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News from California Farm Water Coalition 6-15-16

Agriculture - California, CA Farm Water Coalition, California water

Fishery decisions could help, harm water supplies

California Farm Bureau Federation

Two developments in recent days outlined alternative strategies for protecting fish whose populations drive water-allocation decisions for much of California: A coalition of business and water groups petitioned the state to address a key predator of native fish, while members of Congress asked federal agencies not to force additional water-supply cutbacks on the species’ behalf.

The petition from the business/water coalition asks the California Fish and Game Commission to allow more fishing for the striped bass and black bass, non-native species that feed on endangered chinook salmon and delta smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Groups petition state to address predatory fish in Delta

Capital Press

Two farm groups have joined a broad coalition that wants the state Fish and Game Commission to address the issue of non-native, predatory fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The California Farm Bureau Federation and Western Growers have teamed with water districts and conservation groups to petition the state body, asking that fishing controls for several types of bass be loosened or lifted.

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State’s “Delta Plan” may have a restart

Agriculture - California, Water, Resources & Quality

State’s “Delta Plan’ may have a restart

By Stephen Frank on Jun 03, 2016 08:14 pm

The courts have now made clear, Jerry Brown needs to find another way to scam the people of California of $68 billion and determine how to get water from the north to the south, without creating NEW water—while really using this effort to protect the fish, like the fish bait delta smelt. ““What is means […]

Read More and Comment: State’s “Delta Plan’ may have a restart

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News from California Water Coalition — May 24, 2016

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, CA Farm Water Coalition

Central Valley Project Users Can’t Get a Break

WaterDeeply.org

Water supplies are better than normal in Northern California, so why is it that Central Valley Project (CVP) water users can’t get a break? The water users in question are the farms and ranches in the San Joaquin Valley that rely on the federal Central Valley Project water conveyance system. They are set to receive a meager 5 percent of their water supply this year.

It’s the middle of May and rainfall in the northern Sierra is currently 111 percent of normal. Lake Shasta is 93 percent full and 108 percent of its year-to-date average. By all accounts there is sufficient water in the system operated by the federal government to meet the needs that the CVP was designed to serve – irrigation and municipal water supplies.

Groundwater regulation impacts appear uncertain for Sacramento Valley

Appeal Democrat

The state took another step forward to regulate groundwater pumping in California, but the ramifications for the Sacramento Valley are uncertain.

Last week, the California Water Commission approved the final regulations that will guide the creation of sustainability plans by local groundwater agencies. These plans are required to be in place by 2020 or 2022 and will provide a path to bring aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge.

Largest U.S. water reservoir at record low due to drought

United Press

The water in the largest U.S. reservoir has sunk to a record low, due to the severe drought in the American Southwest.

Lake Mead, in Nevada, had dropped 10 feet in three months. With an average depth of 1,084 feet in February, last week the reservoir measured only 1,074 feet deep, or only 37 percent of capacity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

 

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Lawsuit Brings Out Environmentalists on Both Sides of Debate Over Cattle Ranching at Point Reyes

Agriculture - California, Federal gov & land grabs, Greenies & grant $, Lawsuits, Liberty

For history on the oyster farm go to:

http://pienpolitics.com/?s=oyster+farm+point+reyes

The Point Reyes National Seashore is at the center of another bitter legal battle.

Two years ago the fight was over an oyster farm.

Now it’s over cattle, and the future of the cattle-ranching families who call Point Reyes home.

Bill Niman may be the most famous rancher in the Bay Area. His Niman Ranch was founded in the 1970’s on land that’s now part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. (The seashore was founded in 1962, and Niman’s land was later added to the park.)

“Actually if you could fly, we’re eight miles from San Francisco,” he says.

Cattle have grazed Point Reyes since the 1800s, and many ranching families go back generations. But livestock is now at the center of a heated dispute – with environmentalists speaking out on both sides.

“No impacts of ranching have ever been conducted in the national seashore,” says Chance Cutrano, director of special projects and strategic initiatives at Mill Valley-based Resource Renewal Institute.

The Institute and two other environmental groups – the Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Watersheds Projects – are suing the National Park Service.

They want a full accounting of the impact of cattle ranching, and they say a General Management Plan is long overdue to guide the preservation of the park.

