Farmers in the Klamath Basin found vindication in a National Research Council report, released Oct. 21, which says the solution to Klamath’s protracted water struggles lies not in irrigation shutoffs but in sweeping repairs to an out-of-balance landscape.
In 2001, federal biologists reserved so much
water for fish farmers nearly rioted. But there is no evidence the
water did the fish any good, said the report, which was compiled by
a panel of 12 scientists assembled at the request of Interior
Secretary Gale Norton.
“There was one knob (federal
agencies) could turn, and that was the one on the (irrigation)
project,” says Jeffrey Mount, who served on the panel.
“The committee doesn’t believe that will solve the
Secretary Norton agreed that “the
recovery of coho salmon and the two (species of) suckers cannot be
achieved through actions primarily focused on the Klamath Project
but require a broader approach.” The report also said
diversion of water to farms last year cannot by itself be blamed
for last fall’s historic die-off of more than 33,000 salmon
and steelhead in the Klamath (HCN, 6/23/03: Sound science goes
But the panel also echoed calls by tribes and
environmental groups for the repair of eroding riverbanks, dammed
streams and other obstacles to recovery of the fish. The report
said that federal agencies must remove dams that impede fish
migration, restore vital wetlands, and return clean, cool water to
rivers and lakes.
“If there’s one central
theme,” Mount says, “it’s that the failures of
the past are the result of not taking an ecosystem