Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893
Final Klamath Project BOs Expected by June 1
Controversial draft versions of biological opinions (BOs) developed by federal fisheries agencies are currently being finalized by agency biologists and are expected to be complete by June 1st. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are currently assessing public comments submitted in the past two weeks regarding consultation work developed for proposed 2002-2012 Klamath Project operations.
Both NMFS and USFWS have determined that the Project operations plan developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) will jeopardize the continued existence of endangered suckers and threatened coho in the Klamath Basin. 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 believe both jeopardy opinions are unwarranted and inconsistent with recent findings made by a committee of the National Research Council earlier this year. That study concluded that there was insufficient scientific evidence used by USFWS and NMFS in 2001 to support changing the recent historical water operations of the Klamath Project. Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) representatives believe the draft BOs conflict with the findings of the NRC Committee.
"Both draft BOs circumvent the principal findings and conclusions of the NRC Interim Report", said Paul Simmons, KWUA attorney. "The NRC reports find no scientific foundation for last year's decisions. One would think this would be significant, but the draft BOs show no change in fundamental logic from the 2001 BOs."
"It is simply reprehensible that the same flawed ideas have resurfaced again in the 2002 draft BOs", added Dan Keppen, KWUA Executive Director.
KWUA submitted detailed comments on the NMFS document earlier today. Electronic versions of KWUA's responses to both draft BOs can be obtained by requesting them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Governor Davis Names Members to California Water Commission
California Governor Gray Davis earlier this week announced the appointments of Richard W. Atwater, Ane D. Deister, Rachel M. Dinno, Daniel M. Dooley, Martha G. Guzman, William J. (Bill) Lyons, Jr., Nancy Sutley, and Walter Yep as members of the California Water Commission.
The California Water Commission confers with, advises, and makes recommendations to the Director of Water Resources with respect to any matters and subjects under his jurisdiction. Members do not receive a salary. These positions require Senate confirmation.
Senate Subcommittee Hearing Set for Klamath O&M Reimbursement Bill
The United States Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has scheduled a hearing on June 6th to receive testimony on The Klamath Basin Emergency Operation and Maintenance Refund Act of 2001 (S.1824, H.R. 2828). The legislation will compensate Klamath Basin irrigation districts for the costs of maintaining canals in the project over the past year. Last December, Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the proposed legislation before the Senate.
"It really adds insult to injury to ask farmers to pay for the maintenance of canals that were bone dry for most of the year because of a misguided federal decision," said Smith last December. "This bill will never make up for the total losses of the past year, but it will provide some compensation to farmers."
The same bill passed the House in November 2001 under the sponsorship of Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR).
Despite the fact that water was withheld from the irrigation districts for much of last year's planting season, local interests are legally required to maintain the canals. This bill would require a reimbursement for those costs. Irrigation districts would then be required to return the savings to their members. This year, the bill is expected to return over $4 million to irrigators in the Klamath Basin.
Tough Restrictions Loom to Prevent Over Fishing in the Pacific Ocean
In response to precipitous declines in rockfish populations resulting from over fishing, federal fishery agencies may impose new restrictions for Pacific Ocean coastal areas. Over fishing has dropped populations of rockfish - once common in offshore reefs - to the point where fishery biologists fear the species will become extinct.
The bulk of commercial and recreational fisheries-including salmon, halibut, sole, squid, shrimp-come from the Pacific continental shelf. Beginning next September, the new rules could force recreational and commercial fishers off the water completely. At stake - an industry that generates more than $5.5 billion for California's economy alone.
"We basically could be telling a million people or more that they can't go fishing in the ocean," said Ralph Brown, an Oregon trawl fisher. "It's that serious."
Interior Working Group Investigates Endangered Species Act Problems
A working group established by the U.S. Department of Interior is addressing problems with the existing federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and developing recommendations for administrative solutions. Draft suggestions developed to date by the ESA Working Group include:
Local water users would benefit if recommendations to include Reclamation project beneficiaries in ESA consultations were implemented. The Klamath Project irrigators have not been recognized as, or afforded status of, an "applicant" in the ongoing Klamath Project ESA consultations.
Boxer Proposes Wilderness Protection Bill - Klamath Provisions Included
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently unveiled legislation to set aside 2.5 million acres of federal land as wilderness and designate sections of 22 rivers in California as "wild and scenic." The California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act (S. 2535) represents the most extensive bid to protect public lands in California since 1994. In the Klamath River watershed, the bill would designate as wilderness approximately 135,000 acres within the Klamath National Forest. The bill also proposes the designation of "Salmon Restoration Areas", intended to promote the restoration of self-sustaining salmon and steelhead populations. Under this legislation, over 52,000 acres within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest would be reviewed by the Secretary as to their suitability for designation as wilderness under these provisions.
The wilderness designation prohibits some recreational uses, such as off-road vehicles and mountain biking, and prohibits expansion of mining, oil exploration, construction and road building. Mining and drilling already taking place would be allowed to continue. The legislation is likely to draw opposition from off-road vehicle enthusiasts, mountain bikers and property-rights groups as well as mining and logging interests.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Monday, June 3, 2002 - PacifiCorp Klamath Hydro Relicensing Project Plenary Meeting. Begins 12:30 p.m. at Windmill Inn, Ashland.
Tuesday, June 4, 2002 - PacifiCorp Klamath Hydro Relicensing Project Fish Passage Meeting. Begins 8:30 a.m. at Windmill Inn, Ashland.
Wednesday, June 5, 2002 - PacifiCorp Klamath Hydro Relicensing Project: Aquatics Meeting and Recreation / Socioeconomics Meeting. Windmill Inn, Ashland.
Thursday, June 6, 2002 - PacifiCorp Klamath Hydro Relicensing Project: Water Quality Meeting and Terrestrial Meeting. Windmill Inn, Ashland.
Thursday, June 6, 2002 - U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Hearing. Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. Testimony to be provided by KWUA regarding S. 1824 and H.R. 2828 to authorize 2001 O&M reimbursements to Klamath Project districts.