”When you haven’t come to understand the impacts at all, if those haven’t been assessed, it’s very difficult to try to create a positive dialogue outside of, say like a courtroom, when you can’t get that information,” says Cutrano.

The plaintiffs are also concerned about the health of Tule elk. The National Park Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife re-introduced the native species and now Tule elk graze alongside cattle in some areas, despite calls for elk fences.

Michael Wara, an associate professor at Stanford Law School, says a U.S District Court judge in San Francisco will likely take into account the location of Point Reyes, which is unusual among the national parks.

“The Point Reyes National Seashore is kind of an odd duck in the national parks system,” he says. “It’s really close to a major urban center, so the visitation patterns are probably very different than they would be for Yosemite, or Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.”

In addition, Wara says the seashore’s unique history will also be important in this case.

“The usage, the fact that there is this historic usage is really different,” he says.

Nicolette Hahn Niman, Bill Niman’s wife, is a former environmental attorney and a vegetarian, but also a defender of beef.

“The people who are on these ranches are very passionate about the environment,” she says. ”“When ranches are well stewarded they are a huge economic but also ecological beneficiary for an area. When environmental groups are attacking ranches they’re alienating an absolutely necessary ally.”

There is no doubt, there are strong feelings on all sides about this local, and national, treasure.

The National Park Service does not comment on pending litigation.

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Lawsuit-Brings-Out-Environmentalists-on-Both-Sides-of-Debate-Over-Cattle-Ranching-at-Point-Reyes-378190021.html

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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Mendocino County dumps federal killings of livestock predators

Agriculture - California, Greenies & grant $, Wildlife, Wolves

PNP comment: They will be sorry as there are an overabundance of predators in California. This is such a biased article, but, at least, they gave ranchers two short paragraphs at the bottom as a rebuttal. Truly a sad, soft and fuzzy, unpractical decision. — Editor Liz Bowen

SF Gate

Peter Fimrite 

on April 26, 2016

Wildlife advocates scored a major victory Tuesday when Mendocino County agreed to terminate its contract with the federal agency that helps ranchers kill predators such as mountain lions and coyotes that feast on livestock.

Environmental groups have long crusaded against what they characterize as indiscriminate killing of wildlife by an agency whose philosophy amounts to “the only good predator is a dead predator.” The decision by Mendocino County supervisors to sever ties with the division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture marks a rare instance of a California county opting to consider nonlethal methods of carnivore control.

Environmentalists had accused the county of violating the California Environmental Quality Act by hiring the Agriculture Department division known as Wildlife Services. Six environmental and animal protection groups claimed in a lawsuit that the county failed to consider nonlethal methods of animal control and should have done an environmental study on the effect that killing predators would have on the ecosystem before signing a contract with Wildlife Services.

“We’re thrilled,” said Jessica Blome, senior staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “This is the first lawsuit in the country that attacks Wildlife Services based on its relationships with local governments.”

Todd Smith of Oakland’s Thomas Law Group, which represented Mendocino County, said the Board of Supervisors had agreed to set aside the contract while conducting an environmental study.

“The county is happy to undertake this analysis so the members of this community can understand the benefits and the impacts associated with the wildlife management program,” Smith said. “The program has been effective for almost 30 years, so the county was a little surprised (by the lawsuit). That said, the county wants to comply with the law. In the end, the analysis will drive what the program looks like in the future.”

The issue has exacerbated tensions between ranchers and conservationists. Livestock owners in the far northern part of the state have threatened to use the “three S’s” — shoot, shovel and shut up — when confronted with environmentalists’ efforts to protect wolves, coyotes and other “vermin.”

Ranchers’ concerns

There are as many as 700,000 coyotes in the state, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Mountain lions are also abundant, and both predators kill a lot of livestock, which are commodities that contribute to the state and local economy, said the California Cattlemen’s Association.

The recent discovery of a wolf pack in Siskiyou County has turned the issue of predator control into a major area of concern among ranchers.

http://m.sfgate.com/science/article/Mendocino-County-dumps-federal-killings-of-7377250.php

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

 

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Sierra Nevada Snow Won’t End California’s Thirst

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather

New York Times.com

By Henry Fountain

April 11, 2016

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Thanks in part to El Niño, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is greater than it has been in years. With the winter snowfall season winding down, California officials said that the pack peaked two weeks ago at 87 percent of the long-term average.

