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County's OK of Klamath Settlement is Misguided
By Felice Pace, Eureka Times-Standard Editorial
March 26, 2008

Why would Humboldt County supervisors, lead by Supervisor Jill Geist, endorse a Klamath River water deal which a growing number of top fisheries scientists and hydrologists say will not lead to recovery of salmon? Why would the Humboldt supervisors rush to endorse something when key elements of the deal are still being drafted?

Unfortunately, the answer has more to do with “bonding” than with “biology.” Supervisor Geist told fellow supervisors last month that she had “bonded” with the Upper Klamath Basin's irrigators and that she knew this Klamath water agreement -- full of expensive special interest goodies -- represents a new era of cooperation on the river. And Jimmy Smith, John Woolley, Bonnie Neely and Roger Rodoni bought it!

In the weeks ahead, it will become clear just how out of touch the supervisors are with what good science and common sense tell us is needed to fix the Klamath River and recover Klamath salmon.

Not only does the agreement not provide enough water for fish, it locks in industrial agricultural operations in the Lost River and on Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges for 50 years. This will result in such a high rate of pollution in the Keno Reservoir (a PacifiCorp dam that those promoting dam removal want left in place) that it will continue to be without oxygen or life for five weeks a year.

The ripple impacts on salmon downstream will be disastrous even if the dams are removed.

Those promoting the water deal want us to believe that it is necessary in order to convince PacifiCorp to remove four Klamath River dams. This is not the case. In fact, tying what Hoopa Tribal Chairman Lyle Marshall has called “an Old West water deal” to dam removal makes removal of the dams less rather than more likely.

Why were the supervisors in such a rush? The Klamath water agreement insures flows for Klamath irrigators who are strongly allied with the Bush administration, and the rush is to get a bill that George Bush can sign as his term expires.

This is a 50-year sweetheart deal for this special interest group at the expense of salmon and the river. Would not a new administration do more for the Klamath River, Klamath salmon and Klamath Basin wildlife refuges?

Humboldt County gets nothing from the deal while neighboring Siskiyou County would receive $23 million. In the event of future serious disagreements and need for legal action, Humboldt County would be prevented from joining in to defend the Klamath River, its communities and salmon stocks.

A supervisor's job is to take care of home, not irrigators in southern Oregon. Guaranteeing water for a small group of wealthy “irrigators” over salmon is a terrible precedent, and not the way we should manage our rivers.

Deals crafted in back rooms, with participants sworn to secrecy, rarely spawn good public policy. The Klamath settlement is too flawed to salvage. Look for a public forum on this complex settlement soon so you can find out for yourself “the rest of the story.”

Meanwhile, Jill Geist and the other supervisors have some questions to answer: How is this water deal going to impact your constituents? Why have you abandoned what good science tells us salmon need to recover?

Humboldt citizens and this newspaper should demand answers. You can find the Humboldt County supervisors' e-mail addresses and phone numbers at: http://co.humboldt.ca.us/board/

Felice Pace has been advocating for Pacific salmon, water reform and the restoration of the Klamath River since 1986. For 15 years he led these efforts for the Klamath Forest Alliance. Felice presently resides at Klamath Glen near the mouth of the Klamath River and writes KlamBlog, about Klamath River issues (http://klamblog.blogspot.com). The views here are his own.

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