[env-trinity] Capital Press- Time runs out for federal dollars on Klamath

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Tue Jun 28 15:33:34 PDT 2005



Time runs out for federal dollars on Klamath

Capital Press - Agricultural Weekly (Oregon) - 6/24/05

By Tam Moore, staff writer


YREKA, Calif. - A 20-year program to restore Klamath River fisheries is running out of time, and more specifically, money. But when the Klamath River Fisheries Task Force met here last week, it got no guidance on the future from either state or federal governments.

"I don't think anybody out there knows where we are going," said John Engbring, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service executive from Sacramento who is chairman of the task force, a federal advisory committee.

Along with the 20-year-old authorization aimed at managing anadromous fisheries on the main-stem Klamath, the law assigned $1 million a year through 2006. That created a comprehensive restoration plan, and supplements state and federal data collection on the Klamath and its tributaries. 

Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association pointed out that there's no sunset for the task force or the companion Klamath Fish Management Council - just no money after next year.

The larger issue is who's coordinating Klamath issues that jumped into the national spotlight in 2001 when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reneged on its contract with Klamath Project irrigation districts. Water, short because of drought, was reserved as habitat for three fish species under Endangered Species Act protection. Farmers seized part of the ground holding the BuRec's main diversion point, gaining national publicity.

In addition to the task force, there are federal advisory committees for the Trinity River, the Klamath's largest tributary, and the upper basin which lies mostly in Oregon. There's an interstate compact between California, Oregon and the federal government, and a cabinet-level federal Klamath committee that hasn't met in months. On top of that, after the much-celebrated governor's announcement of a new state-federal Klamath group in 2004, it's never held a public meeting within the 10-million-acre watershed.

Irma Lagomarsino, the NOAA Fisheries Klamath coordinator, told the task force solutions lie with the stakeholders, perhaps using BuRec's still-in-draft Conservation Implementation Plan as the vehicle.

"If we don't form some coalition of farmers and environmentalists, and (American Indian) tribes, we aren't going to get anywhere," said Alice Kilham, a Klamath County businesswoman and chairman of the compact commission.

She said the commission can't meet. The Oregon representative from Department of Water Resources can't travel because state budgets aren't settled. California government, she said, seems confused by the 2004 governor's agreement added atop the federal task forces and the compact.

Engbring said if it takes political action to resolve funding, stakeholders must count out himself and other federal officials. By law they can't politick.

Keith Wilkinson of Myrtle Point, Ore., a long-time task force member representing Oregon's commercial fishermen, said he gets no interest in a legislative renewal.

"My congressman, he just kind of hopes it will go away," said Wilkinson.

While the future is murky both the task force staff at USFWS and the congressional Government Accountability Office are looking at what's been accomplished in the past 20 years. GAO exit interviews were last week and the report is expected to become public by late summer. The USFWS achievement report comes out in the fall. #



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