Opinion Piece by Samuel Strait
I happened to actually pay attention to the local TV station news out of Eureka last night when I caught a glimpse of the “Gov”, Jerry Brown, lecturing us on “good governmental action” (Oh Pleeeeese, really) in forming a consensus and having a signing ceremony about the up coming removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. Any more now it always gives me the creeps when you have a bunch of politicians and several tribal and environmental activists standing at the mouth of the Klamath River, probably couldn’t do it in the upper Klamath Basin because it isn’t quite as popular up there, talking in words of enormous, largest, biggest, for the good of local communities, the science is settled, and on and on. The first question that comes to my mind is WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR THIS? I am being facetious of course, it will be the local people paying for another government scheme all wrapped up in platitudes, but hardly the great and wonderful beneficial project for most of us.
The other troubling little detail that comes to mind is just who are these people that supposedly represent everyone impacted by the loss of relatively benign electric production in a relatively cost effective fashion and the loss of water stored in reservoirs in a drought stricken-ed state. Similarly, it raises red flags when the Secretary of the Interior casually states that this process is an end run around the US Congress where we all have some sort of representation. I don’t know just how Secretary Jewell can parade a handful of activists, some who do not wish the dams to be removed at all and call it consensus or compromise.
Having become intrigued, by the grandiose statements by all involved to be found in the follow up article written by Laura Jo Welter of Triplicate fame in today’s paper , I think that the statement, ” the largest restoration project in US history” should give everyone something to pause and reflect upon. Government does not have an exactly robust record of success when it comes to large projects and this being one of them coupled with the undeniable fact that the US Congress wouldn’t sign off on it, should make not just the few that signed the settlement agreement reconsider, but allow for reflection on the following details.
Who exactly will be harmed by the dam removal and who exactly will benefit? Is the science that is supposedly settled about restoring fish to the Upper Klamath real or speculative? How much harm will occur by releasing the sediment accumulated behind the dams to existing spawning beds? Will salmon and steelhead who have been prevented from reaching the Upper Flamath for many years actually go there to form new spawning beds? What is it about salmon restoration that is so vital to current Native American populations, particularly those in the lower basin? Will the newly opened Klamath River sans dams really be able to do anything about low water levels should they occur?
Moving on to several other niggling bits of misinformation found in Secretary Jewell’s statements in the Triplicate are if this is such a clear and necessary project why is there any opposition at all? Seems to me that there was a Coastal Voices piece some time back written by yours truly Don Gillespie of Friends of Del Norte fame. In it he made the absurd claim that the dam removal wouldn’t affect anyone financially, nor would electric bills climb. I guess the dam removal fee that I pay each month on my electric bill is a figment of my imagination.
I keep hearing it said by the tribal activist that the salmon restoration is somehow vital and is part of some vague 1,000 years as a food source imperative. I’m not sure how that is, because we have grocery stores in this day and age and I may be mistaken but they don’t seem to exclude Native Americans from shopping in those stores. Culturally, Native Americans might have a case, but it has been some time since the tribes have been totally dependent on salmon as a primary food source. Similarly, it is difficult to point to the dams as the one and only source of lower fish populations when tribal fishermen use modern fishing gear, nylon gill nets, and jet boats to fish in a relatively restricted water way in areas currently well below the Klamath River dams.
Environmental activists seem to be a contradiction in terms, all for restoration but against a relatively environmentally friendly form of electrical production. I guess that must mean that using coal, nuclear, or diesel fired plants to produce electricity is preferable in this case, but only in this case? Unless of course, they are saying that we shouldn’t be able to have cheap, clean, environmentally friendly electricity in any form. As far as restoring habitat that has been altered by the introduction of the hydroelectric dams, this calls for the predicting of the future, rather like speculative science than repeatable science. This means that the science can not really say what will happen if the river is opened up, nor can they predict the negative impact of this action with any certainty. Which makes Secretary Jewell’s statement that the science is clear hardly the case.
And then there are the farmers, who would like to have a reliable source of water to grow food for all of us, including environmentalists and Native American families, and would also along with the electricity user of Southern Oregon and Northern California like the dams to remain. Since these two groups largely outnumber the proponents of the dam removal group, just whose interests are really being served by this recent activity by the Secretary of the Interior and the Governors of California and Oregon, who are saying by their actions that these two groups don’t have a real say in this restoration project?
