[env-trinity] SF Chronicle Op-Ed Leonard Masten: Remove Klamath dams for salmon, tribes

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Tue Feb 12 10:09:40 PST 2013

Remove Klamath dams for salmon, tribes - SFGate 2/12/13 10:06 AM

Remove Klamath dams for salmon, tribes
Leonard Masten
Published 8:14 pm, Monday, February 11, 2013
Dam removal is needed to save the salmon on the Klamath River and restore California's salmon fishing industry; however, the newly
renewed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, referenced by The Chronicle in its Feb. 5 editorial, is a water-sharing agreement, not a
dam-removal agreement. The agreement, a companion pact to a deal to remove four Klamath River dams, favors farmers over salmon for
water and provides subsidies for dam owners and water users without funding or mandating dam removal. It is unnecessary, and is
stalling dam removal.
This agreement is needed to terminate protection of tribal water rights and release dam owners from their toxic legacy to clear the path
for congressional funding. Dam removal only requires a simple agreement involving dam owners surrendering dams through public
processes. This dangerous proposed congressional legislation lowers flows for salmon in most years, and sometimes allows flows to fall
as low as they were in the 2002 Klamath River fish kill.
The Chronicle states that the proposed Klamath legislation would cost almost $1 billion. Of this, not one dollar goes toward dam removal;
most of the money goes to federal subsidies for farmers and corporations already using public lands and water.
Dam removal will cost only $290 million. Most of this money is already being collected from ratepayers of PacifiCorp, the energy
company that owns four Klamath River dams. Flaws in the agreement explain the refusal of the 112th Congress to ratify the Klamath
Basin Restoration Agreement.
Furthermore, the agreement does not settle the Klamath's water issues. Instead, it actually encourages fighting and litigation as it
promises a lion's share of the water to farmers on the public Klamath Project while leaving less water for off-project farmers, the river
and Upper Klamath Lake. The agreement's failure to provide the water fish need is at the heart of the Hoopa Tribe's opposition to
the deal.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's studies on the unfinished dam environmental impact statement, which is posted on the
klamathrestoration.gov website, show that in most water years the agreement will provide less water to the river. In fact, the agreement
promises even less than the current Endangered Species Act-required flows.
Tribal water rights do provide water for fish, yet the agreement sacrifices these rights. Under existing law, the federal government
ensures that irrigation does not interfere with tribes' senior water rights. Yet the agreement asserts tribal water rights will not interfere
with the Klamath Project, even though tribal water rights have been the linchpin to keeping salmon alive in the Klamath. Any attempt by
a tribe to assert its rights against the river's dewatering would be trumped by the agreement.
There is no magic fix to the Klamath Basin's water problems. Dam removal and restoration are needed, and do not require federal
legislation. The dam owner, PacifiCorp, should surrender the dams, as it did with the Condit dam in Washington because it was less
costly than retrofitting the dam for fish passage, a requirement of relicensing.
The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the proposed legislation only drag out the Klamath crisis by ignoring the needs of fish
and the communities that depend on them.
Leonard Masten is the chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

Remove Klamath dams for salmon, tribes - SFGate 2/12/13 10:06 AM

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