Though I have great respect for Chairman Dowd and the Resighini Rancheria residents, there were serious errors with his analysis of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) in this recent opinion piece (”Klamath Dam removal linked to very bad restoration agreement,” Nov. 18), including:
No terminations: The Resighini's are not parties to the settlement. The so-called “termination” of the Resighini's tribal rights they fear will just not happen -- it is a pure fiction. This is made clear in the Klamath Basin Economic Restoration Act (S. 1851 and H.R. 3398):
“Sec. 106 (l). NONPARTY TRIBES OF THE KLAMATH BASIN UNAFFECTED -- Nothing in this Act or the Restoration Agreement amends, alters, or limits the authority of the federally recognized tribes of the Klamath Basin, other than the Party Tribes, to exercise any water rights the tribes hold or may be determined to hold.”
The Resighini Rancheria are upset because the federal government, their “Trustee,” refuses to sue the other Tribes (they are also their Trustee), and federal agencies, over the KBRA -- this would essentially be asking the federal government to sue itself. This they cannot do.
But nothing prevents the Resighini Rancheria from hiring their own lawyers to enforce those rights separately.
KBRA provisions misstated: Several statements made about the KBRA are simply wrong. The 330,000 acre-feet the federal Klamath Irrigation Project will have to live within in the future is a “ceiling,” not a “floor” or minimum; while there is some money in the KBRA budget to help partially finance a renewable energy project, this is nowhere near the amount stated, nor a “subsidy” any more than any other federal energy development funding; and the refuge lease lands system was created by Congress (the Kuchel Act (U.S.C. 695n)) back in 1964, nearly 46 years before the KBRA existed -- only a separate Act of Congress, not the KBRA, could change that statute. There are similar errors.
Water quality problems being addressed: There are well-known water quality problems in the upper basin, but the KBRA -- really just a long-term restoration contract -- is not the appropriate tool to address them. These are already being addressed separately under the Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws. Blaming the KBRA for not being the Clean Water Act is preposterous.
Relying on the Agencies? FERC has never taken a dam down, and no state water quality agency has ever “just said no” to a dam's water quality 401 Certification and made it stick in court. Setting such a precedent would guarantee at least 15 to 20 more years of expensive litigation, possibly resulting in some dams staying. That's a high risk gamble many refuse to take.
Losing the KBRA also means losing up to 130,000 acre-feet of additional water in the Klamath River in dry years for salmon; losing most of 100,000 acre-feet of additional wetlands restoration and storage, also benefiting fish, and losing the Klamath Irrigation Project “diversion cap,” the first time that project has ever been legally limited in the water it can take for irrigation. These and many other KBRA benefits will help rebuild the Klamath's depressed salmon runs and resurrect hundreds of now lost fishing jobs.
Opponents of the settlement already in hand should be careful what they wish for instead. No faster, less risky nor biologically better alternative to restore the Klamath River's once-abundant salmon runs has ever yet been proposed.
Glen Spain is the Northwest
regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation
of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), which
represents commercial salmon fishing families. PCFFA
is a signatory-party to the Klamath Settlement