That’s far better than last year, when it was just 5 percent of normal and Gov. Jerry Brown announced restrictions on water use after four years of severe drought. But the drought is still far from over, especially in Southern California, where El Niño did not bring many major storms.

Despite the better news this year, there are plenty of worrying signs about the Sierra snowpack, which provides about 30 percent of the water Californians use after it melts and flows into rivers and reservoirs, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

MORE

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

 

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Hetch Hetchy: Environmental hypocrisy, San Francisco-style

Agriculture - California, Dams other than Klamath, Hypocrisy, Water, Resources & Quality

Manteca Bulletin.com

POSTED April 8, 2016 1:48 a.m.

There is perhaps no smugger environmentalist than  one who resides in San Francisco.
The city is home to the Sierra Club, Save the Redwoods League and boosts some of the country’s strongest concentrations of membership in more radical movements such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as well as Earth First!
San Francisco intellectuals are noted for attacking Central Valley farmers, Sierra lumbermen and Los Angeles for environmental crimes.
The most enduring symbol of hatred for the San Francisco environmental crowd is dams. They represent everything supposedly evil about modern-day California. They contend the huge concrete structures destroy wild rivers, flood pristine canyons and spur urban growth where it shouldn’t occur.
The San Francisco crowd’s favorite whipping boy is Los Angeles. They detest what Los Angeles has done in the name of water development, specifically with the Owens Valley and Mono Lake. The devastation caused by diverting large amounts of water from the eastern Sierra watershed starting in the 1920s to satisfy LA’s ever growing thirst is routinely described as one of the “biggest environmental disasters of the 20th century.”
It’s a shame San Franciscan environmentalists are such hypocrites. If it wasn’t for the wanton destruction of Hetch Hetchy Valley, San Francisco wouldn’t have had the cheap water needed to grow into a cosmopolitan city at the tip of a peninsula without the local water to support 900,000 residents.
That same exact criticism is leveled at Los Angeles by the Sierra Club crowd. The City of Angeles should never have been allowed to spring up  on land that didn’t have reliable sources of local water to support its growth. The importation of cheap water at the expense of the provinces in the distant Sierra was the only way L.A. could grow.
San Francisco should know. They beat L.A. to the punch. The city destroyed Hetch Hetchy Valley — a place the environmentalists’ icon John Muir described as second only to Yosemite Valley in beauty —   long before the Los Angeles Water Department started stealing water rights in the Owens Valley.
The political maneuvering San Francisco did in Congress to build a dam in a national park in the 1910s was as underhanded as the well-documented deceit that took place in the Owens Valley.
To add insult to injury, San Francisco pays pennies on the dollar for the cost other municipalities pay for water collected and stored in other dams on federal property. The city’s prosperity is essentially subsidized by the rest of the country.
The holier-than-thou stance of most San Francisco environmentalists is a bit too much to stomach given The City destroyed a pristine Sierra canyon to help fuel its prosperity.
San Francisco traces its tremendous growth from an outpost 167 years ago to one of the most cosmopolitan cities the world has ever known to the Gold Rush.
The Gold Rush brought “environmental havoc” to California.
We know this because Earth First! as well as the Sierra Club constantly remind the rest of us — particularly those in the Central Valley — that we are destroying the planet by accommodating urban growth as well as how we are toiling the soil to produce food.
Sierra and North Coast timber interests are routinely slammed for desecrating forests. It is nothing compared to the wholesale cutting that was done to produce lumber for San Francisco. Nor does it begin to compare with the massive amount of earth displaced by gold seekers  who essentially shipped their wealth back to San Francisco.
Environmentalists are absolutely right that we have to balance growth and various practices needed to support civilization such as farming and mining against the need to protect as well as preserve nature.
They are wrong not to hold San Francisco and its suburbs to the same high standards.
It took Central Valley counties two decades to get the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to concede what everyone this side of the Altamont Pass and Carquinez Strait already knew — the San Francisco Bay Area is responsible for a large chunk of our air pollution.
The ocean breezes clear the auto-generated smog as well as pollution from factories into the 360-mile long Central Valley basin where it is trapped by mountains on all sides.
The San Francisco Bay Area was finally held to the same stringent factory output standards as the Central Valley.
Hetch Hetchy — which moves water to San Francisco via the original “tunnel” bypassing the Delta via the pipeline that runs from Yosemite National Park under Modesto and the valley floor to the Bay Area —  doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of its water to help the Delta Smelt.
San Francisco shouldn’t be allowed to obtain highly subsidized Sierra water while being excused from any federal court order or bureaucratic edict requiring everyone else in California to sacrifice water to resolve the Delta-Bay quality issues. 

