Let's hope that the Yurok Tribe utilizes this decision to help the fish. I am a little concerned because, while I know tribal leaders care about the River, the Tribe is so dependent on the US Bureau of Reclamation for funding that they may let Reclamation short change the River as they did previously with the KBRA. But I hope the Yurok Tribe has learned the KBRA lesson: the people will not allow the health of the River to be compromised.
There is a problem with the Karuk Tribe's press release: it states that "According to fisheries biologists, the solution to the (fish disease) problem is removal of the dams and retirement of the hatchery – a process slated to begin in 2020 according to the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement."
Except that the KHSA does not and never has included "retirement of the hatchery". Instead it states that the hatchery will be transferred to Cal Fish & Wildlife, that PacifiCorp will pay for 8 years of operation after power generation from the dams ends, and that after 8 years parties will confer about how to pay for hatchery operations thereafter.
So the KT's press release appears to be disingenuous; a classic Tucker move!
Please do your journalistic duty by questioning the KT's statement and reporting their reply to your readers.
A correction on groundwater. California does have the ability and the mandate to regulate groundwater that is interconnected with surface water. Known as "underground streams" pumping interconnected groundwater without a water right and a permit has been illegal for decades. However, the state has taken few steps (and no steps in most of California) to regulate groundwater which is interconnected with surface flow. One problem is that the studies needed to properly define the extent of "interconnected" groundwater have not been done in most watersheds. Another is that we now know scientifically that all groundwater is interconnected with surface flows; it is just a matter of how close the connection is in space and time. California water law has not kept up with science in this regard.
If you think your neighbour is pumping interconnected groundwater you can file an anonymous compliant with Cal EPA (State Water Resources Board) on line at this link: https://oag.ca.gov/environment/contact . If a group of citizens all file complaints, and your community organizations do too, you will get attention from the State Water Board Public Trust and Water Rights. I suggest labelling your complaints as "Water Rights" and "Public Trust" complaint. That will get it to the right office. If you are a holder of a surface water right and you believe pumping of groundwater is negatively impacting your surface water right, make that allegation in your compliant.
Where citizens have filed Public Trust and Water Rights petitions en mass, the State Water Board has taken action, including along the Russian River and Mark West Creek in Mendocino County.
If you want more information on groundwater and Public Trust Complaints contact me and the North Coast Stream Flow Coalition (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Scientists estimate that the Klamath River needs 41,000 natural spawning Fall Chinook Salmon in order to produce the maximum amount of Klamath Salmon in subsequent years. Last year, due to vastly overoptimistic forecasts of abundance, only 28,000 Klamath Chinook spawned naturally in the Klamath and tributaries even though in river tribal and sport fishermen did not reach their salmon take quotas. This year the prediction is that only 14,550 Chinook will spawn naturally in the Klamath. As a result salmon fishing quotas will be way down for years to come.
Why are the predictions of Klamath Chinook abundance so far off base?
El Nino is part of the cause. But the #1 reason is that fisheries mangers have ignored the Klamath's salmon disease epidemic that kills most juvenile Klamath River salmon before they can reach the ocean. Scientists tell us that the disease epidemic can be ameliorated by higher spring flows. But leaders of tribes, fishing organizations and even environmental groups refuse to challenge the Biological Opinion that is responsible for the inadequate Klamath River flows because they have signed on to federal water deals that prioritize irrigation over the health of the River. "Relationships" and "bonding" have become more important to these folks than the salmon and the people they represent.
Maybe that means we need new leaders.
Former State Senatore Atkinson's film was actually a not-to-subtle political propaganda film which does not deserve to be considered a "documentary". An ednd to the Klamath Dam and Water Deals would be a good thing. All three Agereements are problematic for a variety of reasons which interested readers can learn about at KlamBlog (www.KlamBlog.blogspot.com).
The bottom line is that restoration of the Klamath River and recovery of Klamath Salmon can not occur under these deals because, as the Yurok Tribe recently acknowledged, they will not provide the Klamath River flows needed to ameliorate the salmon disease epidemic which is killing miost juvenile salmon before they can reach the ocean.
And end to these deals will result in a dam removal settlement within the normal FERC process and to a better deal with ag interests which provides "certainty" not just for irrigators but also for Klamath River flows adequate for restoration.
While it has many flaws, the most basic problem with the KBRA is that it provides "certainty" to one group of irrigators - the federal Irrigation Elite - while creating greater uncertainty for non-federal irrigators, including those in the Shasta and Scott, and for Klamath River Salmon. While water for federal irrigators is guaranteed, the water salmon need to survive and thrive depends on irrigators above Upper Klamath Lake being willing to sell 30,000 acre feet of water and Congress appropriating the money for the purchases. Furthermore, the federal Irrigation Elite gets the first 10,000 acre feet of "demand reduction" by purchase and retirement of water rights. That makes it unlikely salmon will ever get the water they need. A "balanced" agreement would provide the spring flows salmon need right now to survive the salmon disease epidemic. A balanced agreement would share the "uncertainty" of an over-allocated water supply among all water users and not put all the uncertainty onto the salmon. A balanced agreement is possible but not until a stake is driven into the heart of the KBRA. There are good deals and there are bad deals; as the current salmon disease epidemic indicates, the KBRA is a bad deal because it does not provide the flows the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon need.
The Yurok Tribal Government's "withdrawal" appears to be little more than a negotiating ploy; leaders will travel to Oregon next week to resume negotiations in an attempt to "regain" the "bargained for benefits" those leaders thought they had secured when they signed the KBRA. It is unknown whether the leaders are simply looking for funding guarantees or if they will insist on the springtime flushing flows which scientists tell us are needed to ameliorate the fish disease epidemic that results in only 8% of the salmon fry migrating down the Klamath River making it to the ocean.
Whatever the fate of ongoing negotiations, one lesson is clear from what has transpired since the KBRA was signed: Real power to secure real and durable benefits for the River and Klamath Salmon depends on the water rights a tribe has asserted. The failure of the Yurok Tribe to assert its inherent reserved right to Klamath River flows was and remains a colossal mistake. Until Yurok Tribal leaders recognizes that mistake and take clear action to secure those inherent water rights, the Tribe will remain in a weak position to negotiate for the River, Klamath Salmon and the related interests of its members.
Securing the Yurok Tribe's reserved right to Klamath River restoration flows may take a generation. But that is a short time in the life of a River. Let's hope Yurok leaders take the long view.
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In Print This Week:
Feb 16, 2017
vol XXVIII issue 7
Under the Color of Authority
The North Coast Journal
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