FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Golden Opportunity for Justice on the Klamath

Klamath, California

The future of the Klamath River and the fate of the 20 year effort to restore its salmon fisheries are now in the hands of negotiators meeting to hammer out a deal on relicensing the Klamath’s power dams. The details of those negotiations are confidential but the Klamath Water Users Association–which represents irrigators in the federal Klamath Project ­ has announced publicly that it wants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (which must decide on the terms of a new license) and PacifiCorp/Scottish Power (owner of the dams) to include a power subsidy in any new license to operate the Klamath dams. The Water Users Association also claims that the 1957 Klamath Compact ­ legislation enacted by the federal government, Oregon and California–promises irrigators a power subsidy.

When the Klamath Fisheries Restoration Task Force sunsets along with the Klamath Act in 2006, the Klamath River Compact Commission ­ charged with implementing the Klamath River Basin Compact–will once again be the Klamath’s only basin-wide government entity. But the Klamath Compact–established by federal and state legislation–does not acknowledge the Basin’s federally recognized tribes and the Compact’s Commission has no seats for them. Nor does the Compact explicitly mandate restoration of aquatic ecosystems. Furthermore, the legislation’s language can be interpreted as committing the Commission to agriculture as the pre-eminent use for Klamath River water.

Because they and the needs of the River’s ecosystems have been excluded, Klamath River tribes and their allies have rejected the Klamath Compact and its Commission. It is now time for that position to be reexamined. If negotiations concerning PacifiCorp/Scottish Power’s application for a license to operate Klamath River dams move to broader issues like power subsidies and river flows, the tribes, fishermen, conservationists and others who want the Klamath restored should make reforming the Compact part of that broader discussion.

PacifiCorp/Scottish Power, the Bush Administration and Upper Basin irrigators want concessions from the tribes and states which hold key cards in dam relicensing as they do on water issues. But if concessions are made how far should they go and what will tribes, states, conservation groups and the people they represent get in return?

There must be no compromise on water quality. Whatever the configuration of dams, reservoirs, diversions, flows and fish ladders which emerges as a negotiated compromise, compliance with water quality standards within a reasonable time-frame must be a key feature. Unless we fix Klamath River water quality the salmon are doomed.

But there is plenty of room for compromise. Upper Basin irrigators and the Bureau of Reclamation want a power subsidy and irrigators claim a right to one based on negotiations that made possible the first Klamath River hydro-power developments. While the right to a subsidy is questionable, tribes and other interests should consider agreeing to a modest power subsidy for the Upper Basin if the irrigators, Bureau of Reclamation, Bush Administration, Oregon and California commit to enacting legislation for a new, balanced Klamath River Compact. A new Compact could be in place just as the Klamath Act and the license for the dams sunset in 2006.

In other words, tribes, fishermen, conservationists and their allies should raise the bar in negotiations with PacifiCorp/Scottish Power, the Bush Administration and the irrigators. Decommissioning some Klamath River dams is not enough ­ tribes already have a right to that based on the treaties, reserved fishing rights, the Clean Water Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. A new, balanced and just Klamath River Compact ought to be the price for any concessions given to the Bush Administration and irrigators.

A new Compact would clearly state in law that the water resources of the entire Klamath River Basin are to be managed in a balanced way to preserve and, where necessary, restore all beneficial uses of water, including aquatic ecosystems as a whole.

The Klamath River became an issue on the national stage just as a book on Delphus Carpenter–the man who led the movement that resulted in the great western river compacts of the early 20th century–was being printed. Those historic river compacts were supposed to bring “comity” to western river management. Where they have failed it is because they ignored tribal rights and the needs of fish and other river species.

It would be fitting if a new round of western river compacts were to emerge on the Klamath. The Klamath’s was the last of the West’s great river compacts. Like the other compacts it ignored tribal rights and downplayed the needs of fish. It is now within the grasp of the tribes and their allies to secure commitments to a new state-federal-tribal compact that recognizes and honors all interests and which explicitly embraces restoration of one of the West’s great rivers. But tribes, fishermen and conservationists must recognize the historic opportunity at hand and seize it. They should bring a proposal for a new Klamath River Compact to the table. Now is the time!

FELICE PACE has lived and worked in the Basin since 1975. He is a past conservation director of the Klamath Forest Alliance ­ the only conservation group active on Klamath River water management issues which is actually based in the Klamath River Basin. The views expressed in this article are his own. He can be reached at: felice@jeffnet.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Felice Pace is a longtime environmental activist in northern California. You can find his writings online at Bearitude in Black.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail