"The announcement that four dams on the Klamath River will be removed to restore imperiled salmon runs is a victory for fish, farmers, Indian tribes and the much-maligned Endangered Species Act.
The dams in Oregon and California will not come down until 2020. In the meantime, PacifiCorp, the Portland utility that owns them, has promised to improve water quality and salmon habitat. The cost could run as high as $200 million, which is roughly what the company would have been obliged to pay anyway to construct fish passage around the dams to increase the salmon’s chances of survival.
All sides will also benefit from a separate agreement that will divvy up scarce water flows in the Klamath. Taken together, the two agreements mean that we can finally see the end of a dispute that grabbed national headlines in 2001, when federal water managers cut irrigation deliveries to farmers to preserve water flows for two threatened or endangered fish species — coho salmon and a less majestic critter known as the suckerfish.
Cries that farmers were being sacrificed to the lowly suckerfish drew Karl Rove and other Bush politicos into the fray. More water was released to the farmers, at which point 33,000 fish died downstream. At which point, too, wiser heads began to see that what was needed was a water-sharing plan that — coupled with federal aid to farmers who agreed to let their land go fallow in dry seasons — would guarantee everyone enough to survive."
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Editorial: End to the Klamath War
(The New York Times 10/3)
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