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Letter asks for priority on Klamath water storage

Two letters signed by the five congressman present in Klamath Falls for the recent field hearing, plus Chairman Richard Pombo, that urge the following:
To Craig Manson, Ass't Secretary of Interior: Bring the NAS to peer review the 5-year status review of suckers. (counting the fish is a suggested place to perhaps begin)
To John Keys, USBR Commissioner: Accelerate implementation of the Water Supply Enhancement Act, regarding water storage and the water bank.


Published August 29, 2004

Congressmen want progress on Klamath storage, sucker review


Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives called on the Bush administration Friday to place a priority on developing extra water storage in the Klamath Basin and to seek external reviews of sucker fish populations.

Rep. Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Committee on Resources, sent letters outlining the requests to administration officials.

The letters are based on comments received during a July 17 committee field hearing held in Klamath Falls, where ways of resolving the Klamath Basin's complex endangered species issues were discussed.

Pombo's letter was signed by the five congressmen who participated at the Klamath Falls field hearing, including Oregon Rep. Greg Walden and California Reps. Ken Calvert, John Doolittle, Wally Herger and George Radanovich.

"Overall, we believe the hearing was successful in airing the legitimate concerns of the local communities and advancing resolution on the water issues," the letter says.

In a letter sent to Reclamation Commissioner John Keys, the six representatives seek help in developing new storage facilities in the Klamath Basin. They say the issue was strongly supported by farmers, conservationists, tribal members and government officials who testified at the hearing.

"More agreement exists now than ever before," the letter reads. "We were encouraged that every witness of the diverse panel agreed that new storage can help provide water use flexibility."

The letter to Keys also urges the authority provided by the Klamath Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2000 be used to further study and develop storage options in the Klamath Basin.

"Four years after the Act's passage, we believe your agency needs to further seize the storage initiative, given the consensus found on this issue at the congressional field hearing," the letter said.

In another letter written to Craig Manson, assistant secretary of the Interior, the representatives ask that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employ independent and external peer review when the agency conducts its five-year status review of two sucker fish species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The status of those fish populations was a major point of discussion at the July 17 field hearing.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service has an opportunity to bring better and cooperative science into sucker species protection," the letter to Manson said. "As such, we request that the FWS promptly assemble biologists affiliated with the affected parties in the Klamath Basin - such as the irrigators and Native American Tribes - to develop a methodology based on peer reviewed science and state-of-the-art statistical sampling to begin such a population estimate and status review."

The July hearing covered the Endangered Species Act's impact on the Klamath Project, one of the nation's oldest federal irrigation projects.

The Klamath Project was the subject of national news coverage in 2001 when Endangered Species Act regulations protecting sucker fish and coho salmon forced most of the project to shut down its water delivery system for most of the growing season.

Klamath Basin business leaders estimated the loss of water deliveries caused $200 million worth of economic losses in the Klamath Basin community.

"We are pleased to see that Western congressional leaders are willing to keep the positive and constructive momentum generated from last month's field hearing rolling forward," said Dan Keppen, the Klamath Water Users Association's executive director. "New storage and truly independent peer review of important resources management decisions are specific improvements that we all can agree upon."





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