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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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The final day of the scientists


California Chairman of Resource Board Art Dagget, with panel or agency chairmen
Steve Thompson, Kirk Rogers, Frank Shipley and Bill Sexton.

Science-based decision making, and consider the local economy,
summarizes the wisdom gained from this week's science conference.

2/6/04, by KBC  Today was the final day of the government agency's and scientist's meeting at the Shilo Inn. The scientists had shared their research all week and the audience asked questions. Now the regional managers of USFWS, Steve Thompson, BOR Kirk Rogers, with Frank Shipley USGS, and Bill Sexton, were asking the scientists questions. Now what? The Bush Administration cares, they see the mess and want to help. Can you help us find a solution, soon?

After hearing dozens of power points and intensive, hardcore s c i e n c e all week, to reiterate what I learned from the scientists I heard, was:
*Lake level management is not justified. Project water quality is better than river water.
*Wetlands don't necessarily help fish or PH and they use more water than ag lands. 
*Suckers swim and eat and make babies just fine regardless of lake levels and water quality.
*'We don't have enough data to have restoration goals.'
*Retiring farmland will not help the lakes quality because it always had high PH and poor quality and it is a huge lake. It would be easier to grow suckers somewhere else than to change the historic components of this vast body of water.
*INDEPENDENT PEER REVIEW is critical

Reviewing the needs expressed by most every scientist and bureaucrat, are:
*create a data base of good, easily accessible data
*communicate and coordinate: have all the agencies and scientists collaborate, having certain people and groups do certain tasks, sharing all of their data.
* managers need to consult their scientists and let them propose possible solutions.
*exclude agendas.
*include the local stakeholders
*evaluate the value of wetland restoration BEFORE breaching dikes. What will this do for fish, water quality, evaporation? "Enhance studies on water quality and biology of wetlands" on existing wetlands.
*define the problem before you make a solution.
*most every agency said that they do activities but are very deficient in monitoring and in calculating results; read day #1 of the workshop.
*INDEPENDENT PEER REVIEW

How many times has the government spent millions of dollars on a 'solution', and they spend the rest of the time trying to prove they made the right decision? No one, especially the local agricultural community, wants to see that again. As brought up here and at the spring tour of the Upper Basin, there are over 94,000 acres that have been converted from agriculture to wetlands, and there is a lot of concern that is does not help fish, decreases water quality and certainly decreases water storage due to evapo-transpiration. Not to mention, it has devastated much of our local economy regarding the cattle industry and associated businesses.

Dennis Lynch, USGS, stressed the importance of good data.  They need more gauges and flow testing and weather forecasting equipment in more places. He expressed that we need to gain more knowledge regarding our over-pumped aquifer, and warned about unintended consequences. Lynch reminded the room that the water bank will demand from the irrigators over 100,000 acre feet next summer, and our aquifer should not be so taxed without more data. Use this resource in an emergency but do not negligently deplete the supply.

Lynch also said, we don't know how wetlands work. What happens if we take berms down--what happens to the water quality. Trans-evaporation has not been well-measured. Get more data. More gauges, study springs, get good and long-term data. Keep measuring external loads. What caused algae bloom to crash?

The director of Oregon Water Resource Department Doug Woodcock said that ground water augmentation should not happen every year, but maybe every few years in drought times. There needs to be research and coordination.

Art Daggett, Governor Swarzeneggar's head of California Resource board, recognized that the key is data and monitoring. We need united monitoring efforts, and we need to gain expert success. He reiterated the need for science-based solutions.

Steve Thompson, USFWS California/Nevada Manager, asked of the scientists, "Do we know enough now to get science from you to make solution recommendations?"  He also recognized that we need local solutions that will work.

Kirk Rogers, regional director of Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) was asking for solutions too. President Bush wants to see Klamath Basin whole, with environmental and social solutions, and there is an opportunity to try to repair the damaged basin now. Thompson asked what social scientists are here. I think that component was missing.

In response to the director's question was Marshall. Any strategy needs to have built in the ability to adapt as information changes or becomes better.  He referred to remodeling a kitchen, and when you rip out the floor you find dry rot. It needs to be flexible. 

In a brief conversation with Kirk Rogers, I told him my concerns with a week of hearing how we should not jump into any permanent solutions without better monitoring of the actions we have already taken (my thoughts were: massive wetland restoration, extreme pumping of our untested aquifer, land acquisition). He referred to Marshal's ideal strategy of being able to adapt to new information. I suggested that this is not happening now since we are not being allowed to reconsult. He said that we can reconsult. I said that we've been told that it will take a year or two before we are allowed re-consultation. He said we can re-consult soon if we get new data. I said that the NRC (National Resource Committee) final report, the 'best available science' said that lake level/river management is not justified (Steve Lewis of the NRC even came Tuesday to explain why this is a sound conclusion.) Rogers said that the NRC information does not address the down-river science. I explained that Dr. Hardy 'science' was not sound (or peer reviewed or the best available science) that calls for 100,000 acre feet of our stored water next year regardless of year type, 75,000 AF this year.  I think the bell rang then or something, and the break was over.

This week's conclusions by scientists described everything that has been lacking in the Klamath Basin Crisis: 
*Tens of thousands of acres of private land has been taken by government agencies to make wetlands.
*There has been limited data and that data has not been well monitored, especially regarding the advantages of more wetlands.
*There is no flexibility; Last summer over 1000 Project farmers were told that their irrigation water was going to be shut off for a couple weeks because the Project operation plan demands that the Klamath Project downsize it's historic water use regardless of year type with a mandatory 'water bank'. We had over $200 million dollars of crops in our fields. Certain water levels must be maintained and the water level was less than an inch from what the powers at be decided the fish needed, until the first of the next month. More water was sent to the ocean than even the flawed Project Operation plan demanded.
* No study of the possible effect for these two weeks on a coho or sucker with 1 inch less water.
*No certainty or consideration of the community and local economy
* No peer review.
*No local input. KWUA spent a year forming a 'water bank' and it was disregarded in favor of a mandatory, inflexible one built by the Bureau of Reclamation.
* Now there is new data with the NRC report, Hardy flaws, historic flow reports, but we are still under the same inflexible, unchanging scenario that has downsized Klamath Basin agriculture and the community economy.

Our hope is that the managers, leaders, and government agencies will quit trying to prove that past misconceptions and 'solutions' were helpful and now listen to the scientists. And look at the effect that their actions will have, not only on the fish, water, and ecosystem, but also on the community. Anyone can say, here is 50 million dollars, see, we are fixing your problem. But it is when the leaders can say, we spent 50 million dollars, here is the data and the accessible, public data-base by independent scientists collaborating, and with no agenda. Here is the data showing how this can work for fish, water quality, and the entire community, are here is the data showing how and why this has worked in the past. And all of the government agencies, stakeholders, and local groups will be on the same page. As evidenced in the speech Thursday regarding the Robust Redhorse fish by Cecil Jennings, a collaboration with data opened to the public, meetings opened to the public, input by everyone. Lest we forget. Lest we live another 2001, 2002, or 2003 in the Klamath Basin with no certainty for agriculture.

And if we are not given certainty of water deliveries to our crops while the agencies make unreasonable demands of the irrigator's stored water as they look  for 'solutions',  the verdict is death to our agricultural community.

 

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