Water compact: Klamath shows value of negotiation

Guest Editorial in Missoula, Montana

Michael Gale (Missoulian, Sept. 17) seems to think that events in Oregon’s Klamath Basin illustrate the danger of entering into a Flathead Reservation compact. Actually, the reverse is true.

Part of the problem is that Gale doesn’t really appear to know what happened on the Klamath. What actually happened is that the state of Oregon determined that the Klamath Tribes have a “time immemorial” right to in-stream flows on Klamath tributaries, which entitles them to make a call on irrigators using water from those streams. And in this very low water year, that’s what they did. When a senior water user shuts down a junior, there is no implication that the senior’s use of water is “more important” than the junior’s. All it means is the senior was there first. It may not lead to the best use of water, but that’s the way Western water law works.

It’s also important to note that the Klamath irrigators who were cut off this summer were not protected by any “paper agreements.” In fact, they declined to participate in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which seeks to assure that there is enough water, equitably shared, for both fish and agriculture. Other irrigators with rights junior to those of the tribes, who did enter into the agreement, have not had their water cut off.

Like the Klamath Tribes, the Salish and Kootenai tribes almost certainly have a valid claim to extensive time immemorial in-stream water rights. These rights are a matter of law and not a creation of the compact. On the contrary, under the compact, the tribes have agreed to exercise their rights in a way that protects existing junior users, including irrigators. The Klamath experience demonstrates the value of this kind of negotiated settlement, and the perils of rejecting it.

Sen. Dick Barrett,

Senate District 47,

Missoula

Source: http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/mailbag/water-compact-klamath-shows-value-of-negotiation/article_ebfb9f6e-2460-11e3-94c5-0019bb2963f4.html

Fate of Northern California at Stake in Trinity River War

September 16, 2013

Opinion

The Hoopa Valley Tribe applauds a recent decision by a federal judge to allow the federal Bureau of Reclamation to open the Lewiston dam and release Trinity River water needed to avoid a replay of the 2002 fish kill in the Klamath River.

The lifting of the restraining order holding back these flows, which was requested as part of a lawsuit by the Westlands Water District and San Lois & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, is good news for this year’s record run of salmon.

The fact that a last minute lawsuit could have caused a catastrophic fish kill in the Klamath River demonstrates the need for long-term solutions to water issues in the Klamath, and it’s largest tributary, the Trinity River.

It is regrettable that this latest lawsuit has reignited the war for the Trinity River, one of the fiercest in the history of California water. At stake are Northern Californian’s way of life, including thousands of years of tribal existence, and commercial and sport fishing economies.

In this suit, irrigators located hundreds of miles from the Trinity River revived arguments that water for salmon, environmental conservation and cultural preservation should more profitably be used to grow crops. These crops are grown with subsidized water on marginal lands.

This latest attempt to use environmental laws to block water for environmental protection is especially hypocritical and deplorable if we look at the history of the Trinity water struggle.

The last battle for the Trinity was twelve years ago. Then, a federal appeals court rejected similar efforts by these same water users that would have blocked salmon restoration in the Trinity River.

The laws, permits and contracts that established the nearly 60-year old priorities for Trinity water are clear. Westlands and the San Luis & Delta-Medota Water Authority have always known that federal law gives Trinity needs priority over their use of Trinity River water, yet they continue to use obstructionist tactics to hold up water releases when the fish need it most.

Moreover, the broad scope of the crisis affecting our fishery involves irrigation and hydropower generation in Oregon and the controversial Bay Delta Conservation planning process in California.

Central Valley farmers are not the only party to blame for this crisis. If Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon was not overdrawn last year, and more water had been released from Iron Gate Dam, the Klamath River would not be in as dire a situation. If Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp would stick to its promise to remove the Klamath Dams instead of stalling dam removal through the manipulation of California’s water quality laws, water would be cleaner and cooler in the Klamath.

