|03-15-2006 02:03 AM|
[QUOTE=GrantK]No offense, but again you're trying to simplify something that is not simple. And, the anti-government sentiment, while all too common in a variety of contexts today, is not really as accurate in finding a single monolithic entity at fault as some might hope or believe. Like it or not, the government in this country, local, state, and federal, is government by the people and of the people--even if not always for the people. So in a sense if blaming the government is ultimately like blaming ourselves for allowing what has happened to happen, then I'd agree. But somehow I don't think that's how you meant it.
As one of those "feds", its frustrating to see individuals spout off w/ generalized accusations against or at feds, or any other simply defined group (insert DNR, ODFW, et al.)... As Grant stated - The feds is all of us! Regardless of where you cut your paycheck... the other thing, and i think more important, is the frame work inwhich Grant describes the klamath Basin and its fisheries... The complexities are endless... And I guarantee you could super impose that frame work on ANY system in the OP or Puget Sound River, as well as the Columbia Basin systems, et al... The complexity of the problems and the symptoms are enormous. One will not effectly respond to the challenge w/ simple understandings, nor one liner paragraphs blaming this, that or the other......
next time you see the "feds" as the problem, take a look in the mirror. Whether you want to believe it or not, the "Feds" is you....
|03-11-2006 04:40 PM|
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that conservation is not a partisan issue. It is something that we should all be concerned about.
I also agree that we the people have all too often just sat by on the sidelines while special commercial interests have gotten from the government what they want to enhance their bottom lines or economic interests, often to the detriment of the resources, which belong to all the people.
It is high time we the people pay attention to what is happening or being proposed by whatever political party or special interest and get involved instead of just standing by wringing our hands.
|03-10-2006 07:49 AM|
Wow Grant you know WAY too much about this issue!
Thanks for the details, it makes for interesting reading.
|03-09-2006 11:32 PM|
The story of the Klamath River system and it's fisheries is much more about the triumph of special interests--a variety of interests in reality, including agriculture, commercial, tribal, and recreational fishing, logging, and hydroelectric power--at the expense of public resources than it is about the inherent failings of the federal bureaucracy. The real irony there is that the only way the Klamath, not unlike a lot of other rivers and fisheries in the country, will ever be even partially repaired is through government action. That's right, the people, by and through the government, must get themselves involved in these issues in order to assure that the public interest is protected. It is literally the only way. So not only is government not primarily to blame, it is the only real hope.
I guess I don't know which dam it is you're referring to when you say "the" dam that is the primary culprit, but to be sure the system of dams and diversions that affect the Klamath are responsible for everything from loss of habitat to unpredictable flow regimes that adversely impact fish and fisheries. Most of those dams are completely unassociated with irrigation. Unfortunately, there are more dams and diversions that impact the Klamath system and its fish and fisheries directly than I could possibly list. Here are the major dams that regulate lake level, river flow, and generate power along with the date of their completion and their location: Link River Dam (1921) at river mile 254; Keno Dam (1931) river mile 233; J.C. Boyle Dam (1956) river mile 225; Copco 1 (1917) river mile 198.6; Copco 2 (1925) river mile 196.8; Iron Gate Dam (1962) river mile 190. The first of the dams, Copco Number 1, eliminated access for anadromous fish to not only the upper stretches of the Klamath River itself, but to the Klamath Basin as well. It is, of course, over 60 miles downstream from the Klamath Reclamation Project and has no role in its operation.
Interestingly enough, the Klamath Reclamation Project--which I assume are the irrigators you refer to--predates the creation of any of the major dams in the Klamath system (the project was built in 1906) and is really not directly reliant upon any of them for completing its diversions. That is, even without the Link River Dam which is used to regulate lake levels on Upper Klamath Lake, the Klamath Reclamation Project would be able to divert much of the roughly half million acres of water it uses annually for irrigation. In fact, diversions from Upper Klamath Lake for irrigation began as early as 1882, and the first large-scale canal, (Ankeny-Henley Canal) was online in 1888–nearly 20 years before the Klamath Project and over 30 years before the lake was dammed. And, Link River Dam was originally built by private interests for power generation--not by the government for irrigation. Below is a history of the Klamath Project from the Department of the Interior. Keep in mind that the Bureau of Reclamation is part of Interior, so they're not disinterested parties in all this.
