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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Klamath water deal reached

Tribes, farmers and others draw up a plan to remove dams (??) and revive dwindling salmon populations.

By Eric Bailey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 16, 2008

SACRAMENTO -- After more than three years of negotiations, a collection of long-quarreling Klamath Basin farmers, fishermen and tribes announced a breakthrough agreement Tuesday that they said could lead to the nation's most extensive dam-removal project.

The $1-billion plan proposes to end one of the West's fiercest water wars by reviving the Klamath River's flagging salmon population while ensuring irrigation water and cheap power for farmers in the basin, which straddles the Oregon-California state line.

The company that owns the four dams in the basin -- billionaire Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp -- was excluded from negotiations and did not sign on. But participants heralded the hard-fought agreement as a sprawling, basin-wide solution that united factions long at odds over the fate of the troubled river.

"Never has the basin been so unified around the necessity for removal of those dams," said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assns.

Two environmental groups and a Northern California tribe balked at the blueprint, calling it a Bush administration sellout to agribusiness allies. Clifford Lyle Marshall, chairman of the holdout Hoopa Valley Tribe, said the proposal favors farmers over the river's fish and labeled it "an Old West irrigation deal: guarantees for irrigators, empty promises for the Indians."

"The ironic thing is there's not even dam removal in this dam-removal deal," said Bob Hunter of WaterWatch of Oregon, one of the two dissenting environmental groups, both of which were excluded from the negotiations last year. "It seems they released it now because time is running out for the Bush administration to deliver to its political allies in the Klamath farm community."

PacifiCorp officials also took exception to the proposal.

Paul Vogel, a PacifiCorp spokesman, said the company initiated the talks as part of its bid for a new federal operating license for the dams. But he said PacifiCorp was "shut out of the room" for most of the last year as the final plan was cobbled together by more than two dozen state, federal and local government agencies, tribes and other groups.

"You really have to question if there's enough substance there to be worth the paper it's printed on," he said.

The federal government's chief negotiator at the talks, Steve Thompson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he participated free of political influence from the White House and continues to hold out hope that PacifiCorp will sign on to the proposal in coming weeks.

But critics, including Hunter, suggested that the deal could prompt PacifiCorp to lay its money on winning renewal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The commission is expected to follow the lead of U.S. wildlife agencies, which have required the company to build fish ladders over the dams. Those ladders could cost up to $300 million and might not work. Several studies suggest it would be cheaper for the company to demolish the dams and find alternative power.

The Klamath River Basin has been an epicenter of the fight over dwindling water in the West for a decade.

In the drought year of 2001, worries about endangered fish prompted the federal government to cut back water to farmers, igniting a heated summerlong protest.

The next year farmers won more water, but environmentalists blamed a cutback in river flows for the death of 70,000 salmon.

By 2006, the river's chinook salmon population had declined so much that federal officials sharply cut back the commercial fishing season, spreading dismay to coastal communities.

At the same time, those representing the Klamath region's competing interests began trying to settle their differences behind closed doors. Meeting roughly once a month, they quarreled in secret but slowly reached the consensus that yielded the final draft released Tuesday.

Farmers won the three prime concessions they had sought. The agreement establishes water deliveries they can live with: more in wet years, less in dry. It provides $40 million toward subsidized power to run irrigation pumps and develop renewable energy to replace the electricity they now get from PacifiCorp's hydropower dams. And it assuages their concerns that the reappearance of endangered salmon won't end up shutting down farms in the upper basin "if and when the fish get up here," said Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Assn.

Steve Rothert of American Rivers, one of several environmental groups that endorsed the deal, said he was confident that even with guaranteed water for farming, the agreement guarantees adequate flows in the river to help salmon rebound.

"We are on the cusp of ending decades-long disputes and charting a better future for farmers, tribes, fishermen and all the communities that depend on a healthy Klamath River," he said.

The dissenting environmental groups disagree, saying the agreement cements promises to farmers that in dry years could rob the river of water needed to sustain the salmon and other fish.

"What began as an effort to help salmon and remove dams has turned into a plan to farm American taxpayers," said Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild, the other dissenting group.

He said the plan also institutionalizes "large-scale commercial agriculture" on 22,000 acres in Klamath wildlife refuges, which his group has fought to see reserved just for birds.

The plan goes far beyond fixing the river. It calls, for instance, for the purchase of a 90,000-acre tract for the Klamath Tribes of Oregon for use as a reservation.



Klamath Settlement Group Releases
Proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement for Public Review
For release: January 15, 2008, 1 pm PST
Contact: Ed Sheets, Facilitator, 503-222-1700
Greg Addington, Klamath Water Users Association, 541-883-6100
Troy Fletcher, Yurok Tribe, 707-498-8486
Chuck Bonham, Trout Unlimited, 510-528-4164

Representatives of diverse communities in the Klamath Basin, working with federal, state, and
county governments, have developed a Proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement to
rebuild fisheries, sustain agricultural communities, and resolve other longstanding disputes
related to the allocation of water resources. The non-Federal parties released the Proposed
Agreement today to inform the public and to provide public review and comment before taking
final action. This is an important first step in a collaborative effort to seek solutions with the key
stakeholders in the Klamath Basin on an environmental restoration strategy.
The Klamath Settlement Group is presently negotiating with PacifiCorp in an effort to reach
agreement on the removal of the utility’s four lower dams in the Klamath Basin, referenced as
the "Hydropower Agreement." Dam removal is a necessary part of the overall restoration effort,
and the Hydropower Agreement along with the Proposed Agreement released today has the
potential to provide a comprehensive solution for the Basin. The group is working to finalize
both agreements in February.