I didn’t elect a Secretary of the Interior nor has any one else, and think that this is not something that Secretary Jewell should be involved in at all. No matter how much the participants of this little charade claim that every one is being represented and that some how a consensus has been reached, that is far from the actual case. The citizens of Del Norte County have in the past twenty years plenty of experience with grand plans and assurances of beneficial projects only to be disappointed nearly every time. Maybe its time to just leave the dam removal restoration project as something that wasn’t ready for public consumption and move on.
2 thoughts on “NO Consensus in Dam Removal”
The dams are “outdated” and that means exactly what? The river is a “sovereign nation” is supposed to mean something? Isn’t the river still in the United States? Did it get up and leave the country and is owned by someone else?
The culture that you are talking about existed 150 years ago and gradually faded as time went by, so we are suppose to think that the modern Native American life style and culture wishes to mimic that of the 1850’s? Back to fishing in dugouts and the like? Are jetboats, nylon line, and modern gill nets part of that “culture”?
After no fishing for three to five years the project will be done in the winter of 2020 all at the same time is supposed to mean something? Or is it some sort of paranormal forecasting of the future as the “ideal” time frame?
As population climbs and will continue, it will become necessary to utilize all sorts of previously unsuitable and environmentally inconvenient land areas in order to feed the emerging population. “Desert land” is one of those places.
To say that it is an “historical moment” in this nation and couple it with “largest” certainly doesn’t make it some how sacrosanct. The Civil War was the largest war fought in this nation and was historically significant, but there certainly were significant differences of opinion. Just because it is labeled so doesn’t necessarily mean they are good or bad things. It just seems that this is not certainly the way a consensus is reached.
I made no mention of going to a store for the express purpose of buying fish. Since the Native American diet is no longer dependent on a hunter-gatherer type culture for food, I was suggesting that they probably could go to the store like most everyone else. As far as getting fish from the river , or even the Pacific Ocean for that matter, is a diminishing proposition, particularly in California. Very few fish caught in the river end up in the grocery store and in the near future fewer and fewer will be native caught stock from the ocean. If we can buy salmon at all it will gradually come almost entirely from fish farms.
Whether I have a concern regarding the dam removal or not is most certainly not for you to decide! Whether or not I think the dams should be removed or not was not the point of my utterances. When unelected employees of the government in the form of the Department of the Interior decides to do an end run around Congress because they are not “moving a massive project through FAST ENOUGH”, it is something that should be a concern for ALL AMERICANS! Whether or not I support the dam removal is not the issue. What I am saying is that the arguments on display for the removal are not as cut and dried as presented. It is as possible that the removal of the dams could cause more issues by their removal than leaving them in place. I have tried to show where this may occur as well as pointing out some common sense reasoning where science that tries to predict the future is not always successful.
As you yourself have pointed out on numerous occasions, people in government, who are as often as not, unelected employees, have a great deal to say about what goes on in the life of the average citizen. In this particular case, it is exactly that point that I wish to high light. Whether you are for or against dam removal, the current process by which it is going forward is a travesty! Government employees and a few activists do not make a consensus period. Because the government is involved outside of the normal process for accomplishing such a “massive project”, it should want to make anyone pause and wonder why exactly this is the case in this instance or any other cases where this kind of government tampering with the process occures.
The damns are outdated and it would cost more to replace them then to take them out. That is one reason they are being removed. This river is sovereign nation and with that goes their culture which is for one fishing. After the damns are removed there will be no fishing for 3 to 5 years and the project will be done in the winter of 2020 all at the same time.
The so called farm land that was created from a desert to begin with will inherit water use. This is an historical moment because it is the largest damn removal ever done in this nation. The Natives believe this will heal their river and evidence demonstrates where damn removal has taken place, the fish come back strong.
you mention that if they want fish they can go to the store, is somewhat laughable. Where do you think the store gets their fish from?? In essence. you may not agree or like the fact that this is a positive for the Klamath river, and that is ok because it is none of your concern, but the concern of the Tribes.