The first story is from the Associated Press and appeared in the Portland Oregonian on 28 November 2007. After that, there is a Sacramento Bee story from 29 November 2007. [Disclosure notice: I am one of the co-authors of the report.]
Report: Klamath fish need more water
By William McCall
The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Conservation groups seeking removal of four aging Klamath River dams near the California border welcomed a report Wednesday by the National Research Council confirming studies indicating that salmon and other fish need more water.
"This report is a major victory for salmon, commercial fishermen, Native Americans, and everyone else who cares about the health of the Klamath River," said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild, based in Portland.
The report comes as federal agencies prepare a new evaluation of salmon and endangered stocks of the Klamath fish known as suckers, as interest groups try to negotiate a settlement of water issues, and as federal regulators decide the fate of the four dams on the river, which runs through Southern Oregon and Northern California.
The battle over water management in the high desert basin has pitted farmers and irrigators against Indian tribes, fishermen and environmental groups.
A leader of the National Research Council study said it agreed with recommendations from Utah State University researchers led by Thomas Hardy that more water would help increase salmon runs.
"That conclusion is based partly on — frankly — scientific judgment," said William Graf, a University of South Carolina geography professor and chairman of the committee of scientists who wrote the report released Wednesday. "But it's also based on more data that's become available in the last, say, two to four years."
The council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, reviewed two separate water studies on the Klamath River Basin.
One study was the Utah State study, on the lower part of the river. The other was by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, on the upper reach.
The council praised both studies but found flaws. It criticized the Bureau of Reclamation study for basing its water flow models of the upper Klamath on monthly averages instead of daily flows, and elimination of Klamath tributaries from the modeling.
The council praised the Utah study for its detailed measurements of stream beds and fish habitat simulation but found it suffered from the same flaws as the government study because it also lacked daily flow and tributary analysis.
Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association, which represents farmers who irrigate in the basin, had jury duty Wednesday and did not get a chance to thoroughly examine the report. Addington, however, said he agrees with the council that the tributaries need to be part of the analysis. He said the report appears to emphasize the need for a watershed-wide approach to fish issues, and farmers agree with that.
"We know we're part of the system, but it's a big system," he said.
Cecil Lesley, chief of the water and lands division for the Bureau of Reclamation in Klamath Falls, said both studies will be considered by federal fish agencies in their evaluation of salmon and endangered Klamath sucker stocks, called a biological opinion, expected to be released next spring.
Pedery, however, and Glen Spain, Northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said the Bush administration tried to delay the Hardy report because it could represent the "best available science" requirement for completing the biological opinion.
"The science speaks for itself and confirms what we've all known — and that is fish need more water than they've gotten historically," Spain said.
The report was released while talks continue over whether to remove four dams from the lower Klamath owned by PacifiCorp, a Portland utility owned by a company that is controlled by billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has suggested the dams could remain in place if fish are transported around them, while other federal agencies have recommended construction of costly fish ladders.
Low water flows on the Klamath were partly blamed for dramatic cutbacks last year in commercial ocean salmon fishing.
Craig Tucker, spokesman for the Karuk Tribe of California, said Wednesday the talks on the fate of the dams may lead to a decision before the end of the year on what could become one of the largest dam removal projects in U.S. history.
Report backs more water for Klamath
By David Whitney, the Sacramento Bee, 29 November 2007
WASHINGTON – A National Research Council report Wednesday supported more water being released down the Klamath River to protect salmon runs, siding with authors of a 2006 study that critics said the Bush administration tried to suppress.
Environmentalists hailed the report as "a major victory."
"The science that fish need water is becoming clearer than some people believe," said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
But the research council report also found fault with two recent Klamath River scientific studies, including the one from 2006, saying they examine in detail portions of the complex river system but miss the complete picture of why it's in such crisis.
"Science is being done in bits and pieces," said University of South Carolina geography professor William L. Graf, chairman of the 13-member review committee.
The Klamath, once the third most productive salmon river on the West Coast, in recent dry years has been a battleground over water and the Endangered Species Act, pitting farmers relying on irrigation in the upper basin in Southern Oregon against salmon fishermen enduring economic hardship because of disastrous runs.
In 2001, water to irrigators was cut to provide more for fish. The next year, with irrigation supplies restored, more than 30,000 adult salmon died after being infected by pathogens thriving in the warm, shallow lower river.
Since those divisive days, the two competing reports have been released – one by the federal Bureau of Reclamation in 2005 projecting what river flows might look like if upper basin irrigation wasn't a factor, and another in 2006 sponsored by the Bureau of Indian Affairs looking at how much water should flow down the river to keep fish healthy.
The council report found fault with both studies but felt that the conclusions of the Indian Affairs-funded study conducted by Thomas Hardy of Utah State University should be adopted anyway.
"The recommended flow regimes offer improvements over existing monthly flows," the report said.
The flows proposed by Hardy, depending on precipitation levels and time of year, could amount to as much as twice the volume of water now being released from Iron Gate Dam, the lowest of the Klamath dams.
The new report by the research council, an arm of the National Academies of Science, is not likely to result in any immediate changes by the Bureau of Reclamation, which tried to downplay its significance. "There's nothing in here that provides compelling reasons to change our operations," said bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken in Sacramento.
The report's release comes as negotiations between fishermen, irrigators, environmentalists, Indian tribes and others to strike a deal on competing Klamath water demands are in their final stages. Separate talks also are occurring with Portland-based PacifCorp, owner of the hydroelectric dams, on knocking them down and reconnecting the river.
Spain said the research council's findings were certain to be factors in the ongoing negotiations and could influence biologists' findings this spring as the 2008 irrigation season opens.
The 172-page report raises some of the same concerns of critics of the settlement talks – that important tributaries of the Klamath, particularly the Scott and Shasta rivers in Northern California where irrigation withdrawals are heavy, are being ignored.
Graf said his research team was told that the tributaries were left out of government studies for "political reasons," adding, "It was not a decision a researcher interested in science would make."
But with three branches of the Interior Department handling competing interests on the Klamath – irrigation by Reclamation, Indian fishing by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Service – Graf said his team believes that what is needed is independent and comprehensive research free from politics.
According to Spain and others, the Hardy study itself nearly fell victim to politics and Reclamation's efforts to "kill it." Hardy didn't go that far but described a convoluted process that resulted in several years of delay.
Begun in 1998, Hardy released a draft in 2002 but was not permitted to finish it. He said in a telephone interview that he was told by Reclamation that it had provided data to him that it did not have permission to use. The agency then held up giving him the money to develop replacement data.
A dozen California House members sent a letter to Gale Norton, then the Interior secretary, in 2003 demanding the release of the money and completion of the report to avoid another "catastrophic fish kill."
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who led the effort to complete the Hardy report, cheered the NRC's support of it Wednesday. "This report is further confirmation that increased water flows are a crucial element to the restoration of threatened salmon," Thompson said in a statement.
I thought for today's quote I'd use the following from the local Klamath Falls paper.
"Whether the measure used is the size of the salmon runs, the state of the Basin's water quality or the amount of water flowing in Klamath River Basin streams and rivers, the 20-year effort to restore the Klamath River and its fisheries has failed. Salmon runs now are at greater risk of extinction, fishing is more restricted and water quality is more degraded than when 'restoration' began in earnest 20 years ago..." -- Klamath Falls Herald and News, 9 November 2006.