Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893
NMFS and USFWS Release Final Klamath Project BOs
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today released final biological opinions (BOs) on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's (Reclamation) proposed 2002-2012 Klamath Project operations. Initial review of both documents suggests that only minor revisions have been made to the draft documents released in the past month.
Both NMFS and USFWS have determined that the Project operations plan developed by Reclamation will jeopardize the continued existence of endangered suckers and threatened coho in the Klamath Basin.
While it appears that both biological opinions will allow Reclamation to continue to deliver irrigation water this year, local water users remain concerned about the documents. In formal comment letters developed for both draft BOs, KWUA emphasized that both jeopardy opinions are unwarranted and inconsistent with recent findings made by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences 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.
USFWS representatives believe differently. "We have concurred with Reclamation's strategy for 10 years of project operations and we have thoroughly analyzed and considered the findings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2002 interim report on last year's biological opinion", said Steve Thompson, Manager of the USFWS California-Nevada Operations Office.
Reclamation's formal response to both opinions is expected in the next few days.
WaterWatch Files Petition to Halt Klamath and Lost River Appropriations
WaterWatch of Oregon, together with 19 other conservation and commercial fishing organizations, submitted a petition to the Oregon Water Resources Commission (Commission) on May 28th asking the state to temporarily halt consideration of any new water rights in the Klamath Basin. WaterWatch and the other groups filed the petition in response to the basin's ongoing water crisis.
"When it comes to managing water in the Klamath Basin, our state is like someone with an overdrawn bank account," said Bob Hunter, WaterWatch's Southern Oregon staff attorney. "We just can't afford to keep writing bad checks."
According to Waterwatch, the closure would not affect existing water rights, any of the claims in the adjudication or any applications for new uses that are currently pending before the Water Resources Department. It also allows exemptions for temporary, emergency uses of water in times of drought and for future domestic wells.
The Commission will initially consider the petition at its upcoming meeting on June 6 and 7. KWUA has drafted a letter to the Commission opposing the petition based on three primary concerns:
Groundwater last year played an important role in satisfying the demands of the two national wildlife refuges served by the Project. Reclamation last summer provided purchased and donated non-project water, taken from wells, to the refuge on a month-to-month basis. Despite the extra water, the Lower Klamath refuge barely managed to meet its needs last year. The petition - if granted - could hamper similar rescue efforts in the future.
KWUA to Participate in Senate Subcommittee Hearing on O&M Bill
The Klamath Water Users Association will testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee this week in support of legislation that will compensate Klamath Basin irrigation districts for the costs of maintaining canals in the project over the past year. KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen will appear before the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on June 6th to promote the Klamath Basin Emergency Operation and Maintenance Refund Act of 2001 (S.1824, H.R. 2828).
Last December, Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the proposed legislation before the Senate. The same bill passed the House a month earlier under the sponsorship of Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR).
"This legislation results from the hard work in the form of hearings and the work of farmers and ranchers on the ground who just want to survive long enough to come to some solution that takes care of both fish and farmers", said Walden before the House Committee on Resources last November. "This legislation provides the measured relief these farmers need."
The bill would refund money spent by water districts in the Klamath Basin meant for operations and maintenance of the canals that would normally deliver water to farmers. The legislation requires reimbursement for these costs and in turn requires the irrigation districts to return this savings to their members. The bill also creates a waiver for individuals that fall under the "Warren Act." These individuals would be reimbursed for operations and maintenance payments they have made even though they may not be within a district.
Innovative Technique Used to Boost Canadian Salmon Numbers
Fisheries scientists working on the Keogh River in British Columbia (B.C.) have found that by combining stream enhancement techniques with fertilization, they can dramatically increase the freshwater survival rates of wild salmon and steelhead. The findings are so encouraging that the government will soon be asked to consider a multi-million dollar project that would see the methods applied to at least 10 other Pacific salmon streams.
"I think we've found the silver bullet," says Ken Ashley, of the B.C. Ministry of Fisheries, who is overseeing the Keogh project.
A key component of the Keogh project is the use of an innovative fertilization program that has increased nutrient levels, in an attempt to replace the nitrogen and phosphorous that historically was brought into the watershed by huge salmon runs.
The decomposing bodies of those salmon that died after spawning returned nutrients to the watershed.
California Coho Recommended for State Endangered Listing
State biologists recommended Wednesday that coho salmon in northern California, including Klamath River populations, should be listed as "endangered" under the state Endangered Species Act. While biologists for the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) believe that coho populations have declined to a level that will make recovery very difficult, others question CDFG's recommendation.
"We really have to question if they have the science to support their recommendation," said Mark Rentz, with the California Forestry Association. The report goes to the state Fish and Game Commission, which will make a decision in August.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Monday, June 3, 2002 - PacifiCorp Klamath Hydro Relicensing Project Plenary Meeting. Begins 12:30 p.m. at Windmill Inn, Ashland.
June 3, 2002 - KWUA Executive Committee Meeting. 6:30 p.m. KWUA Office.
June 4, 2002 - PacifiCorp Klamath Hydro Relicensing Project Fish Passage Meeting. Begins 8:30 a.m. at Windmill Inn, Ashland.
June 5, 2002 - PacifiCorp Klamath Hydro Relicensing Project: Aquatics Meeting and Recreation / Socioeconomics Meeting. Windmill Inn, Ashland.
June 6, 2002 - PacifiCorp Klamath Hydro Relicensing Project: Water Quality Meeting and Terrestrial Meeting. Windmill Inn, Ashland.
June 6, 2002 - U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Hearing.