Originally Posted by flytyer
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.
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.
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.