Of course conspicuously absent from the list of dams above are the dams and canals on the Trinity River--largest tributary of the Klamath River--which divert water from the Klamath system to the Sacramento River Basin for operation of the Central Valley Project (another irrigation system). The loss of that water impacts not only the health of the fisheries on the Klamath but on the Trinity as well, and in recent years has been cause for upstream irrigators in the Klamath Project to lay some blame for the fish kills and water quality issues in the Lower Klamath on Central Project irrigators. It's said that politics makes for strange bedfellows, but sometimes it causes some odd divorces as well. This Interior Department link has a history of the Trinity diversions--again please keep in mind the evident bias of the source.
So while the dams and irrigation projects have both contributed significantly to the problems currently faced for both the native sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake and other parts of the Basin as well as the andadromous fish populations that remain below Iron Gate Dam, it's a mistake to link both issues together and name the government as chief culprit. That's simply not realistic and ignores the realities of the history of the region. Frankly, in all of this the government didn't provide anything that wasn't sought by specific private interests.
I don't mean to be argumentative here, but I do want people to resist the temptation to sum this whole issue up in a nice little paragraph. It's not that simple. There are a lot of very powerful special interests in conflict here, and if the public would like to have its best interests kept in mind, there needs to be some genuine efforts to understand what has happened, and is happening, and why. Blaming the government might be simple, and might support the political philosophies of some, but it's only going to get us more recreational fishing season closures followed ultimately by extinction of what were once magnificent runs of anadromous fish.
When I reflect upon how a government of the people, by the people, and for the people should operate in the context of the Klamath system, I think of the establishment of the Lower Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge in 1908, during the administration of Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, as the first waterfowl refuge in the United States . I remember waterfowl numbering in the millions that I saw there as a boy, and am deeply grateful for the foresighted individuals that made such a place possible. You see, government and conservation can go hand-and-hand; it's just that we don't demand it nearly enough. Successful conservation should not be about partisan loyalty, ideological division, or the access of special interests to avenues of power; it should be a common principle that recognizes that far more than can be calculated in the coin of the realm is lost when large portions of the natural world are caused to be gone forever in the name of commercial immediacy. It’s a damn shame more people don’t understand that.
|03-09-2006 09:44 PM|
|Bob Pauli||During this period, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that then govenor gray davis forbade the California Dept. of Fish and Game from enforcing the laws against illegal taking of river water by the agricultural interests.|
|03-09-2006 07:45 PM|
Thanks for the good summary of what is going on.
In my opinion, the biggest culprit is the irrigation system the feds built along with the dam. Actually, I view both the dam and the irrigation system as one and the same because without the dam, the irrigation system probable would not have been built. And without the dam, the native marsh lands would have remained to support the suckers, the river would have flowed freely, and there would never have been a fight over the water in the dam or in the river. But hey, the feds always have an answer to the problems they create, even if everyone but the feds lose.
|03-09-2006 06:49 PM|
Grant Excellent post thank you for taking the time to share that wealth of information with the rest of us it is greatly appreciated.
|03-09-2006 11:32 AM|
I appreciate your detailed summary. As you might have known I suspected that irrigation interests had a hand in this.
Since the dollars and cents don't make any sense, and the drought conditions were so obvious there must've been a bit of the ol' boy network influences driving such poor decisions which often cascade into devastated runs a few years down the line.
"All things are connected"
|03-09-2006 10:31 AM|
First, the two ESA listed sucker species in the Klamath Basin--the Lost River sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris) are in fact both native species. Suggesting otherwise is, well, wrong. There are many non-native species in Upper Klamath Lake, i.e., fathead minnows, yellow perch, etc., but the listed sucker species are not among them. And, while the causes of their demise are debated, there is not much doubt among scientists that it's largely related to water quality issues in Upper Klamath Lake. These conditions can also adversely impact the native trout populations for which the area is famous. The link to the USGS below gives a good overview of the fish in question.
Not only are both fish indigenous to the Klamath Basin, they were once so prolific that they were the historic source of subsistence fishing for the local natives and they provided both commercial and recreational fishing opportunities in the relatively recent past. In fact, the "sucker run" on Oregon's Williamson river was literally one of the state's most popular recreational fishery at one time. The fishery was so popular that the ODFW office in Klamath Falls maintained a mailing list of "mullet" fishers from Los Angeles to Seattle and sent a postcard informing them of the beginning of the run each year. The recreational harvest in 1966 alone was estimated at approximately 12,500 fish. To put that into perspective, that would easily rival the steelhead harvest on any of Oregon's largest rivers. The links below provide good background information as well.
