[env-trinity] LA Times: Scientists find holes in Klamath River dam removal plan

Greg King gking at asis.com
Tue Jun 28 15:44:04 PDT 2011


The findings are not surprising, and echo some of the obvious points  
that several of us raised during dam removal negotiations. One of  
these points is illustrated with unintended irony when Kimmerer says  
that absorbing toxic ag runoff "would require converting an area  
roughly equivalent to 40% of the irrigated farmland in the Upper  
Klamath Lake watershed to wetlands." I think what the author meant  
was returning the irrigated farmland to wetlands, a necessary  
evolution that is made all but impossible by the KBRA. During  
negotiations Oregon Wild, WaterWatch, Hoopa, Friends of the River and  
the NEC consistently underscored the several mechanisms in the KBRA  
that would continue to leave the refuges literally high and dry, and  
toxic. We also argued, to no avail, for effective measures to repair  
and protect the devastated Keno Reach of the Klamath River, which  
indeed is anoxic up to three months of the year, is a cesspool of  
industrial ag runoff, and has been the site of several fish kills.*

That said, this report does not and cannot suffice as an argument for  
leaving dams in place. Indeed, the dams should come down and upper  
basin issues of water diversions and toxicity should be addressed and  
rectified. That is the primary failure of the KBRA, that it does not  
provide for both mechanisms, a fact well illustrated in the report.  
(In fact, the KBRA does not provide for either mechanism, as it does  
not require dam removal.) I am in agreement with Rothert's quote  
(below), but as a significant architect of the KBRA Rothert is partly  
responsible for the massive giveaway to farmers represented by the deal.

*The KBRA provides a token nod to restoration of the Keno Reach,  
including minimal funding and the requirement that "The Parties shall  
support terms in the Hydropower Agreement requiring that PacifiCorp  
provide funds to Reclamation to address water quality impacts  
associated with Keno Dam after transfer to Reclamation." But there  
are no provisions for altering the agricultural practices that have  
devastated Keno in the first place. In fact, these practices are  
reinforced: Section 8.2.2 of the KBRA solidifies business as usual in  
the Keno Reach, while passing along to taxpayers the costs of bad ag  
practices: "The Parties support the following term in the federal  
Authorizing Legislation: 'The Secretary is authorized to take title  
to Keno Dam and any necessary associated real property from  
PacifiCorp in the course of implementing the Klamath Hydroelectric  
Project Settlement Agreement subject to the conditions defined in  
Sections __ of the Hydroelectric Project Settlement Agreement;  
provided, however, the Bureau of Reclamation shall maintain water  
levels for diversion and to maintain canals above Keno Dam consistent  
with historic practices and in compliance with applicable law.  
Klamath Reclamation Project contractors shall not bear any cost  
associated with Keno Dam or any related lands or facilities whether  
cost of operation, maintenance, rehabilitation, betterment,  
liabilities of any kind, or otherwise.” (emphasis in the original)

Greg King
President/Executive Director
Siskiyou Land Conservancy
P.O. Box 4209
Arcata, CA 95518
gking at asis.com
On Jun 28, 2011, at 11:20 AM, Tom Stokely wrote:

