Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893
NMFS Draft BO Declares "Jeopardy"- KWUA Sees Problems
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has determined in its recently released draft Biological Opinion that proposed 2002-2012 Klamath Project operations will jeopardize the continued existence of threatened Klamath River coho salmon. Local water users are concerned that the jeopardy opinion and proposed Reasonable and Prudent Alternative rely heavily on recent Klamath River flow studies that they claim are flawed.
"We share with NMFS the desire to finally achieve long-term planning, to obtain better knowledge of the limiting factors for coho in the Lower Klamath watershed, and to effectively restore the lower basin fisheries", said Dan Keppen, Executive Director of the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA). "However, we are very concerned that the jeopardy determination and resulting Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) do not appear to steer the fate of Klamath Project irrigation, wildlife refuges and communities away from the devastation that occurred in 2001. This is neither reasonable nor prudent."
The Draft BO proposes an RPA consisting of the following: 1) specific water management measures over the next 10 years; 2) a water bank and water supply enhancement program to provide flows to the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam to improve coho salmon habitat; 3) an agreed upon flow target to be achieved by 2012; 4) an intergovernmental task force to develop, procure, and manage water resources in the Klamath River Basin; and 5) an inter-governmental science panel to develop and implement a research program to identify and fill gaps in existing knowledge regarding coho salmon and their habitat requirements.
The RPA is intended to provide a "reasonable balance" between the recent National Research Council (NRC) findings and recent flow studies developed by Dr. Thomas Hardy ("Hardy Report") over the past two years. The NRC interim report concluded that NMFS did not have sufficient scientific justification to support the agency's arguments for increased flows in the Klamath River mainstem.
"Unfortunately, the Draft BO appears to circumvent the NRC findings and continues to promote last year's BO emphasis on higher mainstem flows", said Keppen.
The Draft BO relies heavily on the flow studies developed by Dr. Thomas Hardy of Utah State University, which water users believe are fatally flawed.
KWUA Participates in National Research Council Committee Proceedings
Local water users, tribal interests and environmental groups joined government agency representatives this past week in recent meetings and a Klamath Basin tour set up by the National Research Council Committee on Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin (Committee). The Committee was in Klamath Falls from May 15-17 as part of its ongoing effort to complete a final report to address the scientific aspects related to the continued survival of coho salmon and endangered suckers in the Klamath Basin. The final report is due March 30, 2003.
May 15th was dedicated to an all-day field tour that visited the A Canal headgates, Tulana Farms, and Wood River wetlands in the morning. The tour stopped at Sprague River, continued up the Sprague to the Sycan River, and wound through the Klamath Project and the Lower Klamath Refuge in the afternoon.
On May 16th, after meeting in closed session all-day, the Committee heard from the public at the Shiloh Inn in Klamath Falls. Many local residents - including a strong showing from the local agricultural community - talked about the plight of Basin agricultural communities and offered up solutions for the Committees' consideration. One consistent theme voiced by several speakers was the importance of future cooperation and accountability for restoration planning and projects.
"So many times we've seen projects that lack accountability," said Marty Macy of the TulelakeGrowers Association. "We need clear objectives and stated responsibility for restoration actions."
President Bush Signs Farm Bill - $50 million for Klamath Basin Agriculture
The 2002 farm bill, signed into law Monday by President Bush, contains $50 million in direct aid to the Klamath Basin agricultural community.
"The president's signing of the farm bill will bring significant federal aid to the Klamath Basin to address long-standing water quality and quantity improvement projects," said Rep. Greg Walden in a statement released Monday.
The $50 million in Basin funding will be provided under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program section of the farm bill. It will be available to qualified producers to pay for water quality and quantity improvement projects. The bill contains another $600 million in water conservation funds that will be partially available for projects in the Basin, and Walden has urged the administration to dedicate a significant portion of those funds to the resolution of the Basin's water problems. The bill also contains a provision authorizing the study of the Chiloquin Dam.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Saturday, May 18, 2002 - Basin Agriculture Community Appreciation Barbeque. 11:00 a.m. Veteran's Park, Klamath Falls.
Friday, May 24, 2002 - Comments due to NMFS on Draft Biological Opinion.