http://www.mantecabulletin.com/section/1/article/133808/

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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Calif. minimum wage hike could force farm mechanization, job losses

Agriculture - California

March 30, 2016

capitalpress.com

Tim Hearden

  1. Farm group representatives say proposals to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour could lead to job losses throughout agriculture and cause some growers to mechanize or move their operations…

Farm group representatives say proposals to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour could lead to job losses throughout agriculture and cause some growers to mechanize or move their operations elsewhere.

SACRAMENTO — Proposals to incrementally raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour could lead to job losses throughout agriculture, escalate the push toward mechanization and send some farm operations out of state, industry insiders say.

Growers of labor-intensive crops such as stone fruit, berries and vines would find it nearly impossible to compete in the global marketplace unless they could find a way to harvest with less labor, said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association.

“You’re going to see an accelerated trend toward crops that use less labor, and a trend toward more research of mechanization,” Bedwell told the Capital Press.“Unfortunately, we’re also going to see an accelerated trend of people moving their operations, if they can, outside of California.”

A rapid increase in the minimum wage from the current $10 an hour would cause many farm jobs to be eliminated, agreed Bryan Little, the California Farm Bureau Federation’s director of employment policy.

“It’s just going to make it more and more expensive to employ people,” Little said.Farm groups’ concerns were heightened March 28 when legislators and labor unions announced a tentative deal to take the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. A union-backed initiative to reach the $15 threshold by 2021 has qualified for the November ballot.

One-two punch for growers, the measures are part of a one-two punch as lawmakers are also considering a bill to end exceptions for agriculture from California’s overtime laws. Under the bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, D-San Diego, ag employers would have to observe the same eight-hour work day and 40-hour work week as other employers rather than paying overtime only after 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week under current state law.

In many cases, the proposed laws could end up harming the people they were intended to help. Chuck Herrin, whose Sunrise Farm Labor provides about 2,500 workers each year in the San Joaquin Valley, told The Associated Press that farmers would likely hire 10 percent fewer workers because of the higher cost of business.

“It’s going to be devastating” to fieldworks and their dependent relatives, Herrin told the AP.One Fresno County farmworker is hopeful. Rafael Gutierrez, 53, earned $11 an hour from his last job picking peaches and grapes while his girlfriend makes $14 an hour at Target.“Right now, we’re just making it,” Gutierrez told the AP. “Life is expensive.”The proposed increase would enable him to treat his family to weekend dinners out and a short vacation to Disneyland, he told the wire service.

Many California farmworkers already earn well above the minimum wage, largely because a labor shortage in recent years has given workers leverage in negotiating with growers. For instance, the average wage for a strawberry harvest worker is $12.56 an hour, and it’s higher during the peak months, said Carolyn O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission.

Fewer jobs but contingency plans made in response to a labor crunch that has cost U.S. agriculture an estimated $3.1 billion a year could end up edging some workers out. Growers of many commodities that have traditionally been picked by hand are attempting to integrate technology.For example, the raisin harvest, which has required as many as 60,000 workers during its six-week peak, is rapidly being mechanized, according to a University of California-Davis report. In 2014, one-quarter of California’s 185,000 acres of raisin-type grapes were harvested by machine, the university’s migration experts reported.

“I think (the higher minimum wage) probably will accelerate that,” the Farm Bureau’s Little said. As another example, he pointed to processing tomatoes, which 20 years ago were hand-picked but are now mostly mechanically harvested.Other growers may move some or all of their operations out of state, industry insiders say.

MORE can be read at

http://myinforms.com/en/a/28927963-calif-minimum-wage-hike-could-force-farm-mechanization-job-losses/

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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DWR Awards $6.7 Million in Grants to Launch Sustainable Groundwater Management Planning Efforts

Agriculture - California, Water, Resources & Quality

http://www.merlofarminggroup.com/sustainable-groundwater-management-planning-grants

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced it is awarding 21 counties a total of $6.7 million in grants to help with sustainable groundwater planning.

