Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Greg Walden's Crocodile Klamath Tears

Greg Walden chose up his side in 2001 during the battle of the Klamath Basin water rights. Walden (along with the rest of the rephrehensibly short sighted Republican torch bearing/pitchfork wielding mob) scurried to the defense of farmers.

This gang of myopics insisted that farmer's needs take precedence over fishermen and natives, as well as enviornmental concerns. They went so far as to set up a faux bucket brigade to drive home the point that farmers were the priority. Those whose livelihood depend on fish were left in the dust by the Republican representation.

Thus in 2002 when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) dewatered the Klamath River to divert massive irrigation water to farmers, salmon runs went tits up in a hurry:

In an effort to appease irate irrigators, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) had dewatered the Klamath River, which drains a 9,691-square-mile watershed of high desert, woods, and wetlands in southern Oregon and northern California. By July the agency had cut the flow from its Iron Gate Dam from 1,000 cubic feet per second—previously deemed by the administration as the bare minimum necessary to prevent extinction of the system's coho salmon—to about 650 cfs. From July 12 to August 31 more water went down the main diversion canal to irrigators than down the river to salmon.

Meanwhile, farmers were getting—and wasting—so much water that they were flooding highways and disrupting traffic.

State fisheries biologists, commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, Klamath Basin Indian tribes, and environmental groups had repeatedly warned the Bush administration that such dewatering would devastate chinook salmon and steelhead trout populations and perhaps usher cohos into oblivion. After the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that BuRec's plan would indeed jeopardize the existence of coho salmon, the leader of the NMFS team writing the biological opinion (required by the Endangered Species Act when a federal action might affect a listed species) says he was ordered to change his finding and that, when he refused, his superiors made the changes themselves.

In mid-September, four months into BuRec's new 10-year water-distribution plan, chinooks, cohos, and steelheads from the icy Pacific hit the low, warm, deoxygenated river and turned belly up. The mortality estimate was 33,000 fish, mostly chinooks. From all reports, it was the largest die-off of adult salmon ever. Bright, robust fish, many over 30 pounds, covered gravel bars, blocking foot traffic, fouling the water, filling the air with a stench you could taste.

But the farmers were able to grow their friggin sugar beets. Which apparently they can't sell because there's no market for them.

In other words, Walden and the gang that can't shoot straight decimated a profitable Oregon industry to benefit an unprofitable one that's propped up with government subsidies.

In the aftermath of this destruction, Walden has decided that its time to clean up the mess he helped to create by removing dams to restore fish habitat.

Until of course there's another regional drought and farmers are back to their victim status--and Walden is back with those farmers who help pad his campaign coffers. And the whole sordid mess starts all over again.