We cannot let wasteful corporate farming continue to diminish and pollute our rivers and groundwater to the point they cannot sustain fisheries or communities. The 2002 Klamath River fish kill was devastating not only the Tribes of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers, but also to coastal fishing communities.

It was also a wake up call for the stakeholders of the Klamath watershed, including California and Oregon. However eleven years, and millions of dollars in hearings and meetings, later very few solutions to the problem have been implemented.

There is a path forward. We have prepared long-term, comprehensive and science based solutions to the Klamath and Trinity crisis. We invite California and Oregon water managers to discuss them with us.

Danielle Vigil-Masten is the chairwoman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

Source: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/09/16/fate-northern-california-stake-trinity-river-war

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/09/16/fate-northern-california-stake-trinity-river-war

Drought Driving New Water Deals in the West, Part One

Tony Barboza | 9/9/13
On a June morning, Scott White and a colleague from his agency, the state Water Resources Department, park their pickup near a green pasture and barn outside Bly, Ore. A rancher, his wife and son meet the government men at the gate, their faces tight with barely suppressed anger. Low snowpack and stream flows prompted Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber to declare a drought emergency in the Klamath Basin in April, and the watermasters are here to shut off the irrigation water the family needs to sustain their fields through temperatures pushing 100 degrees.

This is just one of the hundreds of personal visits that watermasters are paying to ranchers and hay farmers who draw from the headwaters of the Klamath River, which runs 250 miles from southern Oregon’s high desert to the fog-shrouded redwoods of the California Coast. The crews, working in pairs, offer a sympathetic ear to frustrated ranchers, but carry radios and file itineraries with state police for their own safety as they step through wire fences and straddle ditches to measure stream flows, close headgates and turn off pumps.

Anywhere else in Oregon, officials would simply phone people to tell them to turn off their own irrigation systems, says White, a 35-year-old who wears waterproof hiking boots and covers his bald head with a baseball cap on parched summer days.

“But this is a first in this basin.”

After a 38-year process, this March the state of Oregon recognized the 3,700-member Klamath Tribes — the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin people — as the most senior water-rights holders in the Upper Klamath Basin. In June, fearing the drought would decimate their traditional fishery of endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers, the tribes exercised their rights to keep water in the lake and upper tributaries that feed into the Klamath River.

The federal government joined the tribes, using its senior rights to ensure the flow of water to 1,400 other farms on the Klamath Project on the California-Oregon border. Hundreds of Upper Basin ranchers and other junior water users, including federal wildlife refuges, were cut off; even Crater Lake National Park has had to truck in drinking water for campers.

“People are hurt, they are angry, and I think there’s grieving,” says Roger Nicholson, who raises cattle in the Wood River Valley near Fort Klamath. He received a card ordering him to shut off in July. “To lose the productive ability of our land is almost like the loss of a family member. It’s deep down.”

The tribes agonized over the decision, says Tribal Council Member Jeff Mitchell, knowing it would fan the flames of one of the West’s most intractable resource conflicts. People here have fought for generations over water and the fish, farms and hydroelectric dams it supplies, and the consequences have been widespread, including massive fish die-offs, toxic algae blooms in reservoirs and salmon declines that have closed 700 miles of coastline to fishing, from the Columbia River to Monterey, Calif.

Some have worried that this summer’s drought might also kill the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which was supposed to resolve those water-distribution conflicts while restoring habitat throughout the 15,000-square-mile Basin. Partly because many Upper Basin irrigators and others never signed on, the settlement has languished in Congress for over three years. But the latest crisis may actually provide the push needed to finally move the complex and fragile détente.

The shut-offs have brought Nicholson and other holdouts to the table to join tribes and government officials for an urgent round of talks aimed at finding a swift resolution. “This is our one chance to fix the Klamath system,” says Mitchell. “And it’s fixable.”

