The Karuk Tribe’s representative Craig Tucker has been making the rounds, both on the media front and in the rumor mill, to discredit the Northcoast Environmental Center’s position on Klamath dam settlement talks. (“Town Dandy,” May 22)

Tucker’s pitch is unfortunate. He contends that the NEC has had “two years” to bring up our concerns. He says we “shot from the hip” and “didn’t do (our) homework” before stating our position. Tucker knows these statements are untrue.

First, two years is a short time to craft an agreement of this magnitude. The settlement group has been through 11 drafts of the agreement, and we’ve been waiting three months for draft 12 to see what, if any, of the NEC’s proposed changes — the result of real homework — have actually made it into the Agreement.

Obviously the NEC has not “dropped out” of the settlement process, as I made clear to Hank Sims when we spoke on this point. We attend every three-day meeting held by the settlement group, and we continue to stretch our budget to pay scientists and lawyers to identify and correct some of the potentially devastating elements of the settlement agreement. This effort has resulted in a thorough vetting of the scientific assumptions contained in the agreement, in essence compelling federal scientists to do more of their own homework to provide the settlement group with a full set of environmental documents, which has occurred during the last month.

Problems remain. The only water guarantee in the Settlement Agreement goes to Upper Basin farmers. Water for fish? Sorry, no guarantees. There’s no minimum flow requirement to protect fish. Meanwhile, under the agreement the ag allocation in dry years could reach 40,000 acre feet more than the amount currently allowed under a court-imposed biological opinion issued to protect Coho salmon. Even if we had a dam removal deal in front of us today those dams wouldn’t come down for another 15 to 20 years, quite possibly longer. (And of course we still have no agreement with PacifiCorp.) What will happen in the interim? The guaranteed allocation for farmers with dams still in could result in another disastrous fish kill.

In addition, the agreement insists that all parties support chemical-intensive farming in the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, something the NEC has always opposed. Last year two settlement parties that objected to these provisions — Oregon Wild and WaterWatch — were ejected from the negotiations. (They didn’t “depart company,” as Sims wrote.)

This is not some kumbaya moment. Klamath settlement has been a hardcore negotiating process, often dominated by upriver irrigators, their skillful (and well-paid) Sacramento attorney and the Bush administration. The NEC has hung in there and insisted on good science and water for fish, as our 6,000 members expect. We do not appreciate Craig Tucker’s almost daily issuance of misinformation about our work. We need to work together to get those dams out, and to provide fish with the water they need.

Greg King, Executive Director, Northcoast Environmental Center

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