KLAMATH RESTORATION BEGINS
-Federal Agencies Initiate Environmental Review of Plan to Restore Rivers, Farms, and Communities
-Agreements Create Jobs, Keep Utility Bills Lower, and Bring New Economic Opportunities
Sacramento, CA – This week the economic and environmental review process of the pending Klamath Restoration Agreements begin with a series of public scoping meetings in the Klamath Basin. For many basin residents this signals the preliminary steps of an ambitious locally driven effort to restore the Klamath Basin’s fish and farm economies.
For the past several decades a crippling cycle of crisis has gripped the Klamath Basin. A series of fish kills, irrigation shut-offs, and bans on commercial salmon fishing has resulting in a rotating crisis for Basin communities that has often led to finger pointing between neighbors.
However, in recent years a large number of affected parties successfully negotiated a pair of Settlement Agreements aimed at resolving many Klamath River conflicts. The Klamath Agreements were signed February 18, 2010 by Governors Schwarzenegger and Kulongoski, Secretary of Interior Salazar, leaders of the Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath Tribes, and a host of local irrigation districts, local governments and conservation organizations.
The Agreements lay out a process for removing Klamath dams and other restoration measures aimed at recovering the Klamath salmon fishery, but they also address the water and power needs of agricultural communities as well. Heralded as the “Fish and Chips Agreement” (potatoes are a popular crop in the Upper Basin), the plan offers tangible benefits for both fishermen and farmers. In addition, the agreements ensure that utility customers’ pay less than they otherwise would to retrofit the aging dams in order to comply with modern environmental standards.
Environmental benefits aside, supporters of the Agreements note that dam removal alone would provide a $1 billion boost to Siskiyou County which has one of the highest levels of unemployment in the state. The Agreements also plan for millions in restoration work and irrigation project upgrades. In addition, water quality improvements will likely increase real estate values in the area as well.
The first step in implementing the Agreements is for Secretary Salazar to determine if the dam removal is in the public interest and will benefit fisheries. This decision constitutes a “federal action” and is therefore subject to the terms of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires a thorough review of the economic and environmental impacts of the proposed action as well as public input.
Since California funds must also be applied to dam removal, the process must also meet the requirements of California law. Thus, the environmental review process must also meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.
Supporters of the Settlement Agreements are confident that a fair and objective consideration of the issues will lead the Secretary conclude what many other basin leaders have already – that the Klamath Agreements are the best hope for ending the Klamath’s rotating crisis.
“We’ve studied the problem to death,” says Leaf Hillman, Natural Resources Director for the Karuk Tribe. “We believe that when viewed through the lens of objective science, only one conclusion can be reached and that’s to implement these agreements. Otherwise none of the communities and economies on the Klamath River can survive.”
The NEPA process is the first step towards implementing the Agreements. Congressional authorizing legislation must be passed and funding from California must be approved.
According to Yurok Chairman Thomas O’Rourke, “Getting to this point was a monumental effort. Now that Tribal, fishing, and agricultural communities have formed a partnership with a common purpose, we encourage people to become knowledgeable about what these agreements do and help us restore the vitality of the Klamath Basin.”
Editor’s note: For summaries and the full text of the Klamath Agreements as well as additional fact sheets on the terms of the agreements, see http://www.klamathrestoration.org
For more on the process see http://www.klamathrestoration.gov.
Public Scoping Sessions:
The Department of Interior and California Department of Fish and Game will hold six public information and scoping meetings according to the dates and locations listed below.
Oral and written comments will be accepted at the public meetings.
Dates, Times, and Locations:
- July 7, 2010, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Copco Community Center, 27803 Copco Road, Montague, CA 96064.
- July 7, 2010, 6 p.m. to 9 pm, Yreka Community Center, 810 N. Oregon Street, Yreka, CA 96097.
- July 8, 2010, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Klamath County Fairgrounds, 3531 S. 6th Street, Klamath Falls, OR 97603.
- July 9, 2010, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Chiloquin Community Center, 140 First Street, Chiloquin, OR 97624.
- July 13, 2010, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Chetco Activities Center, 550 Chetco Way, Brookings, OR 97415.
- July 14, 2010, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Arcata Community Center, 321 Community Park Way, Arcata, CA 95521.
- July 15, 2010, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Karuk Tribe Community Room, 39051 Highway 96, Orleans, CA 95556.
Dr. C. Mark Rockwell, D.C.
V.P. Conservation, Northern Calif. Council,
Federation of Fly Fishers
19737 Wildwood West Dr.
Penn Valley, CA 95946