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News, notes, trip reports, and the lighter side (of the wilder side) of the Oregon environmental and conservation movement.
In a strange twist, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) has become the greatest impediment to the proposed removal of Klamath River dams.
The billion-dollar KBRA isn't going anywhere, gives false hope to interests which would benefit from it, and is causing state and federal agencies to ignore worsening conditions for wildlife and endangered species in the basin for fear of upsetting the deal.
As long as there appears to be some hope for the KBRA and the money that would come with it in Congress, government agencies and stakeholders in the Klamath Basin will continue to allow PacifiCorp to continue with their fish-killing status quo. No Act of Congress is necessary to remove the dams.
Klamath-area National Wildlife Refuges are being forced to drain massive amounts of water, while nothing is being asked of industrial irrigators.
By Wendell Wood
It has come to our attention Lower Klamath and Tule Lake NWRs are being required to deliver 5,600 acre feet of water from the refuge to the Klamath River. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) maintains this is being done so the agency won't have to otherwise release additional water from Upper Klamath Lake.
While the BOR claims it needs to do so to maintain Upper Klamath lake levels for endangered species purposes, it is also doing so for the principal purpose of "recharging" the lake to its maximum elevation prior to the onset of the 2013 irrigation season.
This week'f feature, Indian Rhubarb, might also occasionally be described as a “whale of a plant.”
Indian Rhubarb (also known as Umbrella Plant or Great Shield Leaf), Darmera peltata
As summer progresses, Indian Rhubarb’s lovely clusters of pink blossoms lose their petals, but their giant, roundish, umbrella-like leaf blades is what calls most people’s attention to this remarkable, streamside plant.
These leaves continue to grow ever larger, until some are truly as large an open umbrella, at least one to two feet wide, but sometimes a full yard across. The plant’s former scientific name, Peltiphyllum peltatum, in Greek means “shield leaf” in reference to its "peltate" leaves.
Also, like the more familiar garden Nasturtium leaves, a peltate leaf has the leaf stalk, or petiole, attached to the very center of a round blade, rather than attached most typically, along a leaf base or margin.
Klamath National Wildlife Refuge marshes aren't just for the birds anymore!
While badgers, Taxidea taxus (clearly not a species name given by a politically astute scientist) range throughout a broad swath of North America, it isn't often you see one other than on dry land. An Oregon Wild member from Bend once reported seeing a badger swimming at Moon River Reservoir near Malheur Lake. He reported that it was "a really hot day", and figured it was "just trying to cool off".
However, despite temperatures in the 70's, I got a rare treat on a recent 4th of July weekend while paddling Wocus Bay. Wocus bay is located in the Southeast end of the 40,000 acre Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and just to the East of Crater Lake National Park.
Is it a beaver? An otter? No...it's a badger! Read the captions below the pictures for the rest of the story:
Oregon Wild raises concerns over the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement's Draft Drought Plan
This spring the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) Drought Plan Lead Entity, a subset of the KBRA signature parties, released the agreement’s draft drought plan—a plan that had not been created when the controversial agreement was signed back in February 2010. While the long-awaited plan, open to public comment, was supposed to provide a structure and strategy for the basin’s response to drought or extreme drought under the KBRA, it fell significantly short of this anticipated agenda.
It’s no secret, given Oregon Wild’s concerns over the KBRA and its partnered Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), we had high expectations for one of the deal’s most critical elements—the Drought Plan. As we all know, the Klamath doesn’t make headlines in average or wet years. Instead, anxieties and blood pressures rise when the river and lakes fall low and the summer temperatures hit highs. The Drought Plan was to be the key to resolving the uncertainties posed by drought in the Klamath under the KBRA. Instead, reviewers found a framework for a plan, a plan for a plan, a shadow, hint, ghost of a plan.
You can access the draft plan here and review Oregon Wild’s comments on the Draft Drought Plan here. A few excerpts from our comments include:
-The Draft Drought Plan is notable for its general lack of specifics regarding the nature and extent of any future response to drought or extreme drought under the KBRA. The plan does not identify the likely success of its programs or offer details on how they would function. Given its general nature, it is hard to envision how the plan would be used to address the significant flow deficits that could result from implementation of the diversion limitation in certain years.
-The draft plan implies the use of “best available science” when evaluating drought risk (Section 5.2.1.B), however there is no evidence of the basin’s best available science being used in the development of the draft plan itself.
Klamath Basin Biological Opinions, irrigator demands, and mixed agency management make meeting the needs of Klamath fish a challenge.