What caused the water quality problems blamed for the demise of the suckers? Well, that too is a point of contention, but there is little denying that the combination of the elimination of riparian and wetland areas, which cleaned the system, as well as the introduction of untreated agricultural effluent--in the form of waste from cattle operations, for example, which is said by some to rival the sewage output of a town of approximately 500,000 people--have been at the very least part of the problem. The governing biological opinion issued in 2001 that now, at least theoretically, impacts water levels in the lake focused upon raising water levels as a means to improve water quality in the lake itself.
Second, completely independent of the ESA issue, the Klamath Tribe–headquartered in Chiloquin, Oregon--has treaty rights that create certain legal obligations. In the simplest terms possible, the tribe has an 1864 treaty with the United States that creates certain trust responsibilities on the part of the federal government. Here the most important of those trust obligations is the preservation and maintenance of traditional subsistence fisheries. As a result, regardless of what may or may not happen to the ESA, the tribe has legal grounds to compel protection efforts for the suckers. Right now, the governing biological opinion indicates that the best way to guarantee the survival of those species, along with the hope of returning them to levels which would allow limited harvest, is through maintaining higher lake levels during the summer months. Because the treaty predates most other water claims, and because the reclamation project itself is operated by the federal government which has the trust obligations to begin with, the Tribe is a major player in this issue. The link below gives an overview of the legal context.
Third, the Klamath Basin is not a “desert plateau”. In fact, the Klamath Basin is home to the largest remaining natural freshwater marsh and wetlands west of the Mississippi (even at an estimated only 20 percent of their former size); it’s home to the largest natural lake in Oregon (over 30 miles long and nearly 8 miles wide); it’s the drainage for the eastern slope of a large portion of the Cascades, including Crater Lake National Park; and it is the headwaters of one of the largest rivers on the West Coast. And despite claims to the contrary, agricultural operations in the Klamath Basin predate the creation of the Klamath Reclamation Project by quite some time. To be sure, there are too many competing claims for what has become an ever decreasing supply of water during summer and fall, but suggesting that the area itself is “desert” is not correct.
Personally, I suggest learning more about the area and its very complex problems. Visiting it would be a big surprise for most. But be sure to bring a fly rod, because it’s home to some of the largest trout found anywhere on the continent. They’re measured in pounds, not inches, in the Klamath Basin, and a double digit fish generally won’t raise too many eyebrows until they weigh in the upper teens.
Of course, none of this addresses the downstream issues associated with the coho–which are listed as threatened under the ESA–or the fall chinook die-off in 2002 which has prompted much of the concern for returning adults this year. It should be noted, however, that 2002 was not the year of the water shut-off for irrigatiors in the upper basin. The shut-off occurred in 2001, and in 2002, the year of the die-off, virtually full irrigation water deliveries were made despite continuing drought conditions. Both lake levels and river flows were affected accordingly. There was an article written by Bob Hunter, staff attorney for Oregon Water Watch, which appeared in Fly Fisherman Magazine a couple years ago which attempted to explain the downstream issues as they relate to the upstream issues. One particularly interesting point he made was that the downstream commercial and recreational fisheries had an estimated economic value of roughly 800 million per year, while upstream agriculture had an estimated economic value of roughly 100 million per year. Interesting stuff if true.
And then there are the dams. But my head already hurts enough for one day.
|03-09-2006 12:58 AM|
We know those poor suckerfish (which are not native to the basin) in Klamath dam just had to be protected because the Native American Tribe located therein insisted on it, and that the farmers (who eventurally had their irrigation water turned off) needed the water to grow their crops on that desert plateau they a located on. We must also keep in mind that it was the feds who built this dam and the irrigation canals, which they then used to get folks to farm this high desert.
Personally, I wish the feds would have let the river have the water, the heck with the non-native sucker the small tribe of Indians and some other wanted protected and the heck with the farmers who are raising crops in an area that would still be high desert if is wasn't for the irrigation the feds built for them.
The fish lost, the farmers lost, and the tribe lost. Ah but the beauty of the federal beaurocaracy is that the feds lost nothing. Don't you love government make work programs like the Klamath dam or the lower Snake dams?
|03-08-2006 12:41 PM|
|juro||They did not list the cause of the flow depletion in the Klamath, which would seem to be among the root causes of the problem...|
|03-08-2006 12:34 PM|
|teflon_jones||That's probably good news for the future. If the stocks are already low, no reason to make them even lower!|
|03-08-2006 11:30 AM|
Feds Move to Close Ocean Salmon Season
Because of the behold threshhold numbers of returning Klamath River fall chinook, the ocean salmon seasons for both recreational and commerical ocean salmon fishing will likely be closed this season. The closed area runs from Point Sur in the south to Cape Manzanita in the north.