Key provisions of the Proposed Agreement include:
• A comprehensive program to rebuild fish populations sufficient for sustainable tribal,
recreational, and commercial fisheries. Elements include: Actions to restore fish
populations and habitats, including a program to reintroduce anadromous species in
currently-blocked parts of the Basin; actions to improve fish survival by enhancing the
amount of water available for fish, particularly in drier years; and other efforts to support
tribes in fisheries reintroduction and restoration efforts.
• A reliable and certain allocation of water sufficient for a sustainable agricultural
community and national wildlife refuges.
• A program to stabilize power costs for the Upper Basin’s family farms, ranches, and for
the two national wildlife refuges.
• A program intended to insure mitigation for counties that may be impacted by the
removal of the hydroelectric facilities.

The Klamath Settlement Group has developed the Proposed Agreement over the course of the
last two years. It is still refining some details in the Proposed Agreement. Representatives of the
following parties have been part of the discussions:

Farmers and Ranchers
Klamath Water Users Association
Off-Project Water Users

Hoopa Valley Tribe
Karuk Tribe
Klamath Tribes
Yurok Tribe

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service
U.S. Department of the Interior, including Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land
Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and Fish and Wildlife Service

California Department of Fish and Game
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Water Resources Department

Humboldt County, California
Klamath County, Oregon
Siskiyou County, California

Conservation and fishing groups
American Rivers
California Trout
Friends of the River
Klamath Forest Alliance
National Center for Conservation Science and Policy
Northcoast Environmental Center
Northern California/Nevada Council Federation of Fly Fishers
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
Salmon River Restoration Council
Trout Unlimited.

All of the representatives agreed to public release of the Proposed Agreement. The three
counties and several irrigation districts will hold public meetings on the Proposed Agreement
prior to deciding whether to sign it. Negotiators for two organizations, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Klamath Off-Project Water Users (KOPWU), do not approve the current draft. The Federal agencies, while at the table during the negotiations, will not be signatories of the Proposed Agreement. Instead, subsequent Federal review of the Proposed Agreement and legislation will be needed.

Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association said: “The result of the negotiations is
a series of compromises and proposed commitments between farmers, tribes, conservationists,
counties, and state and federal agencies aimed at keeping all of the Klamath’s rural communities
economically and ecologically viable.”

Troy Fletcher of the Yurok Tribe noted: “This spirit of trust, respect, and compromise is
unprecedented in the Klamath Basin. This agreement will provide a path to restore fish
populations and strengthen our commitment to work with each other.”
Chuck Bonham of Trout Unlimited said “The negotiators have worked through difficult and
complex issues to get broad support for the actions in the Proposed Agreement. We hope others
will share our desire to work for a solution.”

For a summary or a copy of the Proposed Agreement please go to the following website:

Hoopa Valley Tribe Rejects Klamath River Deal
The Hoopa Valley Tribe rejected the latest draft of the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KRBRA) released today because the agreement lacks adequate water assurances for fish.

"Hoopa will retain its rights to defend the Klamath," said Clifford Lyle Marshall, Tribal Chairman. "We will work with any and all parties to remove the dams and assure a restored healthy river."
Media Contacts: Clifford Lyle Marshall (530) 625-4211 ext. 161
Mike Orcutt (530) 625-4267 ext. 13
Tom Schlosser (206) 386-5200


Hoopa, Calif. – The Hoopa Valley Tribe of northern California will not endorse
the latest draft of the Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (KRBRA) because the
agreement lacks adequate water assurances for fish. Despite being in the minority among
the negotiators, Tribal Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall said Hoopa would never waive
its fishery-based water rights, as demanded by federal and other negotiators, in a deal
providing no assurances for fisheries restoration.

“What began as dam removal negotiations got turned into a water deal.
PacifiCorp left the room two years ago and negotiations with the company have since
been separate from this negotiation. The terms of this so-called restoration agreement
make the right to divert water for irrigation the top priority, trumping salmon water needs
and the best available science on the river,” Marshall said. “Such an upside down deal
threatens the goal of restoration and the Hoopa Tribe’s fishing rights,” Hoopa
Councilman Joe LeMieux said. “We cannot waive the rights of generations to come.
Dangling a carrot like this will not work for Hoopa.”

The Hoopa objections come after three years of negotiations with farm irrigators,
environmental and fishing groups, government agencies, counties, and other tribes. The
Tribe has been a leading advocate to protect water rights and fish habitat in the Klamath
and Trinity rivers that run through their reservation. “We have worked for years with all
the parties to forge an agreement that genuinely restores Klamath River salmon habitat.
Unfortunately, this deal locks away too much water for irrigators with no recourse for
salmon when the fish need more water. Salmon need enough water, plain and simple,”
he said.

Marshall said the proposed billion dollar deal altogether ignores the National
Academy of Science’s recommendations in its November 2007 report on the U.S. -
contracted Hardy Phase II Instream Flow Assessment in the Klamath River.
Congressional members have urged the use of the Hardy Report to protect coho salmon
from jeopardy. Marshall said the deal also dismisses the only independent scientific
reviews of the agreement itself. “This latest draft is not a modern science-based river
restoration plan. It looks more like an old West irrigation deal, guarantees for irrigators,
empty promises for the Indians.”

The Tribal Chairman also said that agreement proponents talk about helping the
river’s fish, but no real fisheries restoration objectives, standards, or assurances are in the
agreement. “Some parties seem to think there’s no other way to remove the dams. The
declining fish population tells us the river is being compromised to death. Hoopa will
retain its rights to defend the Klamath. We will work with any and all parties to remove
the dams and assure a restored healthy river.”

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