Published February 18, 2004 Pg 1
by Kehn Gibson
'Root' meeting held Tuesday
The fifth in a series of closed meetings was held
Tuesday at the Shilo Inn in Klamath Falls, and
attendees anticipate a "turning point" in the
Organized and funded by Medford businessman Jim
Root, a landowner in the Upper Basin, the meetings
have brought together representatives from the lower
Basin irrigation community, the Klamath Tribes, and
upper Basin irrigators to attempt to forge what
Department of Interior bureaucrats have called a
"solution package" for water issues in the Klamath
Proposals voiced in past meetings have included a 20
percent downsizing of the Klamath Project and a
return of nearly 700,000 acres of national
forestland to the Tribes in exchange for an easing
of demands for higher lake levels to protect
endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake.
The secret nature of the meetings has drawn
criticism from people and organizations who believe
that closed doors protect special interests while
ignoring the interests of the community at large.
Organizers of the meetings, Root's Klamath Basin
Rangeland Trust, have said attendance at the
meetings was limited to foster open dialogue, and
their intention is to present a "solution package"
to the community at large for comment.
On Monday, invited attendees said Tuesday's meeting
will be a critical one.
"We will present a package to representatives of the
Bush Administration and see what they think of it,"
said one, who asked to remain unnamed. "We have
worked very hard and come up with a solution that
has a lot of potential."
"We have sought water balance in the Basin, taking
in the concerns of all parties," said a second
attendee. "I think we have a product that will
work, but we have to present it to the federal folks
and see what they think."
Publicly, and to the Tribal membership at large, the
Tribal Administration has maintained their firm
stand that higher levels in Upper Klamath Lake are
required to restore the health of federally
endangered suckerfish who inhabit the lake.
That stand has contributed to weak support for a
return of Tribal reservation lands, lost in 1954
when they were sold to pay Tribal members
withdrawing from the Tribes after federal
supervision was terminated.
The higher lake levels, which contributed to the
denial of water to the Project in 2001, are a sore
point to Project irrigators.
Agriculturists have been aware for several years
that suckerfish populations in Clear Lake, a lake
that regularly sees wide fluctuations in lake levels
and has none of the emergent vegetation that federal
and Tribal biologists claim must be flooded to
provide critical habitat for juvenile fish, are the
healthiest in the region.
In the last few months, scientists have provided
data that support the unscientific yet common sense
claims of the agriculturalists.
Despite a declaration in the U. S. Fish and
Wildlife's 2001 Biological Opinion that fish kills
in 1995, 1996, and 1997 killed an estimated "80 to
90 percent" of the adult sucker population, it is
now known that a tagging program begun in 1992 saw
that less than 1 percent of the dead fish that were
recovered were tagged.
About 3,000 tagged fish were found - if 3,000 fish
is 1 percent, then a reasonable, scientific estimate
of the population in the lake between 1995 and 1997
would be 300,000, far more fish than the dire
population numbers claimed by the U. S. Fish and
A report by the National Academy of Science's review
panel drew a similar conclusion.
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