Senator Doug Whitsett speech on Klamath dam
removal and KBRA.
KFLS June 23, 2008
A great deal of rhetoric is flowing regarding the removal of four
hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. The PacifiCorp owned dams
produce about 170 megawatts of electricity, about enough
environmentally clean power to supply the entire Eugene
More important, the dams provide a critical peaking function that
allows PacifiCorp to run much nearer to grid capacity. When a
sudden demand occurs, or a generating facility suddenly goes off
line, these four hydropower dams can be almost instantaneously
ramped up to stabilize the grid to keep the lights on. This
hydropower peaking function is nearly impossible to replace at any
Never the less, we are being told that behind closed door
negotiations are being held to facilitate the dam removal.
The fact of the matter is that the draft Klamath Basin Restoration
Agreement (KBRA) is entirely contingent on that dam removal. That
contingency, stated on the first page of the draft agreement,
makes it clear that the parties will support the water for land
trade agreement only after a concurrent agreement to remove the
dams is reached.
The alleged purpose of dam removal is to restore the river
ecosystem for Chinook and Coho salmon. The expectation is that
increased spawning activity in the mid and upper basin tributaries
will help to restore the Klamath River salmon runs. This ecosystem
restoration is scheduled to include introduction of the salmon
species into Upper Klamath Lake and its tributaries.
This plan to introduce salmon into the Upper Basin has a critical
flaw that will be potentially devastating to not only agricultural
and timber interests, but to all inhabitants of the Upper Basin.
Most of the proposed salmon habitat includes water that is much
too warm and eutrophic for these species to survive and reproduce.
The very high natural background levels of phosphorous, the nearly
flat river valleys, and the extremely shallow nature of Upper
Klamath Lake have resulted in warm euthrophic waters for
millennia, and will continue to do so for millennia to come.
Nothing that man can do will alter that reality.
Moreover, we know of no one alive who remembers salmon being
present in the Upper Klamath Basin. We have been unable to find
any written record of salmon being present other than unconfirmed
anecdotal stories and archival photographs of an unusual catch.
The Klamath Tribes consider two species of sucker fish as
religious symbols, because historically, those species provided a
major part of their sustenance. Native Americans were pretty
intelligent, industrious, and self supporting people. Why on earth
would they have lived on suckers if salmon were abundant and
available for harvest?
About forty years ago I participated in the Mullet snagging
fishery one season. I soon discovered that the fresh sucker fish
were too strong for me to eat, and that I could not even smoke a
sucker long enough to make it really edible. Had there been a
choice, had salmon ever been present in viable numbers, I am
certain that the Tribes would have chosen salmon over suckers.
I believe the basic idea of exchanging a vibrant and economically
thriving cattle industry for what, at best, could only be a
marginal salmon fishery, is in no ones best interest. Moreover,
when these salmon species are introduced into the Upper Basin, a
series of events is certain to follow.
Federal fish biologists may be expected to designate them as
either an ecologically distinct unit, or an evolutionary distinct
unit. Soon after that designation, the biologists will educate the
people that these distinct populations are struggling. This in
turn will justify the biologists' petition to list the newly
described units as threatened or endangered species. We may then
expect the entire Upper Basin, from ridge top to the Klamath River
canyon, to be designated as critical habitat for these endangered
salmon units. The chances of ever getting these species off the
threatened or endangered species list will be virtually impossible
because the habitat is simply inappropriate to support these fish.
We may then expect that the management of the critical habit newly
coined for these endangered units will be assumed by NOAA
fisheries biologists. That habitat will encompass all of the
private and government land in the Upper Basin, as well as all of
our water resources.
The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement specifically excludes
Endangered Species Act laws and regulations. Rules created to
protect these newly established Upper Basin resident salmon will
supersede each and every agreed upon concession in the KBRA. I
predict the federal fish biologists will take control of the KBRA
Technical Advisory Committee, and then dictate how future water
allocations are managed.
These are the same agency biologists who recently determined that
the Klamath Project irrigators are causing, are responsible for,
the loss of weight being experienced by the Puget Sound's
endangered pod of resident killer whales. This incredible finding
clearly demonstrates the biologists' intentions for agriculture
and forestry in the Upper Klamath Basin. I do not believe that
being under the rule of these ideologically bankrupt federal
biologists will be good for our communities.