Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fish benefit of a Klamath pact questioned

Interesting report in the Bee on the ongoing "stakeholder" talks in the Klamath Basin. If you're reading between the lines, it still seems like a long way to go for a possible solution to the problems facing the river.

Friday, December 07, 2007

$1 billion lawsuit claims Klamath dams produce hazardous waste

Here's the latest legal maneuver by Klamath Riverkeeper and the tribes in the Klamath Basin to put pressure on PacifiCorp to remove the dams on the river. The claim is that the series of dams along the river promote the growth of toxic algae. One billion dollars is quite a number.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Report backs more water for Klamath

The long awaited report from the National Research Council supports more water flowing down the river for salmon, and acknowledges that politics and not science have been one of the primary motivations behind recent flow policies. It also supports the Hardy flow study, suppressed for years by the government agency that commissioned it.

But will it make any difference? With decisions like the recent one made by the FERC (see below), the best hope for the river seems to be the stakeholder talks underway between the tribes, irrigators, fishermen and environmentalists.

You can download a PDF summary of the report on this page.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Feds recommend keeping Klamath dams

The ruling is the lone regulatory voice that completely ignores the plight of the salmon on the Klamath River and recommends not only keeping the dams, but trapping and hauling spawning fish around them, the worst of all possible solutions. Even PacifiCorp, the electric utility that owns the dams, has said it will spend $300 million to build fish ladders to help the salmon.

The FERC has made a number of questionable rulings under this Administration, going back to the Enron days. See this documentary that examines their role in the bad old days of blackouts in California.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Biologists for Agency Endorse Dams Plan

From the New York Times, an article about the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)biological opinion on the conflict between dams and salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Biological opinions from federal scientists about fisheries issues, and particularly salmon issues in the west, are at the heart of many water use conflicts, including the ongoing Klamath River conflict.

The biological opinion in the Klamath controversy is covered extensively in the documentary, and former NMFS scientist Mike Kelly explains his position on it and why the negotiations over it led him to become a federal whistleblower.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Levees breached to restore Klamath wetlands

Here's an article in the Oregonian about breaching levees to create more wetlands to help endangered sucker fish in the Klamath Basin - a rare example of levees or dams coming down for conservation reasons. Nice use of still photos and video within the story (including the explosives going off).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Central Valley salmon largely absent from fall run

I first heard about the small number of returning salmon to the Sacramento and other rivers in early September, yet there was still hope for increasing returns as we went deeper into fall. Now it seems, from this excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the dearth of salmon is throughout northern California's rivers and extends into Oregon.

Why? Insufficient krill, low water flows, juvenile salmon deaths in years past are all possibilities, and it seems many of the problems on the Klamath River are spreading to other river systems that formerly had strong runs of fall salmon.

Our next documentary is on the myriad problems with the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. For more info contact info(at)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Feds find Klamath irrigation still hard on fish

The opening paragraph from this AP report says it all:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that operating the federal irrigation project in the upper Klamath Basin is likely to continue causing problems for fish protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Northcoast Journal story on sustainability in the Upper Klamath Basin

A lot of the stories in this blog focus on the problems and possible solutions in the Lower Klamath basin. This is a good article about farmers in the Upper Basin and their efforts to sustain their land for the long term. The water starts there. If a solution for the troubles of the Klamath Basin is ever to be found, the farmers of the Upper Basin will need to play an integral role.

Two of the farmers profiled in this article, Steve Kandra and Jeanne Anderson, are also characters in Battle for the Klamath.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Battle for the Klamath airs on PBS station KRCB

on September 4th at 9:00pm. Check the listings here.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Senator Gordon Smith and the Klamath

The blog Loaded Orygun, which describes itself "as a left-leaning journal of Oregon's politics and culture" has been all over Senator Gordon Smith's statements about the Klamath River water shutoff and fish kill, both covered extensively in the documentary.

Every time Smith opens his mouth about his role (and Cheney and Rove's role) in the Klamath controversy, he seems to dig himself a deeper hole. Many thought Smith's biggest problem in his 2008 reelection bid would be his support for the Iraq war. Now it appears that issues surrounding the Bush Administration's role in water releases on the Klamath River may be the greatest impediment to another six years in the Senate for Smith.

