[env-trinity] SF Chronicle Opinion- Leonard Masten: Klamath water pact usurps tribal rights

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Tue Jun 4 11:23:28 PDT 2013


http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Klamath-water-pact-usurps-tribal-rights-4563630.php?t=bbba780d01cefdcb88 
Klamath water pact usurps tribal rights

Jeff Barnard, Associated Press

The Iron Gate Dam across the Klamath River would be affected by the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement. But delays in a water-sharing agreement are holding up dam removal.
Leonard Masten

May 31, 2013

A congressional hearing called by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., regarding the declared drought on the Klamath River has renewed calls to reconsider the misguided Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. This agreement has fostered confusion regarding the Klamath dam removal plan introduced in 2010 and raised questions about the nearly $1 billion price tag for the restoration work.

Anyone who reads the restoration agreement can see that it is a sweetheart deal for wasteful water users at the expense of taxpayers and California's salmon industry. Already the promise of the legislation has led to reduced flows for salmon, subversion of the federal Clean Water Act and unregulated toxic algae blooms on one of America's premier salmon rivers.

First the facts.

The restoration agreement is a water-sharing and habitat restoration agreement that must be ratified by Congress because it compromises tribal water rights and reduces river flows for salmon.

The Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement is an agreement to remove four licensed dams, a process which ordinarily does not require legislation.

The restoration and hydropower agreements are linked, but separate. It is possible for the river habitat restoration and the dam removal to proceed without being held hostage by the expensive water-sharing legislation, as they have been since 2006.

Furthermore, of the estimated nearly $1 billion cost for the restoration project, not one dollar goes toward dam removal. Power users and California taxpayers would pay for the dam removal. The dams' owner, Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp, has gathered the majority of the $290 million needed for dam removal and said dam removal is the only economic decision. However the company is also using the promise of legislation to operate the dam outside environmental laws at a profit of $27 million a year.

The water-sharing agreement is essentially corporate welfare as it puts the interests of farmers managed by the Bureau of Reclamation above all other interests in the watershed, including other farmers, even though the bureau farmers are growing low-value crops in a desert. The bureau's studies on the dams' environmental impacts show that in most years the restoration agreement will provide less water to the Klamath River than the flows currently required by the Endangered Species Act.

Last, the water-sharing agreement terminates tribal rights, which are senior to other water rights, at a time in history when they have never been more valuable. As the debate over Gov. Jerry Brown's twin-tunnel delta water proposal shows, federal water rights are ever more important for the Western United States.

Tribal rights are important to all who support salmon because, unlike environmental laws, they call for the recovery of species, not just keeping the fish from extinction.

In sum, the restoration agreement causes more problems than it provides solutions.

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement states:

"The United States, acting in its capacity as trustee for the Federally-recognized tribes of the Klamath Basin, hereby provides ... Assurances that it will not assert: (i) tribal water or fishing rights theories in a manner, or (ii) tribal water or trust rights, whatever they may be, in a manner that will interfere with the diversion, use or reuse of water for the Klamath Reclamation Project ... The tribes that signed the restoration agreement agreed to similar language, with some conditions. Those who resisted, such as the Hoopa, had the government make the promise to give up water rights for them.The Hoopa Valley Tribe thanks Sen. Wyden for calling a hearing on Klamath water. We hope to move forward together to find real solutions.

Coming next
Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has called a congressional hearing to "consider testimony on water resource issues in the Klamath River Basin" for 1 p.m. (PDT) on June 20. It will be webcast at www.energy.senate.gov/public.

To learn more, go to klamathrestoration.gov

Leonard Masten is the Hoopa Valley tribal chairman.
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