Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Attacks Against Rural Counties
by Dr Richard Gierak 8/20/12
Siskiyou County is under attack from just about every direction. Although we may be among the worst, rural Counties across America are also under attack. Here are a few examples.
Spotted Owl listing
The spotted owl was listed in 1990. Of the 17 lumber mills in existence at that time, only 2 remain. We have dropped from the second most prosperous rural county to the third poorest as a result of the cessation of logging. School enrollment dropped from 8,500 students to 3,600 due to loss of jobs and families moving out of the County. As a result of logging cessation we are experiencing an increased density of trees which, paradoxically, threatens the owls ability to hunt. Interesting point is that in 2002 USF&WS stated the Spotted Owl was in trouble because the forests were too dense and the Owl’s couldn’t properly hunt. We are not the only County affected. Counties across northern California and southern Oregon were also affected. Now, the government is floating a plan to further extend the listed area to include 54 counties across N. California, through Oregon, and into Washington state. Great job Fish & Wildlife.
Coho and 300 foot Four State Grange
In 1997 the ESA listed the Coho Salmon and they wanted to change the definition of Essential Fish Habitat to equal the ESA Critical Habitat that could include more than 300 feet from the bank of a river and force property owners to get Federal permits and Environmental Impact Reports to do anything. This would mean spending thousands of dollars to prepare the EIR’s and then pay outrageous fees to the government for permits to cut a tree, put a roof on your home, gravel your roads or anything. With the help of the four State Granges, representing over 1.2 million voters we defeated that change.
There is now a plan to destroy 4 hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in the name of the Coho salmon, despite the fact Coho salmon are abundant in Alaska and have been successfully planted in reservoirs throughout the U.S. and even the Great Lakes. Not only is this absurd, but, NMFS has Coho listed as Threatened and under the Endangered Species Act no action is warranted. Dam removal would also destroy a fish hatchery that produces 6 million salmon per year, badly-needed reservoirs, and release 20+Million cubic yards of silt into the river - enough to cover a 2-lane road, one foot deep in muck, for a distance of 1800 miles. This is a serious violation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act let alone the Endangered Species Act as hundreds of species will be decimated by this toxic sludge. The most devastating effect of removing these dams is that fire helicopters will no longer have access to fight forest wildfires and will endanger thousands of citizens that live in or near the forests. Dam removal will also put a great many at flood risk as the Iron Gate Dam was built specifically for flood control.
The entire Columbia River Basin - an area the size of Maryland that covers nine counties in Oregon and California - it would take control of this vital resource away from democratically elected, accountable, and transparent local governments, and put it into the hands of government agencies and special interests.
2002 Fish kill Hoopa/Yurok Boat Dance
A combination of the Hoopa/Yurok Tribes calling for a water pulse that attracted salmon out of the estuary into the river and then turning off the water left tens of thousands of salmon high and dry on a shallow bar. It didn’t help that the Trinity River had 73% of its water being diverted to Southern California when the maximum was supposed to be 50%. The greenies argued that the algae in the reservoirs were toxic and the reservoirs were posted as toxic. In 2009 a CDC report negated that allegation and the signs were removed. However, in late July, this year, they again posted the lakes. This is their reason for wanting the dams removed which supply cheap, clean hydroelectric power to over 79,000 homes and businesses. Not only do they want to remove the dams they are now charging electric rate payers in Northern California and Southern Oregon a surcharge to pay for removal of these dams which is illegal. In the 2010 election 80% of the County voted to keep the dams in place. What happened to For the People and By the People.
The Fish and Game Department is not helping. In response to requests from the Hoopa and Yurok Tribes downstream, the Department creates an artificial increase in the Klamath River flow for a period of a few days, then drops back to normal. This abnormal pulse entices the salmon waiting in the estuary to come upriver thinking the fall rains have begun, only to find themselves struggling in shallow, warm waters. It also does not help that 73% of the cold, clear water of the coastal Trinity River - which is ideal for Coho salmon production - is being diverted to Southern California.
Do Hoopa or Yurok Tribes have the right to call for Water Pulse?
There is no historical evidence to suggest that either the Hoopa or Yurok Tribes ever held ceremonial “water boat dances” prior to the dams being built on the Klamath.. This would negate any right to call for water pulses by either Tribe. Should they wish to continue having "water boat dances" they should fight to retain the dams.
We must remember that the Klamath would revert to marshes and swamps in the late summer prior to dams being built and it is improbable that there could have been any ceremonial boat dances.
At this time the U.S. Forest Service is closing trails and roads throughout the National Forests denying access to citizens. They claim it is for good forest management, however, the reality is that this is a serious danger to all that live near or in National Forests. Without these roads Police Departments are denied access for search missions and more importantly fire vehicles cannot be used to fight wildfires. Fortunately, Constitutional Sheriffs are not adhering to these closures for the safety of the citizens.
The State of California has shut down suction dredge mining, denying thousands of miners of their long-standing and lawful claims. Not only have the miners lost but the communities along the river have suffered severely. RV parks, grocery stores, hardware stores, motels and a plethora of others have gone out of business as a result of the miners being denied their Constitutional Rights.
Full Scope of the Problem
Other problems that beset our county: $25,000 fines for a dead Coho salmon on a rancher's diversion - per fish!. 5th generation ranchers being treated like criminals. Persistent moves toward measuring, controlling, and charging ranchers for their well water. Soaring energy costs. Ranchers being accosted by NMFS officers with search warrants, And a lot more.
The ESA, EPA and our present government is out of control and needs to be evaluated and redone.
Dr. Richard Gierak
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