Like a good American, I sat diligently in front of my television last week and watched the President’s State of the Union. I actually felt a little proud of myself. Usually, I feign boredom or busyness and don’t make it through the whole speech—what with all the up and down and clapping and delays for bad jokes—but this year, now that we’re in D.C., I felt some obligation to buckle down and pay attention.
This was the right year. Of course, for me, the hubbub over salmon was thrilling and remarkably accurate. Last week, salmon were very much on the Oregon Wild brain. Along with our partners the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Larch Company, Oregon Wild filed a petition to list the Klamath-Trinity Chinook salmon under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The goal of the petition is to establish protections for the dwindling wild spring Chinook population in the Klamath-Trinity River watersheds. You can read more about this effort here. After working on this petition effort for some time now, it seemed all the more appropriate that the President’s speech called out one of the greatest challenges in establishing protections for salmon—agency management.
A brief look at The State of the Birds 2010 Report on Climate Change in the United States.
Yesterday evening on our sunset drive back into Washington, D.C. from Thanksgiving in points north we saw some of the most fantastic flocks of starlings I’ve ever witnessed. Starlings that wove their way as one creature through the skyline, their flock stretched long and lean field after field, farther than I could see. Starlings are considered a nuisance species, number in the hundreds of millions, and have typically been the most abundant bird in the northeastern United States. Watching them en masse, I was reminded that they are not likely a species vulnerable to a changing environment, but a notoriously resilient one, unlike so many of their winged companions.
Last year I wrote about the first State of the Birds report, as well as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory report on climate, which indicated that without a doubt, bird species are on the decline. This year’s State of the Birds report, put out by a number of bird conservation organizations, including the American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and The Nature Conservancy, among others, once again, confirms that birds are an indicator species to watch, especially when it comes to a changing climate. Though perhaps not telling in the flight waves of starlings, birds across the nation are continuing to hint at “the failing health of our ecosystems.” This year’s 2010 Report on Climate Change suggests that birds in every habitat will be affected by climate change. It is no longer a question of if, but rather, how much?
Spreading the love to all of Oregon's native animals (and mascots).
I realized that yesterday's OSU post might have appeared a tad inflammatory in the midst of the college football season. So, to be fair...an ode to ducks. All photo taken by Brett Cole in the Upper Klamath Basin.
Ducks over Lower Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge
More photos after the jump.
An intern's summer working with Oregon Wild's rivers and watersheds program.
At Oregon Wild, I have learned more than I ever dreamed of knowing about fish. I’ve met wonderful people here, and have immersed myself in Portland’s rather unique culture. I’ve gone on some gorgeous hikes in Oregon National Forests and Wilderness areas, and have watched a senator perforate people verbally in a public forum. I’ve talked to people who think Oregon Wild is too liberal, or too conservative, or too focused on local issues, or too obsessed with the big picture. It’s been pretty wild.
My summer has been spent mostly working on projects based in the Klamath Basin. Jumping into an area with such a contentious history has been interesting, to say the least. The Basin is particularly fascinating because it’s kind of a microcosm of future water issues that will probably arise throughout the American West, not only pitting various interest groups against each other, but sometimes even forcing hard choices within the environmental community. While I spent most of my time working on salmon, I’m sympathetic to the needs of the lake-dwelling suckers and the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges, both of which use water that might otherwise go to salmon streams. Even so, I have to say that salmon – hardly the cuddliest of at-risk creatures – now hold a special place in my heart.
YES! Lower & warmer flows, higher temps, and drier ground. Climate change in the Klamath brings rough predictions for the basin's fish, wetlands, and wildlife.
[This summer Oregon Wild has had the great pleasure of hosting a handful of outstanding interns. Supportive of both our development and conservation programs, they’ve been doing research, outreach, and more. Among the tasks our Healthy Rivers intern, Dylan Cerling, completed this summer was a summary of recent research on climate change impacts to the Klamath Basin, including the latest study be the University of Oregon and National Center for Conservation Science and Policy. Below is Dylan’s helpful, but frightening summary on what we might expect in the Klamath. (This summary is not for public use or reproduction.)]
Both the causes and effects of climate change are complex; models by their very nature may fail to account for certain processes or predict certain outcomes. However, models consistently suggest that the net effect of climate change on fish and wildlife, and their habitats in the Klamath Basin will be harmful, as water levels both drop and become more variable, and stream temperatures rise.
By the year 2100, anthropogenic global climate change is, depending on regulatory actions, estimated to raise global temperatures from 1.1 to 6.4 degrees C. While the Klamath Basin has temperatures and precipitation levels that vary widely according to geography and season, it is a generally dry region and climate change is expected to exacerbate this status. Predictions of yearly precipitation are variable under different models; but even so, all models agree that warmer season precipitation will decline.