> Scientists find holes in Klamath River dam removal plan
> http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me- 
> klamath-20110625,0,938010.story
> $1.4-billion project — dismantling four hydroelectric dams to  
> restore Chinook salmon runs in the upper Klamath River — amounts to  
> an experiment with no guarantee of success, independent report says.
> June 25, 2011
> A $1.4-billion project to remove four hydroelectric dams and  
> restore habitat to return Chinook salmon to the upper reaches of  
> the Klamath River amounts to an experiment with no guarantee of  
> success, an independent science review has concluded.
> A panel of experts evaluating the proposal expressed "strong  
> reservations" that the effort could overcome the many environmental  
> pressures that have driven the dramatic decline of what was one of  
> the richest salmon rivers in the nation.
> Even after the decommission of dams that have for decades blocked  
> migrating salmon, the panel said, biologists would probably have to  
> truck the fish around a stretch of the river plagued by low oxygen  
> levels.
> "I think there's no way in hell they're going to solve" the basin's  
> water-quality problems, said Wim Kimmerer, an environmental  
> research professor at San Francisco State, one of six experts who  
> reviewed the plan. "It doesn't seem to me like they've thought  
> about the big picture very much."
> Over the last century, the Klamath's waters have been diverted for  
> irrigation, polluted by runoff and dammed for hydropower. The  
> number of fall-run Chinook that swim up the river and its  
> tributaries to spawn has in some years amounted to fewer than  
> 20,000, compared to historic populations of half a million.
> The plummeting levels of native fish have pitted farmers against  
> environmentalists and tribes whose traditional cultures and diets  
> revolved around salmon fishing.
> Many of the warring parties last year signed two agreements  
> intended to bring peace to the river, which winds from southern  
> Oregon through the Cascade and Coast ranges to California's Pacific  
> Coast.
> One of the pacts calls for the removal, starting in 2020, of four  
> hydropower dams operated by PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of billionaire  
> Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway empire. The other includes  
> fishery restoration programs as well as promises of a certain level  
> of water deliveries to Klamath basin farmers and two wildlife  
> refuges that are important stopovers for migrating birds.
> The dam removal must still be approved by Congress and the U.S.  
> secretary of the Interior, who will rely on reviews by the  
> independent panel, federal agencies and others to determine if the  
> decommissioning is in the public interest.
> The scientists' June 13 report describes the proposals as a "major  
> step forward" that could boost the salmon population by about 10%  
> in parts of the upper basin. But to achieve that, the panel  
> cautions, the project must tackle vexing problems, including poor  
> water quality and fish disease.
> The report concluded that the agreement doesn't adequately address  
> those issues. Under the proposal, vegetation in restored wetlands  
> and stream banks would be expected to absorb the phosphorus from  
> natural and agricultural sources that promotes harmful algal  
> blooms. But such a method, Kimmerer said, would require converting  
> an area roughly equivalent to 40% of the irrigated farmland in the  
> Upper Klamath Lake watershed to wetlands.
> "This does not seem like a feasible level of effort," the report  
> notes.
> Dennis Lynch, who is overseeing a team of federal scientists  
> gathering information on the effects of dam removal, said his group  
> agrees that major water-quality problems will take decades to fix.  
> But the federal scientists are more optimistic that they can be  
> resolved.
> "I think they were pretty conservative in their analysis," Lynch  
> said of the panel's report. There are other options for controlling  
> nutrients, he added, such as using chemicals to bind phosphorus to  
> lake bed sediments or mechanically scooping up algae. And new  
> federal and state pollution standards are expected to reduce runoff  
> contamination in coming decades.
> "All of us involved in this would agree more needs to be done,"  
> said Steve Rothert of American Rivers, one of the groups that  
> signed the pact. But "by removing the dams, we're removing the  
> biggest obstacle to upstream migration and productivity."
> The agreements have strong critics, including the Hoopa Valley  
> tribe, which refused to sign. "The agricultural practices that led  
> to salmon being threatened in the system are the agricultural  
> practices that will be continued," argued Thomas Schlosser, a  
> Seattle attorney who represents the tribe. He cited provisions that  
> call for the continued leasing of wildlife refuge lands for farming  
> and substantial water diversions for irrigation.
> The agreements require nearly $1 billion in federal funding for  
> water management, habitat restoration and monitoring efforts.  
> PacifiCorp customers in Oregon and California are expected to pay  
> $200 million more to dismantle the dams, and if necessary the state  
> of California would provide as much as $250 million in bond money.
> "If federal taxpayers are going to be asked to spend this kind of  
> money, it better be for a program that works," said Steve Pedery of  
> Oregon Wild, which favors taking a significant amount of cropland  
> out of production to reduce water demand.
> Schlosser said he doubts Congress will approve the legislation,  
> which proponents expect to be introduced this summer. But he  
> predicted that the utility will eventually remove the dams anyway  
> because demolition is cheaper than building the fish passages  
> required to renew federal licenses.
> bettina.boxall at latimes.com
> Tom Stokely
> Water Policy Analyst/Media Contact
> California Water Impact Network
> V/FAX 530-926-9727
> Cell 530-524-0315
> tstokely at att.net
> http://www.c-win.org
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Greg King
President/Executive Director
Siskiyou Land Conservancy
P.O. Box 4209
Arcata, CA 95518
gking at asis.com

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