In a press release sent out Sunday, the NEC wrote: "The decision not to support the Restoration Agreement (also known as the Settlement Agreement) is based on scientific analyses provided by three of the West’s most respected river flow analysts, who concur that as a "plan for a plan" — even with the removal of four dams — the Agreement could result in Klamath River flows so sparse at crucial times that endangered salmon may not be able to recover from what are now critically low numbers."
Those scientists are Greg Kamman, of Kamman Hydrology in San Rafael, fisheries biologist Dr. Bill Trush, of McBain and Trush in Arcata, and Dr. Thomas Hardy, associate director of the Utah Water Research Laboratory at Utah State University. According to King, the studies cost the nonprofit NEC $50,000.
The decision has upset Craig Tucker of the Karuk Tribe. "Essentially, I think those guys [the NEC] have some legitimate concerns," he said, "but I think they are failing to listen to the people who have the most experience on the Klamath River and that’s the tribes."
Tucker sounded slightly betrayed when I spoke to him on the phone Monday. He wishes the NEC had discussed their decision with the 25 other parties in the settlement talks, rather than letting it play out in the press. There is a settlement group meeting in Ashland scheduled for next week, which would have been a better venue to discuss their concerns, Tucker argued.
Secrecy has been an important -- but frustrating, from the standpoint of the media -- element of the settlement talks. Strict confidentially agreements have allowed the 26 disparate groups to reach consensus on tough issues, but it has also stifled some groups, according to King.
"This deal has been struck by the Bush administration and the farmers," King said Monday from his Arcata office. "We’re not going to sign onto something that will tie our hands when we’re looking at extinction [for fish species] down the line."
The NEC's announcement has automatically made them bedfellows of environmental groups like OregonWild and Water Watch of Oregon , who claim to have been dis-invited from the settlement talks because neither group would budge on their opposition to certain concessions being made to basin farmers, like the continued use of federal wildlife preserves for agriculture.
King said the NEC is also opposed to farming on the preserves. And, he added, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the same thing that happened to OregonWild could befall the NEC.
"I'm glad NEC is taking this stand," said Steve Pedery of OregonWild in an e-mail on Monday. "The independent scientific analysis they commissioned clearly show the 'settlement' will not recover salmon."
"I think there is a lot of personal ambition on the part of environmentalists behind folks refusing to back off the settlement," Pedery continued, "and the promise of a lot of federal $$ [sic] driving some Tribal interests. At the end of the day, the needs of the fish seem to be an afterthought. And the wildlife refuges get no thought at all."