Struggles over water in the Klamath famously boiled over in 2001, when the federal government halted water deliveries to Klamath Project farmers to protect endangered suckers and salmon. U.S. marshals were called in to protect irrigation headgates from angry demonstrators, who formed a “bucket brigade” to manually divert water to irrigation canals in an act of civil disobedience. The Bush administration resumed water deliveries the following year, but that left river flows so low during the fall chinook salmon run that thousands of fish died, devastating downstream fisheries.

Three years ago, a coalition of dozens of onetime adversaries — including farmers, fishermen, tribes and environmentalists — signed a widely lauded truce. Under the agreement, the Klamath Tribes would not use their water rights to cut off the farmers who are part of the Klamath Project, a 1905 federal irrigation project that transformed an arid stretch of the California-Oregon border into productive farmland. The farmers agreed to accept less water during dry periods in exchange for greater certainty of deliveries from year to year.

The tribes, meanwhile, would benefit from restoration projects and receive 92,000 acres of forest, a small portion of the 1.8 million acres they lost when the U.S. government dissolved their reservation in 1954. In a companion deal, the electric utility PacifiCorp agreed to remove four hydroelectric dams on the river, allowing salmon to return to parts of the Klamath and its tributaries that have been blocked for nearly a century.

Source: http://www.pagosadailypost.com/news/23950/Drought_Driving_New_Water_Deals_in_the_West,_Part_One/

Lasting, collaborative solutions to protect our water sources

Pesticide program is uniquely Oregon solution to water quality issues.

Lasting solutions to Oregon problems combine local know-how with practical advice from experts, provide measurable results, and work for both people and the environment. It’s the Oregon way.

A uniquely Oregon solution to reduce unsafe levels of pesticides found in our waters is the Pesticide Stewardship Program, a program that has proven itself through pilots and, thanks to our governor and state legislature, is now a permanent part of Oregon’s efforts to protect human and aquatic health.

The 2013 Oregon Legislature approved $1.5 million per biennium in state funding for collaborative, voluntary, locally led pesticide stewardship projects and community pesticide collection events in Oregon. Oregon’s Departments of Agriculture (ODA) and Environmental Quality (DEQ) will formalize and expand pilot projects that have already significantly decreased pesticide runoff. In some watersheds, such as Hood River and Walla Walla, these projects have reduced pesticides of concern by over 90 percent. In the Hood River Basin, orchardists successfully avoided development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for certain pesticides by voluntarily reducing pesticide runoff instead.

As has been demonstrated by local leaders in Hood River, Wasco and Umatilla counties, effective voluntary stewardship programs can avoid a regulatory approach, provide flexibility and control to land managers, and enable pesticide users to address multiple pesticides at once with less time and cost investment.

They can also provide Oregon with monitoring data and practical solutions to inform federal pesticide use discussions.

Pesticide Stewardship Programs bring value to local land managers by giving them access to the resources of the state’s nationally recognized academic experts in pest, disease and weed management. These resources help land managers develop pest, disease and weed control strategies that maintain profitability, protect water resources and avoid regulatory risk. Community pesticide collection events enable pesticide users to anonymously and safely dispose of waste pesticides. This reduces costs for land managers and prevents leaks, spills and runoff.

The new Pesticide Stewardship Program investments will be guided by the interagency Water Quality Pesticide Management Team, led by ODA and DEQ in collaboration with members Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Health Authority and Oregon State University.

This program was unanimously supported through the legislative process by a diverse group of 30 organizations representing environmental, agriculture, health and forestry interests. These groups united in support of the Pesticide Stewardship Program because it uses the best of local knowledge and state expertise to create voluntary, collaborative solutions that truly work to measurably reduce pesticide pollution. We hope other communities throughout

Oregon will also adopt this successful model.

Allison Hensey is program director, food and farms, for the Oregon Environmental Council in Portland. Ken Bailey is vice president of Orchard View Farms in The Dalles, Ore.