By the way, one of the issues is Smith's role in lobbying for more water for the farmers with the White House in 2001. In Battle for the Klamath, Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) tells me on camera how he and Smith personally lobbied President Bush on Air Force One, with Rove sitting next to him explaining to the President how the Endangered Species Act actually works.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

House committee wades into Klamath water dispute

Coverage of the Congressional hearing yesterday. The major news was that when the Department of the Interior Inspector General investigated political manipulation in the Klamath Basin by Karl Rove and others, they never asked about Vice President Cheney.

As I say in the documentary, I asked the Inspector General's office whether they ever actually talked to Rove as part of the investigation. The answer was no.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Congress to hold hearing on Cheney's involvement with the Klamath fish kill

From the AP:

Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee said Tuesday they will hold a July 31 hearing to look into the role Vice President Dick Cheney may have played in the 2002 die-off of about 70,000 salmon near the California-Oregon border.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the panel's chairman, said he has invited Cheney to appear at the hearing, but a spokeswoman for the vice president said he was not likely to attend.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Klamath-Cheney tale is all fiction

Here's an opinion piece by the mayor of Klamath Falls and Dan Keppen, who is one of the main characters in Battle for the Klamath, arguing that the Washington Post series (below) and other allegations about the Bush Administration's role in the Klamath controversy are false and "anti-farmer".

In the documentary, I made an effort to talk with people on both sides of the issue, and I found few people who were anti-farmer, or anti-Indian tribe, but many people who wanted too much of a resource that was not, and is not, readily available in the Klamath Basin: water.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Battle for the Klamath on FSTV on August 7th

The documentary airs throughout the day on Dish Network Channel 9415 and cable stations in 34 states. Broadcast times (EST): 2am, 5am, 9am, 4pm, and 9pm.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Washington Post series describes Cheney's impact on the Klamath controversy

This story is part of the Washington Post's terrific series on Vice President Cheney and his role in the Bush Administration. This is great reporting on the Klamath situation; Cheney's role and the quotes from Interior Department officials are stunning and show just how important this regional battle over water and fish was in the beginning of the Bush presidency.

In an ironic twist, Dylan Glenn, who was the main character in a documentary we made (Dylan's Run) before the one on the Klamath, is listed in the series as one of the "cast of characters" and is quoted in the article about the Klamath.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rove Aide Details Klamath Actions

On May 10th, Susan Ralston, an aide to Karl Rove, gave a deposition (Here it is. Page 52) to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that included questions about Rove's involvement in diverting Klamath River water to Oregon farmers in 2002.

Tom Hamburger, then of the Wall Street Journal, first broke this story and I covered it extensively in the documentary, getting confirmation both on and off camera of Rove giving a PowerPoint presentation to a sizable group of Interior Department managers at a retreat, using the Klamath situation as an example of how policy impacts politics. I also have documents that I obtained through FOIA about the subsequent Interior Department Inspector General's investigation. I may post some at a later date.

Why did Karl Rove and his aides care about water flow levels on an obscure western river in 2002? Because they wanted to reelect Republican Gordon Smith to the Senate by appealing to agricultural interests in Oregon. Plus, as a bonus, it might give them a shot at Oregon's electoral votes in the 2004 general election. Smith was reelected, but they lost Oregon to Kerry.

Many observers thought talk of Rove's involvement in the Klamath water battle was far-fetched at the time, but Ralston's testimony, if anything, shows that Rove and his political team were far more involved than anyone suspected. If they were using government resources (including setting up a commission on the Klamath crisis) to impact a political race, it's a violation of the Hatch Act, which is a law that Congress, at least in the days when I was in Washington, takes very seriously.

A small incident? Maybe. But like the story of the fight over water and salmon in the Klamath River Basin, it may have larger implications than what it first seems.

Jason Leopold of Truthout has more.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Battle for the Klamath airs on FSTV on June 30th

The documentary airs nationally throughout the day on Dish Network Channel 9415 and cable stations in 34 states. Broadcast times (EST): 12am, 5am, 8am, 1p, 4pm and 9pm.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

PBS Station KIXE to air Battle for the Klamath

The documentary airs on the Northern California PBS station on Saturday, May 26th at 9pm.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

On the way to Omaha to see Warren Buffett

A group of Klamath tribes and environmentalists stopped in Sacramento, CA on their way to Omaha to try and get PacifiCorp and Warren Buffett to tear down the Klamath Dams.

