on suckers and water quality and water levels, you state logging roads and agriculture and grazing and water use harm suckers. Your maps show you dropped your proposed designations of Iron Gate, Copco, and JC Boyle reservoirs where suckers live. Why do you intend to kill those “endangered” suckers by destroying those reservoirs and the hydroelectric dams, which will dump MILLIONS of Tons of sediment into the reservoirs and down the Klamath River, however you are ok replacing agriculture and resource use in the Klamath Basin with other livelihoods? 


Sucker numbers and delisting


Attorney James Buchal, environmental law expert:  Sept. 5, 2003: “The centerpiece of the petitions for delisting was testimony before Congress by David Vogel, a 14-year U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service veteran. Vogel had prepared the following chart, showing the available evidence concerning the abundance of suckers:











Lost River











Extremely low (<200)

Very rare





only 20 seen



Vogel testified that the 1988 listings were based on a “selective” and “distorted” review of the available data, and that:”

"It is now evident that either: (1) the estimates of the sucker populations in the 1980s were in error and did not, in fact, demonstrate a precipitous decline (i.e., the populations were much larger than assumed), or (2) the estimates of the sucker populations in the 1980s and the suckers have demonstrated an enormous boom since the listing and no longer exhibit 'endangered' status."

At the January meeting, when I asked the young FWS biologist how many suckers there are now, and how many do you need to delist them, he said they did not know, and it was not about sucker population but also what you decide their health and ages should be.

Clear Lake was a meadow

As you read above in Dr. Lewis’s speech, Clear Lake had healthy suckers with none of the ideal habitat you feel is necessary in Klamath Lake to produce suckers.

On Page 76343 you state you talk about “Natural Flow Regimes” and too low of water in Clear Lake for suckers.

At the Klamath Falls public meeting Mike Byrne told how Clear Lake was historically a “MEADOW!” His great grandfather was one of the first settlers there in the late 1800’s. It was in the early 1900’s their property was condemned so our government could use it to create an evaporation reservoir and water storage to reroute some water out of the Klamath Basin to create farms so settlers, veteran homesteaders, and immigrants could grow food for a hungry nation.

Now you have decided you want a certain number of fish at certain ages to live in this former meadow /man-made reservoir so you can deny irrigators use of that water and create road use and grazing regulations, and control ground water use. 

Economic Analysis- dislocation of resource users
An economic analysis was conducted for the December 1, 1994, proposed rule (59 FR 61744) to estimate the economic
 effects of the proposed critical habitat designation. 
The economic analysis indicated critical habitat designation would negatively affect local employment due to a change in
 the output of goods and services, primarily from the resource extraction businesses. 
Although federal employees at your public meeting explained that these designations should not affect us at all, “The
previous economic analysis (see our 1994 proposed rule at 59 FR 61750-61753, December 1, 1994) indicated dislocation 
of workers in the local resource extraction industries would be offset, in the long run, by the creation of additional jobs
 in other sectors locally or in other areas. At that time, the analysis determined the national adjustment to the proposed
 designation would be essentially imperceptible as the U.S. economy redeployed labor and other resources that migh
t become unemployed because of the designation. Further, the analysis stated that as buyers, sellers, workers, firms, 
households, and communities adjusted to the proposed designation, its economic impacts would be spread over a broad
 economic and spatial landscape.”
In those 17 years you have not reevaluated what our economic loss will be, but at that time you estimated we “resource
 extraction industries”, which we call family farmers, could easily be displaced. You need to have a current evaluation of
 economic loss with the current designation before the public comments, and an extensive detail of how many millions of
 tax dollars this experiment will cost.
100,000 acres ag land acquired already and Chiloquin dam destroyed for suckers
According to fish biologist Dave Vogel, "Fish passage at Chiloquin Dam was the primary reason the suckers were listed as 
endangered in 1988 and, in our opinion, is the primary factor limiting recovery of the species." Chiloquin Dam blocked 95% of 
endangered sucker habitat. Rather than remove it years ago and generate more suckers, the government and The Nature Conservancy 
acquired 100,000 acres of ag land to make swamps in the guise of "sucker habitat". In 2008 the dam came out. Where are those suckers? 
In conclusion
You left out the unbiased, peer-reviewed science of the National Research Council that said lake level management, 
removing agriculture and grazing, and increasing wetlands will not help suckers in Klamath Lake. You do not acknowledge
 Clear Lake has healthy populations and historically was a meadow. You state that ONRC, now called Oregon Wild, sued
 you to enforce your habitat designation, and Oregon Wild is noted for dozens of lawsuits using the Endangered Species
 Act to shut down logging, mining, grazing and agriculture. This document is a perfect example of government corruption at
 it’s best to “displace” “resource extraction industries.”


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