– See more at: http://www.capitalpress.com/article/20130903/ARTICLE/130909962/1009#sthash.2X49UbzX.dpuf

Lasting solutions to Oregon problems combine local know-how with practical advice from experts, provide measurable results, and work for both people and the environment. It’s the Oregon way.A uniquely Oregon solution to reduce unsafe levels of pesticides found in our waters is the Pesticide Stewardship Program, a program that has proven itself through pilots and, thanks to our governor and state legislature, is now a permanent part of Oregon’s efforts to protect human and aquatic health.

The 2013 Oregon Legislature approved $1.5 million per biennium in state funding for collaborative, voluntary, locally led pesticide stewardship projects and community pesticide collection events in Oregon. Oregon’s Departments of Agriculture (ODA) and Environmental Quality (DEQ) will formalize and expand pilot projects that have already significantly decreased pesticide runoff. In some watersheds, such as Hood River and Walla Walla, these projects have reduced pesticides of concern by over 90 percent. In the Hood River Basin, orchardists successfully avoided development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for certain pesticides by voluntarily reducing pesticide runoff instead.

As has been demonstrated by local leaders in Hood River, Wasco and Umatilla counties, effective voluntary stewardship programs can avoid a regulatory approach, provide flexibility and control to land managers, and enable pesticide users to address multiple pesticides at once with less time and cost investment.

They can also provide Oregon with monitoring data and practical solutions to inform federal pesticide use discussions.

Pesticide Stewardship Programs bring value to local land managers by giving them access to the resources of the state’s nationally recognized academic experts in pest, disease and weed management. These resources help land managers develop pest, disease and weed control strategies that maintain profitability, protect water resources and avoid regulatory risk. Community pesticide collection events enable pesticide users to anonymously and safely dispose of waste pesticides. This reduces costs for land managers and prevents leaks, spills and runoff.

The new Pesticide Stewardship Program investments will be guided by the interagency Water Quality Pesticide Management Team, led by ODA and DEQ in collaboration with members Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Health Authority and Oregon State University.

This program was unanimously supported through the legislative process by a diverse group of 30 organizations representing environmental, agriculture, health and forestry interests. These groups united in support of the Pesticide Stewardship Program because it uses the best of local knowledge and state expertise to create voluntary, collaborative solutions that truly work to measurably reduce pesticide pollution. We hope other communities throughout

Oregon will also adopt this successful model.

Allison Hensey is program director, food and farms, for the Oregon Environmental Council in Portland. Ken Bailey is vice president of Orchard View Farms in The Dalles, Ore.

– See more at: http://www.capitalpress.com/article/20130903/ARTICLE/130909962/1009#sthash.2X49UbzX.dpuf

Clean Water or Clearcuts for Oregon?

 

 

 

Big decisions are looming for management of 2.8 million acres of Oregon’s public forestlands – an area covering the size of more than eight Crater Lake National Parks. Because legislation concerning management of the so-called O&C lands could end up undermining some of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, Oregonians aren’t the only ones with a stake in the issue.

 

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is proposing legislation that would increase clearcut logging closer to streams, on steep slopes and unstable soils, and would allow the use of toxic herbicides, which would compromise clean drinking water for 1.8 million Oregonians.

 

The proposal also threatens several thousand miles of habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead in iconic river systems like the North Umpqua, Illinois, Rogue, McKenzie, and Nestucca.

 

Conservation groups including American Rivers, Pacific Rivers Council, and the Wild Salmon Center are urging Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to craft an O&C lands bill with stronger protections for clean water and salmon.

 

This short video, Forests to Faucets: Clean Water or Clearcuts? provides a great overview of what’s at stake for Oregon’s clean water. I was happy to participate in the creation of the video (I’m the mom at the end) because clean drinking water is so fundamental to our well-being, and I want my kids to be able to swim, float, catch fish, and experience the wild beauty of places like the North Umpqua and the Rogue.

