[env-trinity] News Release: NEC Rejects Klamath Agreement

Greg King greg at yournec.org
Sun Mar 2 22:08:28 PST 2008

EMBARGOED Until 8 a.m. Monday, March 3, 2008

Apologies for cross-postings.

Attachment same as below.

Greg King
Executive Director
Northcoast Environmental Center
1465 G Street
Arcata, CA 95521
(707) 822-6918
greg at yournec.org


News Release

NEC Rejects Klamath Agreement

Top scientists say Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement

  is flawed, and could prevent fish recovery,

without guaranteed downstream flows

Contact: Greg King, Executive Director

Northcoast Environmental Center


Science Contacts:

Dr. Bill Trush: 707-826-7794 x. 12    Dr. Thomas Hardy: 435-797-2824

Greg Kamman: 415-491-9600

March 3, 2008


Arcata, CA — The Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) will not  
support the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement as it is currently  
written, the NEC’s Board of Directors decided in late February. The  
NEC, which has worked for 37 years to protect the Klamath River and  
its fishery, is concerned that the Agreement does not contain a  
guarantee of water for fish nor even a goal for fish recovery. Yet  
the Agreement would give farmers in the upper Klamath basin an  
unprecedented guaranteed allotment of water for irrigation.

The decision not to support the Restoration Agreement (also known as  
the Settlement Agreement) is based on scientific analyses provided by  
three of the West’s most respected river flow analysts, who concur  
that as a “plan for a plan” — even with the removal of four  
dams — the Agreement could result in Klamath River flows so sparse  
at crucial times that endangered salmon may not be able to recover  
from what are now critically low numbers.

“We want nothing more than to support a workable agreement that  
would result in decommissioning of four mainstem Klamath dams and  
provide fish with the water they need to avoid extinction,” Greg  
King, Executive Director of the Northcoast Environmental Center, said  
Monday. “The independent scientists we have commissioned and  
consulted, who are among the most respected river analysts in the  
west, tell us this deal won’t do that. This Agreement would lock us  
in to supporting water allocations for agriculture, as well as state  
and federal legislation, that could result in stream flows so low as  
to cause extinction. We can’t do that.”

The NEC is one of 26 parties to the Klamath Basin Agreement. Last  
year the organization contracted with hydrologist Greg Kamman, of  
Kamman Hydrology in San Rafael, and fisheries biologist Dr. Bill  
Trush, of McBain and Trush in Arcata, to analyze the scientific  
modeling and conclusions contained in the Restoration Agreement. In  
their reports (available at http://yournec.org) both scientists  
concluded that the Agreement could lock into place water allocations  
that would harm salmon.

Last week Trush completed an alternative plan for evaluating the  
needs of Klamath River fish prior to approval of the Restoration  
Agreement. That plan (attached) would have to be well under way, or  
completed, before the NEC will support the Basin Agreement.

In his alternative plan, Trush wrote, “The Klamath Basin Restoration  
Agreement relegates salmon and the Klamath River ecosystem to the  
status of junior water users, while Upper Basin irrigators become the  
senior water users. This premise squarely places onto the salmon and  
the river ecosystem any risk inherent in the conclusion that flows  
contained in the Agreement will actually provide enough water for  
recovery of the species. Nowhere is this clearer than in the future  
allocation of water. … Quantitative goals for fish and the river  
ecosystem, conspicuously missing from the Settlement Agreement, are  
necessary to establish how much improvement (benefit) is required for  
restoration. … The NEC shouldn’t support the Settlement Agreement  
until these specific concerns are addressed quantitatively.”

In addition to Trush and Kamman, another river scientist, Dr. Thomas  
Hardy, has expressed trepidations about the Basin Agreement. Hardy is  
the Associate Director of the Utah Water Research Laboratory at Utah  
State University. Many consider his studies of Klamath River  
hydrology to be the “best available science” for evaluating the  
river’s fishery. Last year the National Research Council utilized  
much of Hardy’s work in its definitive text, Hydrology, Ecology, and  
Fishes of the Klamath River Basin. In February 2008 Hardy told the  
NEC Board of Directors that in the Restoration Agreement,  
“Agriculture gets all the guarantees, and everything related to the  
environment is left to somewhat vague processes and committees.”

Hardy said that in dry years agriculture in the upper basin will be  
“taking too much water from the system,” with flow models  
demonstrating that the river will probably go well below 1,000 cubic  
feet per second (cfs) in late summer and early fall. “I’m just  
scared to death any time the flows get below 1,000 cfs,” said Hardy.  
Such low flows, he said, “double the risk to the system.” Flows  
that resulted in the 2002 fish kill, which killed nearly 70,000 adult  
Chinook salmon, were between 600 and 700 cfs.

Hardy said that an acceptable Agreement would “guarantee flows for  
fish first, then other water uses.”

In his hydrological report, Kamman said, “I am concerned that the  
successful implementation of the Settlement Agreement hinges on a  
conceptual plan which has no guarantees of being achieved within a  
specified amount of time – time does not appear to be on the side of  
Klamath River salmonids.”

Under the Agreement, water in the mainstem will be reduced from  
September to February, “and this reduction in flow may prove  
detrimental to Klamath River salmonids,” said Kamman. “These flow  
conditions further emphasize the imbalance in flow and likely, in  
turn, salmonid habitat quality between the winter and spring periods  
(a time of salmonid immigration and spawning).”

Kamman also reports that the flows recommended in the Basin Agreement  
will draw too much water from Upper Klamath Lake, part of the Klamath  
Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, one of the most important  
habitats in North America for migrating waterfowl. Kamman said water  
use projected in the Basin Agreement could result in “lower total  
annual lake storage than was experienced historically.”

The NEC is also concerned that Settlement parties are being asked to  
support the Basin Agreement without seeing a dam removal agreement  
from PacifiCorp, owner of the four mainstem Klamath River dams whose  
relicensing process was the catalyst that brought the 26 Settlement  
parties together nearly three years ago. The PacifiCorp deal has been  
marred from the start by the company’s intransigence and occasional  
fits of economic hubris.

“Tearing down these dams would be the best thing to happen to an  
American river since dams started going up in the first place,” said  
the NEC’s Greg King. “You’d think that in facing the best  
opportunity in history to save precious salmon from extinction the  
folks at PacifiCorp would declare a ‘no-brainer’ and just go ahead  
and do it.” PacifiCorp ratepayers, said King, would also save $114  
million if the company tore down the dams, as opposed to building the  
more expensive fish ladders required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife  

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