The Proposition 1 Sustainable Groundwater Planning Grant Program provides funding for county projects that will develop groundwater plans consistent with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) enacted by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. in 2014. The awards were made to counties with high and medium priority groundwater basins, some of which are in critical over-draft.

DWR received 23 grant applications requesting a total of approximately $7 million. Adding the matching funds provided by the grant award recipients, approximately $13 million will be dedicated to projects in counties that need to begin long-term planning for sustainable groundwater management. According to Laura McLean, Senior Engineering Geologist with the Sustainable Groundwater Planning Grant Program, DWR gave priority to proposals that will benefit disadvantaged communities, address critically over-drafted basins, address basins exhibiting stressed conditions, and proposals to enact ordinances to address groundwater sustainability.

“This funding will help counties address long-term planning goals, better understand what’s coming in and going out of their aquifers, and get the much- needed jumpstart on addressing the new regulations,” says McLean. “More funding will certainly become available to help groundwater sustainability agencies moving forward. We aim to complement the timeline requirements of the law as we continue to streamline our grant processes to get the money out as quickly as possible.”

Colusa County is among the 21 counties across California receiving funding and plans to use the funding to advance groundwater sustainability through policy and technical refinement. Mendocino County plans to use the funds for the initial groundwater sustainability plan development, and Kings County’s proposal will include developing a groundwater model for its critically over-drafted groundwater basin.

MORE at above link —

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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DOI accused of trying to sidestep Congress

Agriculture - California, CORRUPTION, Doug LaMalfa Congressman CA, Endangered Species Act, Federal gov & land grabs, KBRA or KHSA, Klamath River & Dams

PNP comment: We posted this article earlier this week, but the “glitch” on March 16, 2016 took it away, so it is being posted again. — Editor Liz Bowen

Western Livestock Journal

March 14, 2016

—Accusation comes following efforts to close Klamath dams

The federal Department of the Interior seems motivated to get on with the largest dam removal in U.S. history. For years, likely due to local opposition in southern Oregon and northern California, Congress has refused to support the removal of four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River. But on March 1, at a hearing of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA1) accused the Department of the Interior of attempting to sidestep Congress and the will of the people by signing an agreement to create a “non-federal entity” that would help facilitate the removal of the dams.

“What I have here,” said La- Malfa, addressing Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Mike Connor, at the hearing, “is a copy of an ‘agreement in principle’—you just signed this last month—in which the Department of Interior agrees to work with California, Oregon, and PacifiCorp to create this socalled ‘nonfederal entity.’” Deputy Secretary Connor at first told LaMalfa the department had no role in creating the entity. He later admitted that federal funds were being used toward the project.

Since Congress holds the purse strings, and that body has never approved federal spending to remove the dams, the structures have remained safe to date. But the creation of this “nonfederal entity” (or “shell corporation,” according to La- Malfa) would effectively take the federal government out of the equation—constituting an “end-run” around Congress and flying in the face of federal transparency laws, LaMalfa said.

According to Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams, who spoke with WLJ, congressional approval is still a must. He said dam removal and any “bistate compact” both require federal legislation.

“So they can’t do this,” Mallams said. “But they keep saying they’re going to try to manipulate the law to make it work.”

Secret meetings?

“We’re seeing an administration that claims to be the most transparent in history engaged in closed meetings, neck-deep in a shell corporation, and requiring stakeholders to sign nondisclosure agreements just to learn how they’ll be affected,” said LaMalfa at the March 1 hearing.

He was referring to closed-door meetings held by Department of the Interior, California, Oregon, and PacifiCorp, which is the owner of the dams. Only certain stakeholders had reportedly been invited to discuss the plans for the dam removals, and they had been required to sign nondisclosure agreements in order to participate.

“It is entirely inappropriate for public employees to participate in secret meetings and force those whose lives could be impacted to sign nondisclosure agreements,” LaMalfa added at the hearing. “For the record, I want you to know that I’ll be submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to your office for documents related to these meetings.”

LaMalfa asked Deputy Secretary Connor to answer whether the “non-federal entity” that the agency was attempting to form would be required to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and other open-government laws. Connor did not give a clear answer, saying it all depended on the future entity’s structure.

