Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893
Reclamation Criticizes Agency BOs
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) on Monday sent strong letters to federal fishery agencies that question findings made in recently finalized biological opinions (BOs) developed for Reclamation's proposed 10-year Klamath Project operations plan.
Reclamation on June 3rd issued stern responses to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding the final opinions. In a letter to Rodney McGinnis, Acting Regional Administrator for NMFS, Reclamation Regional Director Kirk Rodgers noted his agency's "serious concern about NMFS's conclusions." In a related letter sent to the USFWS, Rodgers questioned the scientific basis for USFWS conclusions and whether the recommended alternatives "go beyond what is needed" to avoid jeopardy to the species.
While local irrigators are concerned that Reclamation did not reject the BOs outright, they are encouraged by Reclamation's stance.
"Reclamation was correct to question these unreasonable mandates set by federal biologists", said Harold Hartman, who sits on the board of directors for the Klamath Water Users Association.
Local irrigators are still dismayed that the BOs continued to promote theories that were questioned by a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of last year's opinions developed by both agencies.
"Why would the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - an agency within the U.S. Interior Department -
receive information from the NAS requested by the Interior Secretary, and then choose to ignore it?" asked Rob Crawford, a farmer who operates near Tulelake.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton last year formally requested that the NAS perform a peer-review of last year's controversial biological opinions that halted deliveries of irrigation water to the Klamath Project. The resulting review 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.
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.
"We wanted to see defensible documents that can provide certainty and help irrigators make management decisions for the next 10 years", said Bob Byrne, who farms near Tulelake. "Instead, we were presented with roadmaps for perpetual uncertainty that do nothing relative to a long-term solution."
Bill Kennedy, who operates ranches in Klamath County, Oregon and Glenn County, California, believes the BOs are a symptom of a problem that extends well beyond the Klamath Basin. "The fishery agencies' obvious refusal to address new ideas and science is yet another example of disconnected government. It's happening in watersheds all over - the Umatilla Basin, Nebraska, and in other parts of the county. What's happened with these BOs should be a wake-up call for others in the West."
Oregon Water Resources Commission Rejects WaterWatch Petition
The Oregon Water Resources Commission (Commission) on June 7th unanimously rejected a petition submitted by WaterWatch of Oregon and other parties that sought to halt further appropriation of any Klamath River or Lost River waters. Local irrigators see the Commission's action as a common-sense decision to thwart what they believe is another move to dismantle Klamath Basin agriculture.
"This effort would have harmed the already stressed communities in the Klamath Basin," said Poe Valley rancher and KWUA Board member Bill Kennedy. "If this petition was not fully denied, the collaborative efforts between landowners and multi-agencies would evaporate."
Both Kennedy and Glenn Barrett, a Langell Valley rancher, testified before the Commission in opposition of the petition. Both stressed that the petition - in their view - represents one in a series of recent attacks by environmental activists to focus negative attention on Klamath Basin agriculture.
"The environmental community has done a great job of using an alarmist approach to create sound bites and headlines," said Barrett.
Earlier in the week, KWUA sent a formal letter of concern urging the Commission to reject the petition. KWUA's letter outlined the association's "grave concerns" with the petition, and described the "certain negative impacts that local water users will bear if the petitioners are successful".
Klamath Congressional Delegation Advocates for O&M Reimbursement Before Senate Subcommittee
All three members of the Oregon congressional delegation representing the local area on June 6th expressed strong support for the Klamath Basin Emergency Operation and Maintenance Refund Act of 2001 (S. 1824, H.R. 2828) before a U.S. Senate subcommittee. Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith - both members of the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources - introduced and advocated for the legislation before their fellow committee members. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden - who sponsored the House version of the bill that unanimously passed the House - and KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen testified in support of the bill, which is intended to compensate Klamath Basin irrigation districts for the costs of maintaining canals in the project over the past year.
A spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, however, questioned the proposed legislation. "We have concerns with how this bill may set precedent to effect long-term policies and costs for Reclamation actions", said Mark Limbaugh, Reclamation's Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Senator Wyden openly questioned Reclamation's "anti-agriculture" position. ""The least the Federal Government should do is compensate farmers for the upkeep of these canals, and keep looking for equitable solutions to our water problems that protect the environment and preserve vital farming and ranching communities."
Public Hearing Set As DEQ Seeks Comments on Proposed Pollutant Discharge Permit for KID
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is conducting a public hearing seeking comments on a proposal to issue an individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to the Klamath Irrigation District (KID). The permit would allow KID to apply an aquatic herbicide into its irrigation system to control excessive weed growth. The public hearing is set for Tuesday, June 18 in Merrill, and comments are due by June 24.
DEQ Public Hearing - KID Permit Request Date: Tuesday, June 18, 2002 Time: 2:00 p.m. Location: Merrill Civic Center - Merrill, Oregon Comments may be sent by mail, fax or e-mail to: Ranei Nomura DEQ Water Quality Division 811 SW Sixth Avenue Portland, OR 97204 Fax: (503)-229-5408 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Following review of public comments, DEQ may issue the permit as proposed or modified, or deny the permit. If DEQ approves the permit, KID would be the first such district in Oregon to be issued a NPDES permit for aquatic herbicide applications.
Summary of KWUA Concerns Outlined to the Oregon Water Resources Commission Regarding the WaterWatch Petition:
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
June 18, 2002 - DEQ Public Hearing - Merrill Civic Center, 2:00 p.m. (See inset, this page).
June 21, 2002 - Klamath County Economic Development Association Annual Meeting - Reames Country Club, 6:00 p.m. Special guest speaker: Donald L. Krahmer, Jr., New Economy Coalition. Contact Robin at 541-882-9600.