Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
February 3, 2004 My presentation is comprised of two parts- one of which leads into the other. First, Iím going to address the question(s) posed to each of the presenters this morning and then I will address a program which Reclamation is undertaking that will benefit from this conference and will ultimately cause scientific dialogue similar to this conference to become a standard practice. Iím referring to Reclamationís Conservation Implementation Program.
It is appropriate that Reclamation lead off this conference
by providing our vision of the science related needs for the basin. To date, we have certainly been the prime figure for meeting ecosystem needs based partially on assumptions about the irrigation projectís impacts and partially upon the science available at this time. Thatís not to say that the science is inadequate but it has become clear that singularly targeting the Klamath Irrigation project will not recover the endangered species, improve water quality, restore the ecosystem or any of the other things that we have been assumed to have affected.
To paraphrase portions of the NRC report, the entire burden for alleviation of jeopardy and recovery of the endangered fishes of the Klamath basin must be broadened geographically beyond the Klamath irrigation project. Quote "Recovery of the endangered suckers and threatened Coho salmon in the Klamath basin cannot be achieved by actions that are exclusively or primarily focused on operation of USBRís Klamath Project".
Iím going to digress for a minute and then come back to the question to which each of us are responding. When I came to Klamath 2 years ago I was surprised at the earnestness of all of the stakeholders trying to solve the problems of the Klamath, I was also surprised at myriad of their good intentions and the actions being undertaken. What I was most surprised at was that the actions being undertaken by the many work groups, task forces, private organizations, etc. appeared to lacked focus and more importantly garner credit for their implementation.
I am a biologist and as such recognize the need for hard answers and data to guide us in our future operations and more importantly to resolve the pervasive problems of the Klamath Basin. In any of the problem areas I have dealt with in my career I have tried to bifurcate the problem or problems to its simplest level and then undertake actions to remedy those problems. Make no mistake, the problems of the Klamath are many, and significant, but underscoring all of the problems is one central issue. The endangered species issue magnifies all of the other problems. If we can solve the dilemma of the endangered suckers and the threatened Coho salmon then we can make progress towards dealing with the rest of the regionís issues. If, along the way, we undertake actions towards recovering those fish and get recognition from the Services that provide breathing room for Klamath Project operations, we can reduce the hysteria that has surrounded the Klamath for far too long. Stakeholders can then be engaged in meaningful dialogue towards resolution of regional problems, knowing from experience what happens if we are unsuccessful, but without the tension created when you have a disaster staring you in the face.
This conference is a very important step and I applaud Tom Weimer for promoting it and Dennis Lynch, Rip Shively, Chuck Hennig, Dan Fritz, Ron Larson, and others who helped plan and bring this conference to reality.
As stated, each of us are asked to address the science related questions or issues most relevant for future decision making by our agency. Again I try to look at the question in its simplest light. Since my charge is to operate the irrigation project, then for the long-term recovery of the endangered suckers is most obvious issue needing to be addressed.
More difficult is the near term. Peoplesí lives and livelihood depend on the operations of the irrigation project. Meaningful progress towards the goal of Sucker recovery will be made if some level of certainty can be returned to the agricultural community which allows a refocusing of efforts towards solutions rather than damage control.
Also as a biologist, I have studied all of the information that we have available about the decline of the suckers. It is clear from the Biological Opinions, the NRC report and the numerous studies that a number of forces have acted to cause the suckers to be endangered; A highly eutrophied environment, water quality problems including oxygen depletions and nutrient inputs, habitat decline, loss or blockage of spawning and rearing areas, blue-green algae blooms, predation, and entrainment among a number of other causes both known and unknown.
Therefore, my response to the question posed, addresses the near term needs and requirements of Reclamation.
In the next few days I would hope that the collective scientific intelligence housed in this room will permit the development and agreement on the key scientific needs which will help me to fulfill my job that is, to operate a Reclamation irrigation project.
As I mentioned when I first entered the Klamath 2 years ago I was impressed the there were so many actions being undertaken. It was readily apparent that huge sums of money were being spent but that there was no quantification of the results of those expenditures.
As a part of the development of the biological opinion I proposed to the Services that Reclamation should be directed to undertake a program which would help to unify the myriad of efforts in the Klamath and bring focus towards the recovery of the endangered fish. It would develop the necessary science and recovery strategies, prioritize the information needs and most importantly focus the spending for achieving the maximum results.
I was involved in development of several programs for recovering endangered fishes in a different river systems and I found that if someone either had a directed responsibility or a leadership responsibility was assumed and recognized by all then focus and progress could be brought to the process. This programmatic approach was described to the Services and ultimately NOAA Fisheries wrote it into their Biological Opinion as a requirement of Reclamation.
The process is entitled the Conservation Implementation Program or CIP and since receipt of the BOís, Reclamation has made significant headway towards its development. Back in November 2002 we held a large broadly attend meeting in which my initial presentation for the CIP did not define an actual structure. Rather I asked key players from the Upper Colorado River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program to explain the Vision, Structure, Successes, and Pitfalls of that process from their perspective. I recognize that what worked in Upper Colorado might not fit Klamath but if we get the conceptual approach out there the structure will solidify over time, and it has. In June we released a draft Program document for public review and comment. We received all types of comments and are nearing completion of the next draft.
Reclamation as is true of all Federal agencies that operate under the auspices of Biological Opinions with the potential for jeopardizing an endangered species must follow Reasonable and Prudent alternatives specified by the Serviceís to prevent harming the species. Unfortunately, alleviation of jeopardy, for a projectís actions, does not move the species towards recovery or delisting. An analogy would be if you run you credit cards to their max. Credit card companies are smart in that they ask that you make a minimum payment which will never pay off the card. The RPA is somewhat similar, it may keep the species from going extinct and allow the agency to operate but it doesnít solve the overall dilemma of recovering the species. To make matters worse funding is extremely limited for species recovery. My budget doesnít include amounts above those needed to meet the RPA requirements. The Services only get minimal amounts to deal with the vast array of threatened and endangered species under there protection. So in order to move a species into recovery needs a special program like the UC RIP or the CIP.
The largest benefit derived by a program like the CIP is that it provides a science based mechanism for defining goals, prioritizing the limited amount of available money to accomplish the most worthwhile actions and allows for measurement of accomplishments. Most importantly, since the Services are involved they define the goals(what recovery means) and define sufficient progress (milestones) that hopefully permits incidental take coverage for the project.
Additionally, once you have a program such as the CIP which includes all interests you have a broad support base to seek additional funding from Congress for special project needs such as capital improvements.
At this point rely on slides-
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