[env-trinity] US GAO AUDIT FINDS KLAMATH WATER BANK EXPENSIVE, POORLY MANAGED AND SECRETIVE,

Josh Allen jallen at trinitycounty.org
Wed Mar 30 16:30:00 PST 2005


From: Pelican Network [mailto:rocinante at pelicannetwork.net] 
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2005 4:10 PM
To: KRC at pelicannetwork.net
Subject: US GAO AUDIT FINDS KLAMATH WATER BANK EXPENSIVE, POORLY MANAGED
AND SECRETIVE,

 

US GAO AUDIT FINDS KLAMATH WATER BANK EXPENSIVE, 
POORLY MANAGED AND SECRETIVE, 
RECOMMENDS MANY IMPROVEMENTS 

NEWS FROM THE PACIFIC COAST FEDERATION OF FISHERMEN'S ASSOCIATIONS 
Northwest Regional Office 
PO Box 11170, Eugene, OR 97440-3370 
(541)689-2000   Fax: (541)689-2500 

 Web: www.pcffa.org   Email: fish1ifr at aol.com 
=========================================================== 

Contact:  Glen Spain, NW Regional Director 
30 March 2005 

Washington, DC -- Today the US Government Accountability Office (GAO)
released a long-awaited independent 
federal audit of the Bureau of Reclamation's (BOR) Klamath Irrigation
Project water bank program, and found it wanting 
in a number of areas.  Among the Report's findings, conclusions and
implications are: 

(1) Although the BOR is providing the water bank water downstream as
measured at Iron Gate Dam, the accounting for 
that water within the Project above Iron Gate Dam is so sloppy that it
is difficult to tell what taxpayer money is actually 
buying or whether it is buying the water paid for. 

(2) The Water Bank is still heavily dependent on aquifer pumping rather
than reduction of upper basin irrigation demand 
as originally intended, and now there are serious concerns about the
depletion of that aquifer. 

(3) The Report confirms that the BOR's whole process around developing
and managing the water bank has been 
secretive and closed to public scrutiny, and needs to be greatly
improved and opened up to assure accountability to the 
public. 

(4) The Water Bank water leasing program is frightfully expensive in the
long run compared to outright purchasing and 
retiring of water rights, could cost taxpayers more than $65 million
through 2011 (pg 16), its lottery process makes it 
inherently uncertain and it depends entirely on annual appropriations
from a cash-strapped U.S. Congress.   The report 
concludes "This uncertainty adds urgency to Reclamation and stakeholder
efforts to collaboratively identify and evaluate 
long-term solutions." (pg. 40)  Water banking is clearly a short-term
fix, but not a long-term solution. 

"The arid Klamath Basin's limited water supply is clearly over-drawn,
and the status quo is simply 
unsustainable," commented PCFFA's Glen Spain.  "Until irrigation demand
is reduced to meet actual supply, with 
enough left in the river to protect valuable fisheries, the whole
Klamath Basin will remain in crisis.  All the lawsuits, 
marches and politics in the world cannot create more rain. Even farmers
will eventually have to live within the 
rainfall they get." 

The Klamath River was once the third most productive salmon river system
in America.  Today its once abundant 
salmon runs are down to less than 10% of their historic numbers, with
coho salmon runs so damaged they are federally 
listed as "threatened with extinction" under the Endangered Species Act.
Diversion of water from the river to feed 
ever-expanding irrigation systems is a large part of the problem that
has devastated these valuable fisheries.  The Bureau 
of Reclamation diverts more than half of the summer flow of the whole
upper Klamath Basin each year to feed water to 
its federal Klamath Irrigation Project, and water system development has
greatly altered the hydrology of the basin. 

Poor Klamath water flows in most past years, particularly in 2002,
created several serious fish kills. Because of past fish 
kills caused by a river reduced by federal irrigation withdrawals to a
warm trickle, today too few fish are returning to the 
Klamath River as adults to support harvests, and these Klamath "weak
stock management" constraints are triggering 
industry-wide ocean salmon fishery closures that may cost
fishing-dependent California and Oregon communities and 
businesses as much as $100 million dollars in economic damages this year
alone. 

Poor flows that are damaging today's ocean salmon fisheries were
deliberately created by the Bureau of Reclamation in 
2002 when it took too much water from the river to feed a bloated upper
basin federal water project.  The water bank 
was intended to help reduce the size of that Project gradually, with
fair compensation to farmers willing to idle their lands 
on a year-by-year basis, but has been misused over the past few years to
prop that Project's excess demand up by 
drawing down the aquifer.  Today that aquifer is badly deleted when most
needed to alleviate a serious drought. 

The GAO audit request was originally made by Congressman Mike Thompson,
whose Congressional District has the 
longest coastline of any in the U.S., and includes many
fishing-dependent ports and communities greatly affected by 
Klamath fish losses.  For more information about the GAO report also
contact Matt Gerien, Press Officer for the Office 
of Rep. Mike Thompson, (202)225-3311. 

Here is the GAO website for the full report: 

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05283.pdf 

 
##### 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------- 

	Klamath Restoration Council 

	Our mission is to restore and protect the uniquely diverse
ecosystem 
	and promote the sustainable management of natural resources in
the entire Klamath River watershed. 
	We believe this will be accomplished with actions and
legislation that integrate sound and proven techniques based on tribal
knowledge, local experience and the best of Western Science. 

	http://www.pelicannetwork.net/krc.htm 

	Mail:  Box 214  Salmon River Outpost       Somes Bar, CA  95568
Phone: 530 627 3054

	Visit our Salmon Gallery:
http://www.pelicannetwork.net/salmongallery.htm

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