“This seems like a front company in a process designed to avoid public scrutiny and avoid open government laws,” said LaMalfa.

“The administration is moving forward with its goal of dam removal while ignoring the water supply issues that impact thousands of residents.”

In email correspondence with WLJ, LaMalfa said the agencies have, after pressure by him and his staff, agreed to hold open public meetings. One will be held March 16 in Sacramento.

“We will insist they hold a meeting up in Yreka [Siskiyou County], where people are actually going to be impacted—not six hours away in ‘Fort EPA’ with $20 parking,” LaMalfa told WLJ.

Past attempts

Dam removal and water rights have been at the hub of controversy on the Klamath River for decades. Over the past few years, several local Native American tribes and environmental groups have teamed up to push for dam removal. The tribes’ position was strengthened in 2013 when an Oregon judge determined they had senior water rights “from time immemorial.”

Though the water rights fight is not over, appeals of other water rights holders could take years to be processed. In the meantime, the tribes are legally able to exercise their alleged senior water rights.

According to Mallams, the 2013 ruling gave the tribes leverage to force farmers, ranchers, and other local water users to sign onto a dam-removal agreement. Now that the tribes could issue a “call” on their water rights any time, farmers and ranchers in particular were desperate to find a way to protect their water use, something crucial to their businesses. Many area farmers and ranchers signed onto the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and two other agreements in exchange for the promise of continued use of the water.

The agreements called for the four Klamath dams to be removed downstream from the Klamath Basin; for hundreds of miles of riparian areas to be fenced throughout the entire watershed; for farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin to give up 30,000 acrefeet of water rights (being used to irrigate 18,000 acres); and for farmers and ranchers to drop their legal challenge of the tribes’ water rights.

“Some people were so desperate to keep their water, they signed onto agreements they would have never otherwise supported,” Mallams told WLJ. “I could hardly blame them. The problem is, the ‘promises’ contained in the agreements were weak. Nowhere in the agreements was there a real guarantee that those producers could keep using the water.”

In the meantime, Mallams said, anyone who signed on to the KBRA and other agreements had a “gag order” not to speak ill—or at all—about them. The agreements needed congressional approval, Mallams explained, and that meant Congress needed to believe there was local support. Signors were threatened with losing their water usage if they spoke out against the agreements, he said.

The opposition prevails

On Jan. 1, 2016, the KBRA and accompanying agreements expired. This marked the end of several years’ efforts to get congressional approval of the agreements.

“The people of Klamath and Siskiyou counties have said, ‘No, no, no,’” said Commissioner Mallams. “And Congress has listened to them.”

While proponents of the dam removals claim that it’s necessary to “restore ecological balance” to the Klamath River and to boost salmon runs, opponents have made opposite predictions. For example, Siskiyou County Supervisor Michael Kobseff listed a host of problems with dam removal when he testified before Congress in 2013.

Agriculture and ranchers will “suffer significant losses” in his county, Kobseff said. He added that the dams provide hydropower to some 70,000 residents, and that no replacement source of power has been identified if the dams are removed. The dams also serve to control catastrophic floods, have “transformed former marginal habitat into world class fisheries,” provide water for fish in times of drought, improve water quality generally by providing a settlement basin for naturally occurring toxins, and cool the warm water coming in from the upper high desert basin in Oregon.

The Iron Gate dam makes possible a fish hatchery that produces over six million salmon smolts annually, Kobseff said. Dam removal, he noted, would likely release nearly 20 million cubic yards of sediment loaded with toxic minerals. “This release may result in massive destruction of the ecosystem,” he testified.

As the creators of the original Klamath Basin agreements appear to be searching for another way to make the dam removals happen, LaMalfa says he will remain on point.

“I’ll continue working to get answers,” said LaMalfa in a House floor statement on March 2. “…But in the meantime, the administration needs to end its focus on dam removal and work towards a solution that doesn’t ignore the water supply issues that affect so much of the West…” He posed the rhetorical question: “Why is the priority something that’s going to hurt the people of the region, hurt their goals?” At a time of extreme drought, he said, “we should be pursuing water storage in California and putting this issue aside.”

— Theodora Dowling, WLJ Correspondent 

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

 

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