KWUA Media Advisory: 6 congressmen call for accelerated progress on
Klamath Storage and External Review of Sucker Fish Status
In the wake of a recent field hearing held in Klamath Falls, the Chairman of the House Resources Committee sends letters to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner and Assistant U.S. Interior Secretary
Congressman Richard Pombo, the Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources, today sent two letters to high-level Bush Administration officials, following up on developments that occurred at a July 17th committee field hearing held in Klamath Falls, Oregon. That hearing highlighted ways to help resolve the complex endangered species issues in the Klamath Basin. Pombo’s letter was also signed by the five congressmen who participated in the Klamath Falls field hearing: California Members Ken Calvert, John Doolittle, Wally Herger, and George Radanovich, in addition to Oregon Member Greg Walden.
"Overall, we believe the hearing was successful in airing the legitimate concerns of the local communities and advancing resolution on the water issues," the letter noted.
In a letter addressed to John Keys III, the Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the congressmen addressed the possibility of developing new storage facilities in the Klamath Basin, an issue that was strongly supported by the farmers, conservationists, tribal members and government officials who testified at the July 17th hearing.
"More agreement exists now than ever before," the congressional letter reads. "We were encouraged that every witness of the diverse panel agreed that new storage can help provide water use flexibility."
The letter to Commissioner Keys urges that the authority provided by the Klamath Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2000 should be used to further study and develop real storage options in the Klamath Basin.
"Four years after the Act’s passage, we believe your agency needs to further seize the storage initiative, given the consensus found on this issue at the congressional field hearing," the letter reads.
In another letter written to U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson, the members requested that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) employ independent and external peer review when the agency conducts its five-year status review of two sucker fish species that are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The status of those fish populations was a major point of discussion at the July 17th field hearing.
"The FWS has an opportunity to bring better and cooperative science into sucker species protection," the representatives wrote Manson. "As such, we request that the FWS promptly assemble biologists affiliated with the affected parties in the Klamath Basin –such as the irrigators and Native American Tribes –to develop a methodology based on peer reviewed science and state-of-the-art statistical sampling to begin such a population estimate and status review."
The July 17 hearing covered the ESA's impact on the Klamath Project, one of the nation's oldest federal irrigation projects. The Klamath Project was the subject of international coverage in 2001 when ESA regulations protecting sucker fish and coho salmon forced the bulk of the project to virtually shut down its water delivery system for almost the entire growing season. Local business leaders estimate that the termination of water deliveries in 2001 inflicted $200 million worth of economic damage on the Klamath Basin community.
"We are pleased to see that western congressional leaders are willing to keep the positive and constructive momentum generated from last month’s field hearing rolling forward," said Dan Keppen, Executive Director of the Klamath Water Users Association. "New storage and truly independent peer review of important resources management decisions are specific improvements that we all can agree upon."
The Klamath Water Users Association is a non-profit corporation based in Klamath Falls, Oregon that represents the Klamath Project rural irrigation districts, local special districts, and private concerns that operate on both sides of the California-Oregon border.
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