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

 November 18, 2003

Interior, Tribes and irrigators look
for solutions using false science 

(A small group of about 12, including Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust (KBRT), Klamath Tribes, Water Users, Upper Basin ranchers, and the Department of the Interior (DOI) have been meeting privately.  The Tribes want 690,000 acres of forest back that they sold and all of the water rights, KBRT gets federal funds to buy water easements from Upper Basin ranchers, Project irrigators want assurance of irrigation water, and according to Thomas, the DOI wants a solution.)

Yesterday Bill Bettenberg, director of the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Policy and Analysis, met with a small group of 12 at the Shilo Inn in Klamath Falls.  Besides the group of Project irrigators, Upper Basin ranchers, Klamath Tribes and Klamath Rangeland Trust (KBRT), two other staff from the DOI, called 'modelers', joined the group.

According to Kurt Thomas, KBRT representative from Bakersfield, California, it has become "apparent that solutions revolve around off-stream storage. Models show that storage is essential to a long-term fix. The Interior Department is anxious to get a solution." Also, solutions would be in the form of "water banks, demand reductions, and conservation."

"What they (DOI) seek in these models is a balance.  They try to balance water on the various years. We don't have conclusions. We're trying to get away from an involuntary water bank."

"The models show over the last 40 years, here are the suppliers, and here are the demands.  They encourage agencies to go outside the Project so the focus isn't entirely on the Project. We need storage, and we need to find balance that shares the pain"

We asked Thomas the question, "Where do the Tribes fit in?  They are at the table."

Thomas responded, "Lake levels and support for storage."

KBC, "But how do the tribes 'share in the pain.' "

Thomas, "We need to present a unified proposal. As the current law is written, the weight goes all on the Project. The Tribes have a claim for all the water in the basin, and they could supply lake-level flexibility." He added, "It's not up to the Tribes, it's up to the U S Fish and Wildlife Service. If we don't get water balance, then 100,000 acre feet  of water will be demanded of the Project." (it is questionable whether the Tribes actually have the right to all of the basin's water.KBC)

KBC asked about reconsultation.  The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) told Klamath Water Users to come up with a 'water bank' (which they spent a year designing but DOI disregarded it and made their own, which didn't work). The Water Users were told that, after the National Academy of Science (NAS) was to come out with their final report, we would have a reconsultation regarding the biological opinions.  BOR has changed their minds. This year we had a wet spring, so the Operation Plan called for more water to be taken from the irrigators, forcing them to use ground water at their own expense.

Thomas replied that reconsultation was not discussed. 

The National Resource Committee's final report reconfirmed its findings from an earlier report that found no evidence of a causal connection between Upper Klamath Lake water levels and sucker health, or that higher flows on the Klamath River mainstem help coho salmon. A reconsultation was promised by the Bureau to occur after this report, since the Project Operation Plan calls for taking Project water to save all the fish between here and the ocean by taking more water than ever could occur pre-project.

Thomas repeatedly mentioned storage. KBC reminded Thomas that this was a closed basin with a deep lake. When the lake was rerouted so the land could be farmed, its water was stored in Klamath Lake to be used specifically for irrigation.  We are presently being denied full use of this water, and it is being diverted down the Klamath River.

"The hope comes from locally supported solutions.  We have to supply them (DOI) with the alternative." continued Thomas.

KBC asked how we can have a locally supported solution, since those at the meetings say they represent only themselves, the public isn't invited, and the public is having no input into any solution that this group creates. "When will there be time for public input?"

Thomas, "We're going as fast as we can. Within weeks. We have a lot of people that want to divide the basin.  If we squabble forever, we won't get it fixed."

Somehow, with the Tribes wanting to be given the forest again, and Rangeland Trust buying water easements in the Upper Basin which downsizes agriculture there, which allegedly allows more water for Project Irrigators, it would be hard to imagine this basin becoming more divided than it presently is. And the Interior Department wants us to make solutions based on false science that was outdated when the National Resource Counsel said more water is not needed for the fish.

John Crawford, Project irrigator, questioned Tribal Chairman Allen Foreman about the Tribe having recently filed against the irrigators in the Marzulla takings court case.  This does not seem to be a friendly gesture when the Tribes are hoping for irrigator's support of their forest acquisition.

Thomas asked us to give the message of 'storage and hope', so here you have his message.

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