 

Watch the video and learn more about the need to protect clean drinking water on Oregon’s O&C forest lands.

Video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SiUOO3fPF3I

Do Oregon’s clear-cut and pesticide buffers protect drinking water from creeks, rivers?

Water fee hikes go into effect without panel’s approval

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

Lawmakers advanced Oregon’s new Integrated Water Resources Strategy by creating new programs and extending existing ones during the recently completed 2013 legislative session, according to an Oregon Water Resources Department official.

In a report to the Oregon Water Resources Commission Aug. 9, Brenda Bateman, public information officer for the department, characterized the session as “extremely busy for water, both on the policy and budget sides.”

Lawmakers added resources to the department, Bateman said, extended sunsets on programs due to expire, created a water supply development fund and increased water transaction fees in the session that ended July 8.

Bateman said that a late-session amendment to House Bill 2259, which authorized the department to increase fees, gave the department authority to enact the fee increases retroactive to July 1.

The new fee schedule includes a one-time 13 percent average increase over the most recent schedule for several dozen fees, including water right certificate fees, water use permits and water right transfers.

The amendment also put a July 1, 2017, sunset on the new fees. At that time, without further legislative action, fees would revert back to the most recent schedule.

The late-session amendment removed a provision of the bill that authorized the department to increase fees 2 percent annually or at the rate of inflation, Bateman said.

In general, Bateman said the department fared well in the first session since the state adopted its long-term strategy for dealing with water.

“Recommendations coming out of the Integrated Water Resources Strategy fared very well this session, not only for our agency, but for our sister agencies as well,” Bateman said.

The Oregon Water Resources Commission met Aug. 8-9 in Baker City.

Source:  http://www.capitalpress.com/content/ML-OR-Water-Fees-081613

DeFazio Bill Bad For Clean Water?

Clean drinking water is a logging issue in Oregon, where so many of our watersheds are on forest lands. In the furor over the DeFazio forest bill — or more properly the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act — river advocates say that the need to protect water for fish, wildlife and humans gets lost as people argue over county payments, timber jobs and board feet.

John Kober of the Pacific Rivers Council says, “We haven’t seen a real brass tacks look into what does this mean for water, clean drinking water in particular, if our lands are harvested at the level at which [Congressman Peter] DeFazio is proposing.”

DeFazio and Reps. Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader’s bill, which would split Oregon’s 2.4 million acres of federal O&C forests into a conservation trust and a timber trust, has generated controversy since its inception. Logging the O&C lands has historically been a source of county funding, but the lands are also the source of drinking water and a haven for wildlife. The bill passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee July 31. It is part of a larger piece of forest legislation offered by Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, but is under a separate title.

Chandra LeGue of Oregon Wild calls the Hastings bill “the worst environmental bill we’ve seen in a generation.” She adds, “Peter didn’t like the Hastings bill, but that didn’t stop him from voting for it.”

LeGue shares Kober’s concerns about the lack of protection for streams under the proposal, which calls for using weaker state rather than federal environmental laws on the federal lands. “It’s still public land but federal laws not applying just seems wrong,” she says.

Under the House version of the bill, federal laws and protections under the Northwest Forest Plan would not be used; instead the lands would be logged under the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA) that allows for pesticide use and has no stream buffers for nonfish-bearing streams — which still produce drinking water. Protection for fish-bearing streams would be cut in half.

The protection for streams has actually increased since an earlier draft of the bill. DeFazio said in a July 30 press release that in response to comments and recommendations from Gov. Kitzhaber’s task force, “several changes have been made to better protect Oregonians’ drinking water and fish-bearing streams.”

But clean water advocates say that’s not enough. David Moryc of American Rivers says that Eugene and Springfield residents are among the “1.8 million people who derive their drinking water from O&C lands.” He says that 81 drinking water providers get their water from these forests. Those providers face dealing with water that would be more turbid (full of sediments), warmer and possibly full of pesticides, he says.

