Saturday, March 29, 2008

Water for Salmon & People

Providing adequate water for salmon is absolutely crucial, and it is one of our guiding principles—“What’s good for the salmon is good for the river”—but only in an inverted values world would that take precedence over water for human beings.

In our region, we think both goals can be met with the addition of the Auburn Dam, which will provide more water for the salmon in the river running through the American River Parkway, and the people who depend on the river's water for life.

Greg King: Any Klamath dam deal must provide water for fish
By Greg King - Special to The Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, March 29, 2008

Not long ago my neighbor said he'd seen me on TV discussing the Northcoast Environmental Center's opposition to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. He seemed puzzled.

"I thought you guys wanted dam removal," he said.

My heart sank. Of course the NEC wants to tear down four dams on the Klamath River. The NEC is an original proponent of dam removal, as we've long worked to restore populations of fish and other wildlife along one of America's greatest rivers.

We want the dams out to open up more than 300 miles of former salmon and steelhead habitat, and to improve the abysmal water quality currently released by the reservoirs behind the dams. But dam removal is only one step, however significant.

The agreement's most controversial provision allocates to farmers 330,000 to 340,000 acre-feet of water during dry years, and 385,000 acre-feet in wet years. (An acre-foot is literally that: the amount of water it would take to cover an acre of land a foot deep.) This allocation can be renegotiated only during "extreme drought" years, but this "drought plan" will not be created until after the settlement agreement is completed, one of the many unsettling provisions of the agreement. Also, this allocation is about 10 percent more than farmers currently get during dry years under court-ordered Endangered Species Act protections.

…The NEC's rejection last month of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement was intended to make it better and to aid the recovery of the entire Klamath River ecosystem. We are still negotiating. Already the NEC has spent about $60,000 to review the science and legalities contained in the 256-page agreement, and we're not done yet. If we agree to support the settlement it will be because dams will come down and fish will get the water they need to thrive. That's our promise to our members and to the fish.