Another View: Fish are key to deal on Klamath

Another View: Fish are key to deal on Klamath

Opinion column by Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Chairman Lyle Marshall regarding the draft Klamath settlement proposal.

Sacramento Bee
February 10, 2008


As chairman of the Hoopa Valley Reservation, which has the Klamath and Trinity rivers running through it, I want to clarify my tribe’s position regarding the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

The Bee’s editorial noted disparate parties have finally agreed to “quell decades of bitter dispute” about the removal of four aging hydropower dams blocking 350 miles of Klamath River fish habitat. The editorial criticized the Hoopa tribe for not endorsing the agreement because we want “guaranteed flows in the Klamath.”

After more than two years of negotiating with other tribes, farmers, government agencies, fishermen and environmentalists, the Hoopa Valley Tribe cannot accept the draft agreement because it does nothing to remove dams from the Klamath River. And it uses the dam-removal dialogue and politicized science to support more water for Oregon irrigators at the expense of the fish.

PacifiCorp, the ownerof the dams, left the negotiating table two years ago. The agreement discusses no money for dam removal and has no commitments from PacifiCorp.

The editorial mentions spending almost $1 billion to “retire water rights, restore wetlands and improve habitat for salmon.” These are good things, but the agreement ignores the fundamental fact that fish need water.

Without water guarantees, the agreement will set the stage for another 68,000-fish kill like the Klamath disaster in 2002, after the Bush administration used politicized science to bend environmental policy.

Water rights are upside down in the agreement. The agreement guarantees water for Bureau of Reclamation project irrigators and refuge users, while Hoopa and Yurok senior fishing rights, dating back to 1855 and 1864, are not guaranteed.

The agreement puts all the drought-year risks on the fish.

Tribal treaty rights are the thin ramparts protecting the fish from extinction. Federal agencies and irrigators have opposed setting assured minimum water flows for fish and instead offered only a long-range formula that amounts to “trust me.”

Our tribe trusted the Bureau of Reclamation a half-century ago when it began taking up to 90 percent of the Trinity River’s water for irrigators and hydropower in the Central Valley. Since then, no other nonfederal entity has spent more time and money restoring the water and fish habitat of the Klamath and Trinity rivers than our tribe.

Get PacifiCorp to remove the dams and leave enough water for the fish. Then the agreement will work.

About the writer:

Clifford Lyle Marshall, chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, is responding to the Jan. 27 editorial “Seal Klamath deal.”

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