DEQ maps showing sensitive lands also show some of the logging would be on steep slopes, Moryc says, and landslides on those slopes would affect water quality and increase costs for downstream users.

Add turbidity from road building and the fact the private lands logging “has virtually no protections for clean water,” and Kober says the O&C bill would add to the harm done to Oregon water, rather than benefit it the way federal forests should.

Sen. Ron Wyden is expected to introduce a Senate version of the bill “at the end of the summer,” his spokesperson Tom Towslee says, which according to Towslee is around Sept. 21. He says, “Of course people are always concerned about clean water and fish buffer zones,” and adds that the bill is still in process.

Source:  http://www.eugeneweekly.com/20130808/news-briefs/defazio-bill-bad-clean-water

Appeal planned in lawsuit challenging state’s Clean Water Act authority

By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI

Capital Press

A livestock auction company is planning to appeal a federal judge’s dismissal of its lawsuit challenging the State of Oregon’s oversight of confined animal feeding operations, according to the company’s lawyer.

Last year, the Eugene Livestock Auction of Junction City, Ore., filed a complaint against two state agencies — the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Agriculture — claiming they were illegally administering federal law.

The complaint alleged that Oregon doesn’t have the proper authority to enforce the federal Clean Water Act, which means it “may not administer an independent state-based, water pollution control program related to confined or concentrated animal feeding operations.”

Even if the state can enforce that law, the plaintiff claimed the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality improperly delegated its authority to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon has now dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the auction yard should have made those arguments during previous state administrative proceedings.

Between 2008 and 2010, the livestock auction was cited three times by the Oregon Department of Agriculture for allegedly failing to comply with the terms of its Clean Water Act permit, according to a previous opinion.

In each of the three cases, the company could have appealed the findings in state court but chose not to, the document said.

The underlying controversy in those proceedings was the same as in the federal case, so the livestock auction already had the opportunity to question the state’s power over CAFOs, the judge said.

“When plaintiff received the noncompliance notices, plaintiff could have raised the defense that the state did not have the authority to regulate plaintiff before ODA or before the Oregon courts,” Simon’s ruling said.

Bruce Anderson, owner of the livestock auction, said Oregon’s regulations don’t comply with the federal Clean Water Act and were never approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Anderson said that a drainage ditch from a state highway diverts water onto his property, causing it to flood.

He said the state entered into a settlement deal agreeing to correct the problem when it planned to build a prison nearby, but the project was scrapped and the flooding persists.

“It was the state causing the discharge on my property and the Oregon Department of Agriculture was fining me for it,” Anderson said.

Jacob Wieselman, attorney for the auction, said he believes the ruling was erroneous and plans to appeal it.

The previous state proceedings were separate from the company’s lawsuit, which asked the federal court to interpret the Clean Water Act, Wieselman said.

“We’re just looking at the law,” Wieselman said. “We’re not challenging the fines or prior actions.”

Capital Press was unable to immediately reach Stephanie Parent, the attorney representing the state agencies in the case, for comment.

Source:  http://www.capitalpress.com/content/mp-livestock-auction-ruling-080513

 

Lawsuit Says Dams Are Polluting Columbia And Snake Rivers

August 1, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An environmental group has filed a lawsuit alleging that hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers are illegally polluting water.

Columbia Riverkeeper filed the suit Wednesday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in federal courts in Oregon and Washington. The conservation group says acute spills and chronic leaks of oil have occurred at dams including Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day and Ice Harbor.

Columbia Riverkeeper director Brett VandenHeuvel says in a statement that the river is a treasure and should be protected from oil pollution.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the corps has violated the Clean Water Act along with injunctions requiring the corps to stop releasing pollutants and to evaluate and fix environmental damage.

The Corps of Engineers did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Source:  http://earthfix.opb.org/water/article/lawsuit-says-dams-are-polluting-columbia-and-snake/