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Friday, 09 July 2010 18:37

Your chance to weigh in on solutions for the Klamath Basin

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Your chance to weigh in on solutions for the Klamath Basin
Published: Wednesday, July 07, 2010, 8:00 AM 
Guest Columnist 

By Dennis Lynch and Mark Stopher 

The Klamath Basin is one of America's treasured landscapes. It's a place of beauty, and it offers its abundance to farmers, fishermen, ranchers, Indian tribes, landowners, recreation interests and the public in general. 

But there's also ample evidence that much of this historical abundance has reached its limit. In just the last decade, various Klamath Basin communities have encountered hardships because of natural resource crises. 

In 2001, water deliveries to farmers and ranchers served by the Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Project were substantially reduced in order to provide flows in the Klamath River and lake levels in Upper Klamath Lake for protected fish species. 

In 2002, tens of thousands of returning adult salmon and other fish species suffered a major die-off before they reached their spawning grounds during a very dry, warm September. 

In 2006, the commercial salmon fishing season was closed along 700 miles of the West Coast to protect weak Klamath River stocks. This total closure was partly driven by the loss of so many spawners in 2002. Extremely weak or partially closed commercial salmon seasons also occurred in Oregon and California in 2005 and 2007 for the same reasons. 

In 2010, drought conditions have forced the Klamath Project to curtail irrigation deliveries that could result in the potential short-term idling of farmland and increased groundwater pumping. 

Also this year, the c'waam (Lost River suckers) fishery for the Klamath Tribes has been closed for the 24th year, limiting the tribes to only a ceremonial harvest. Other tribes who fish along the Klamath River rarely harvest enough fish to meet modest subsistence needs. 

And it's unlikely that the Klamath Basin wildlife refuges will have sufficient water this year to support the millions of waterfowl that rely on these wetlands. Not only will this negatively affect migratory bird populations this year, but it will also impact local economies that rely on revenue from hunters and birding enthusiasts. 

Having to deal with these problems first-hand, many of the communities in the Klamath Basin came together in an attempt to develop local solutions to balance the water use among various interests and provide a higher level of certainty for future generations. These solutions took the form of two agreements: the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. 

The KBRA is a plan to restore and sustain natural fish production and establish reliable water and power supplies, which sustain agricultural uses, communities and national wildlife refuges. 

The KHSA offers a process for studies, environmental review and a decision by the U.S. secretary of the interior regarding whether the removal of Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Copco 2 dams will advance restoration of the salmonid fisheries of the Klamath Basin and is in the public interest, which includes but is not limited to consideration of potential impacts on affected local communities and Indian tribes. 

As ambitious as these agreements are, they cannot go forward without the scrutiny of an environmental analysis, which, by law, must be undertaken by both the federal government and the state of California. 

This environmental analysis, which will be published jointly by the Department of the Interior and the California Department of Fish and Game, will address a number of topics to help ensure the protection of the environment, including the human environment. We invite you to comment on the scope of the environmental analysis and to raise issues, concerns and ideas regarding potential impacts of the program and the projects authorized under it, feasible mitigation measures and possible alternatives. 

The environmental analysis, as well as additional engineering and science studies, will ultimately be used by the secretary of the interior to inform his decision on the question of Klamath River dam removal and other restoration actions. 

We will be taking both oral and written comments at the scoping meetings. If there is an issue or concern that you want the secretary to consider before he makes a determination on the Klamath River dams and other restoration programs, please attend the meetings or submit written comments before July 21. Visit KlamathRestoration.gov for more details and to submit your comments if you're unable to attend a public meeting. 

We look forward to your participation, your insights and hope to see you at the meetings. 

Dennis Lynch, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, is program manager for the Klamath Basin Secretarial Determination and is overseeing the project on behalf of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Mark Stopher is acting regional manager for the California Department of Fish and Game and is overseeing the project for the state of California. 

The times and locations of upcoming scoping meetings are listed below: 

–Wednesday, July 7, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Copco Community Center, 27803 Copco Road, Montague, Calif., 96064 

–Wednesday, July 7, 6 to 9 p.m., Yreka Community Center, 810 N. Oregon St., Yreka, Calif., 96097 

–Thursday, July 8, 6 to 9 p.m., Klamath County Fairgrounds, 3531 S. 6th St., Klamath Falls, Ore., 97603 

–Friday, July 9, 6 to 9 p.m., Chiloquin Community Center, 140 First St., Chiloquin, Ore., 97624 

–Tuesday, July 13, 6 to 9 p.m., Chetco Activities Center,, 550 Chetco Way, Brookings, Ore., 97415 

–Wednesday, July 14, 6 to 9 p.m., Arcata Community Center, 321 Community Park Way, Arcata, Calif., 95521 

–Thursday, July 15, 6 to 9 p.m., Karuk Tribe Community Room, 39051 Highway 96, Orleans, Calif., 95556
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