Like the draft KBRA released in February, the agreement in principle with PacifiCorp is defective. Few seem to want to discuss the hard details of either of these agreements. Perhaps that is precisely because the deal points are troubling when actually examined and interfere with the feel good story that is often promoted.
Let's be frank - just as the President was in his Klamath press release today when he concluded the release by stating - "Together, we have produced an agreement that will greatly reduce the risk of future shutdowns of the irrigation system." That, and delivering other guarantees and sweet heart deals to the administration's agribusiness supporters in the basin, is in large part what these two deals have been about. But the Klamath is about much more than agribusiness.
This administration did not suddenly get religion on salmon and river health. Look, the house has been foreclosed upon and the administration is in the process of stripping the fixtures. Why we would applaud that is a mystery.
Just what does the AIP do? Well, the AIP
1. does not remove any dams but does suspend operation of the Clean Water Act and California's Environmental Quality Act as to these dams for many years. Oregon and California's Clean Water Act "401 certification" processes are now halted by the AIP. The dams need to be removed, but not at the expense of other important conservation values in the basin. The FERC relicensing process that has now been short circuited was a huge opportunity to see that result in our lifetimes.
2. does not remove any dams but does attempt to force Bonneville Power to the table to deliver cheap electrical power to Klamath Basin irrigators, in effect overruling the decisions of the Oregon and California Public Utility Commissions ramping those irrigators to 21st century power rates over time.
3. does not remove any dams but does provide multiple "off-ramps" from the pathway to dam removal that reduce the likelihood of the result being touted - dam removal - from ever occurring.
4. does not remove any dams but does "indivisibly" link the AIP with the seriously flawed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement that provides guaranteed water for agribusiness in the basin but NO guarantees of water for fish and wildlife in the Klamath River. The KBRA does NOT mandate that ag get by on less water (the plug above gets it wrong again) IF the baseline one uses for comparison is the existing requirement for Klamath River flows under the Endangered Species Act - which is really the only relevant baseline for comparison because it is the only currently legal baseline for river flows.
5. does not remove any dams but does attempt to lock in 22,000 acres of commercial and environmentally damaging farming on Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges for the next 50 years. These were historically two of the premier waterfowl refuges in the United States. They are the only two refuges in the country that allow large scale commercial farming. With the AIP and the KBRA, the status quo will prevail for another fifty years on these refuges. We will be managing large parts of these refuges as commercial farms, not as national wildlife refuges.
6. attempts to immunize PacifiCorp from liability associated with the dams.
7. saddles ratepayers and taxpayers in Oregon and elsewhere with costs that ought to be paid by PacifiCorp.
9. attempts to saddle the Obama administration with various directives and procedures for addressing Klamath issues in the future.
Let's be clear- environmentalists were NOT at the table during the negotiation of the AIP. The AIP was negotiated in secret by the feds, PacifiCorp, Oregon and California. The final AIP was only rolled out to the so-called conservation caucus YESTERDAY (Wednesday) and was essentially presented as a done deal. Oregon's governor signed the AIP within a few brief hours of the AIP being presented to the participating conservation groups. If that is the "national precedent" your intro above refers to, we're in for a heap of trouble.
One basin west, in the Rogue River Basin, multiple dams have been and are being removed without the sweet heart deals or the scientifically suspect guarantees being made in the Klamath. I suggest if you are looking for a national precedent, and a place where dams have actually been removed and are in the process of being removed, the place to look is the Rogue, not the Klamath.
posted 4 years, 6 months ago
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