Allen Foreman, Tribal Chairman, 541-783-2219
Doug Barber, The Ulum Group, 541-434-7023Klamath Tribes Call for Action
Elwood Miller, Director of Natural Resources
September 30, 2002The Klamath Tribes continue to regard anadromous salmonids as
treaty-guaranteed resources, despite having been deprived of these
fisheries for many years. Right now, thousands upon thousands of salmon
and steelhead are dieing in the lower Klamath River. The loss of thousands
of these fish is devastating to salmon-dependant communities up and down
the river, as well as up and down the Pacific Coast. We are especially
concerned for the welfare of Tribal communities on the Klamath River,
because we know that these fish are important to them, important beyond
words, and that their loss is an enormous emotional, spiritual, and
economic blow to our friends. We have never stopped working for the return
of the salmon to the Upper Klamath Basin, and we are now deeply concerned
about how this catastrophe might affect our restoration efforts. We
wonder, will this event exterminate the coho, or some of the other runs?
It is not right that from July 12 to August 31 there was more water going
down the A canal (870 cfs) than was in the Klamath River below Iron Gate
Dam (711 cfs). It is not right that full deliveries are made to the
Klamath Irrigation Project while Upper Klamath Lake gets drained and the
Klamath River is diminished to flows far below FERC minimum flow
requirements and Hardy Phase II flow recommendations. It is not right that
water badly needed by salmon is released from Upper Klamath Lake when it is
already critically low ? instead, the Klamath Irrigation Project should
drastically decrease its diversions and that water should be sent down the
Klamath River.
It is not right that enormous amounts of water are diverted to the Central
Valley of California from the Trinity River system. It is not right that
the Biological Opinions in place for both suckers and salmon fail to
incorporate principles of precautionary management, instead allowing water
management strategies almost certain to produce terrible conditions for the
very species they are supposed to protect. Conditions were very poor in
Upper Klamath Lake this year, and we avoided a fish kill only because the
weather turned cool and windy. We clearly were not so fortunate in the
Klamath River. It is true that factors other than the Klamath Project
affect conditions in the Klamath River. However, the enormous loss of
water from the river system to the Klamath Irrigation Project definitely
has an effect on the Klamath River, and merely saying that other things
have effects as well does nothing to address those very real impacts.
We also wonder, what will be done about this terrible situation? What kind
of efforts will be undertaken to establish the causes and magnitude of the
kill? Who will lead this effort? What kind of support will the effort
receive from the state and federal governments? When Klamath Project
irrigators were denied full water supplies in 2001, the federal government
responded rapidly with prompt attention from high-level officials and
investment of well over a million dollars to investigate the situation and
deal with the resulting social unrest. Will this situation receive
equivalent treatment? Will the tremendous, tragic losses being experienced
by salmon-dependant Tribes and other communities be viewed as being as
important as the losses experienced by Klamath Project irrigators in 2001?
What efforts will be made to help these communities survive?
Controversy over the relative contribution of Klamath Irrigation Project
water diversions to this and previous fish kills has been raging here for
years. It is past time for the appropriate state and federal agencies to
put forth the resources to resolve this issue. Federal agencies like NMFS,
USFWS, BIA, and USGS should be mobilized, staffed and funded to perform
necessary research. The Klamath River should be viewed as a whole, the
relative impacts to various portions of the system quantified, and a
system-wide resolution to the severe ecological problems should be
developed and implemented. The social fabric of this Basin is
disintegrating along with the ecosystem. There is no time left for those
responsible for meeting Tribal trust obligations to drag their feet.
Critically important Tribal trust resources are facing extinction at both
ends of this river system, and if land and water use practices that have
caused this situation are allowed continue, we can expect more listed
species, more extinctions, and more conflict.
Political expediency can no longer be the driving force behind water
management in the Klamath Basin. We can all continue to argue about how to
use the existing scientific information to direct water management, and it
seems certain that this will happen. However, doesn‚t it make far more
sense to identify where true scientific uncertainty exists, and then
immediately move to perform the research that will resolve the
uncertainty? It is time for action, meaningful action that will truly lead
to effective strategies for restoring health to the ecosystems and peoples
of the Klamath River, from its headwaters to the ocean. It is time for the
federal government to step forward with adequate resources and a firm
commitment to meet its obligations to Tribal people up and down the Klamath
River, and to restore ecosystems throughout the Klamath Basin, and to
implement water management strategies that enable all community segments to
live with the hope of stability and survival.