Washington will destroy dams to revive a river

Interesting piece in USA Today about dams on the Elwha River in Washington state that are scheduled to come down in 2012. It also examines the Klamath River situation and how other western states are considering dam removal.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Mike Kelly Essay on Karl Rove and NOAA

Mike is one of the main characters in Battle for the Klamath and he's been proven right about many things since he declared as a whistleblower - both in court rulings and in the subsequent events on the Klamath River.


I first heard of Karl Rove on July 30, 2003. Tom Hamburger’s Wall Street Journal story about Rove’s PowerPoint presentation to officials at the Department of the Interior finally revealed to me, as they say, the man behind the curtain.

While Rove was making his presentation in January of 2002, I was working on an analysis of the effects of a proposed 10-year federal irrigation plan on Endangered Species Act-listed coho salmon in the Klamath River. I was trying to determine whether the proposed project would, in the language of the ESA, “jeopardize the continued existence” of the Southern Oregon and Northern California stock of coho salmon. MORE...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Klamath tribes ask PacifiCorp to tear down dams

I attended this event in Sacramento and shot some footage. I'll edit it and post it here in the next few days.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New York Times covers the Klamath Dam controversy

The New York Times takes a look at the Klamath River Dam controversy with a well-balanced piece on whether the dams should be taken down and what that means in our new climate sensitive world. The emphasis on the loss of a cheap, clean power resource for rural areas is the story's strongest point and one that PacifiCorp and its proponents is sure to emphasize during the long fight ahead.

The fight over the Klamath River and its water seems to have shifted some from irrigators vs. salmon to power vs. salmon. In the end, it seems that no matter what the other interest is, it's always another interest vs. salmon and the salmon (and the people and culture surrounding them) appear destined to lose.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Battle for the Klamath airs on FSTV on April 25th

The documentary airs nationally throughout the day on Dish Network Channel 9415 and cable stations in 34 states. Broadcast times (EST): 9am, 2pm and 8pm.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Another lawsuit

A new lawsuit by Klamath Riverkeeper claims Clean Water Act violations from Iron Gate dam.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Court upholds water for fish before farms

"A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a ruling forcing a federal irrigation project to boost flows in the Klamath River to help threatened salmon, even if it means shutting off water to farms." Hopefully, this ends the litigation and opens the door to a cooperative solution between upstream and downstream interests. Read more...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dueling studies about the cost of Klamath Dams

Over the last few months three studies were published arguing the financial pros and cons of PacifiCorp removing the Klamath Dams. The latest, by the California Energy Commission, reaffirmed an earlier study arguing that it's cheaper for PacifiCorp to remove the dams than to install new fish ladders and other technology to aid spawning salmon. Read the piece in the LA Times.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Klamath doc in Seoul's Green Film Festival

Battle for the Klamath is one of 20 films from 13 countries selected for the international competition at the Green Film Festival in Seoul, Korea.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

PacifiCorp wants to keep dams

Here's the latest on the Klamath Dams saga. It seems that PacifiCorp, part of Warren Buffet's financial empire, is willing to spend the estimated $3oo million it will take to build the fish ladders needed for salmon to get on the other side of the four dams on the Klamath River instead of taking out the dams and restoring the river to its historic flows. Some studies show taking out the dams would cost less than building the fish ladders.

PacifiCorp is not ruling out breaching the dams, but this is still a blow to those (including me) that hoped the high cost of the fish ladder system would cause PacifiCorp to tear down the dams for financial, if not environmental, reasons.

There's a couple of good videos on YouTube of the Klamath Dam controversy. Click on the link or go to the home page and use the keyword "klamath".

Monday, February 05, 2007

Thursday, February 01, 2007

U.S. Orders Modification of Klamath River Dams

An article in the Washington Post covering the recent decision about the next battle on the Klamath River - removing the dams that impede spawning salmon from returning to their historic runs. This fight will make the conflict covered in the documentary look mild by comparison. Part 2?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Battle for the Klamath in Siskiyou Environmental Film Festival

The documentary shows on February 3rd in the evening at the Havurah Sanctuary, 185 North Mountain Street, in Ashland, Oregon. For more info, call 541-592-4459.