Friday, June 5, 2015

World Prayer and Peace Day comes to Southern Oregon

KlamBlog wishes to call to the attention of readers and followers an important event that is taking place June 18-21 in Southern Oregon just outside the Klamath River Basin.  World Peace and Prayer Day is a "cross-cultural celebration" in which people of "all nations" and "all faiths"  join together with "music, dance, traditional teachings and feasting" to promote "co-existence among all peoples and nations."

This year's 20th annual celebration is being organized by Red Earth Descendants. It takes place  at Howard Prairie Lake Resort, 3249 Hyatt Prairie Road on the outskirts of Ashland, Oregon. Local Indigenous Elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim will be one of the honored guests and presenters.

To learn more about this year's gathering see this link; to learn about founder Arvol Looking Horse and the origins of World Peace and Prayer Day go to this link.

Let's join together in person or in spirit on June 21st to celebrate the solstice and pray for unity in our river basin and world-wide.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Felice Pace talks about Klamath water management and salmon diseases on the Jefferson Exchange

On May 8th, KlamBlog editor and chief writer Felice Pace was interviewed on Jefferson Public Radio's Jefferson Exchange. The discussion included the US Bureau of Reclamation's decision to use taxpayer funds to pay for private irrigators to pump 45,000 acre feet of groundwater for irrigation this growing season. Felice questioned whether taxpayers should be footing the bill so that irrigators within the sprawling Klamath Irrigation Project can mine groundwater in order to fully irrigate during a drought. You can listen to the interview and leave a comment at this link.

Ever since Reclamation was forced to release water to the Klamath River to prevent "jeopardy" to ESA-listed Coho Salmon, the Klamath River Basin's Irrigation Elite  has been able to continue fully irrigating even in drought years by mining the Upper Basin's deep aquifer, extracting groundwater in an unsustainable manner.

Groundwater mining occurs when the amount of groundwater extracted over time exceeds the amount of groundwater recharge. As shown in the graph below, the deep water table in the Tulelake Area (the lower Lost River Basin) has dropped significantly since 1992 when Reclamation was forced to allow more water to flow down the Klamath River. The groundwater aquifer has failed to recover even during years of above average precipitation and snow pack.

 Groundwater elevation in the Tule lake area over time (source: USGS)
The irresponsible lowering of the groundwater table in order to fully irrigate during drought years has caused nearby towns (Tulelake in California, Merrill and Malin in Oregon) to drill deeper for drinking water. Even so, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) testing indicates that drinking water wells in the Oregon portion of the Lower Lost River Basin are polluted with nitrates, pesticides and other toxic agricultural residues.

Oregon DEQ has been reported as calculating that 15,000 acre feet of water could be safely extracted from groundwater in the Tule Lake Area (lower Lost River Basin) this year. Reclamation is using taxpayer funds to facilitate the removal of 3 times that amount!

Another silent Klamath Salmon disaster

Meanwhile fish disease levels in the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam continue to rise. During what should be the height of salmon out migration, few juvenile salmon are showing up in mid-Klamath River monitoring traps operated by the Karuk Tribe.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Members of the Klamath Tribes question their leaders' deal making

Friday, March 6, 2015

Members question Klamath Tribes' vote to approve the Klamath Water Deals

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples   states that before the rights of an Indigenous People can be terminated, the individuals whose rights are affected must provide their free, prior informed consent to the termination. The US Government says it abides by the Declaration. When it comes to water rights deals like the KBRA or the more recent Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBA), however, the feds don't require that tribal governments honor the Declaration

Of course, free, prior and informed consent is up for interpretation: How much information must a tribe provide its members and how much time must that tribe allow its members to study and debate the proposed deal trading away water rights or the ability to exercise those rights in order to comply with the UN Declaration?

KlamBlog's editor and chief writer, Felice Pace, has suggested that, within the context of a deal in which a tribe gives up water rights or agrees not to exercise those rights or relinquishes the right to have the federal government trustee protect those rights, "informed consent" requires that a cost-benefit analysis to determine the Net Present Value (NPV) of both the benefits a tribe would receive in a water deal and the cost of what that tribe would give up in the deal must be calculated. 

Felice further asserts that the cost-benefit accounting must be provided to tribal members well before any vote on the deal is conducted. Others have suggested that a cultural cost-benefit analysis should be completed by a tribe and provided to its members if and when the tribe is considering relinquishing water rights or the ability to exercise those rights.

Felice has also suggested that, when it comes to water deals in the American West, the feds have not honored their duty as trustee for the tribes but rather have worked during negotiations to keep the water with (mostly white) irrigators and especially with federal irrigation interests. That, in his view, is a fundamental abrogation of the federal government's duty as trustee to look out for and advance the interest of federal tribes. If that interpretation of the federal trustee duty is correct, tribes may have recourse in the future to reverse some of the western water deals in the federal Court of Claims.  

Over 30 western water deals involving tribes have already been approved by Congress and many more, including the KBRA and UKBA, are in the pipeline. Several tribes, including the Nez Perce and Klamath Tribes have approved water deals which trade away or agree not to exercise in-stream water rights which have been granted to sustain salmon fisheries. To date, however, few have questioned the morality of trading the water salmon need for funding and other benefits tribal governments want for their people and their reservations. Should federal tribes have the legal right to trade away water the salmon need? Even if they have that legal right, is a tribal government trading away the water fish need morally correct? As far as KlamBlog can see, these questions have not been raised, much less debated, by the leaders and members of the West's salmon tribes.     

There appear to be a number of members of the Klamath Tribes who agree with Felice's analysis of the Klamath Water Deals. Those members have banded together in the group "Honor The Treaty of 1864" which recently published a press release appearing on the Last Real Indians website. You can read the press release at this link. The Honor the Treaty of 1864 group's press release is also reprinted in full below.  

 Kientpoos Prayer Pole, Captain Jack's Stronghold, Lava Beds National Monument