2 Apr 2009, 12:02am
Homo sapiens Salmon and other fish
by admin

Siskiyou County Supervisors Threatened by Pompous State Functionary

An unelected California State bureaucrat has threatened to deny the elected Siskiyou County Supervisors a seat at the table in Klamath dam negotiations. Functionary Mike Chrisman, a bureaucrat who does not answer to the voters, fired off his threats because the County Supervisors, who do answer to voters in this democracy, had the temerity to complain about the process and request scientific studies that Chrisman doesn’t want.

Chrisman, the California Resources Agency natural resources secretary, wants to tear down four dams on the Klamath River. He snipes at those who would oppose his grand plan with all the pomposity of a Czarist Inspector General.

The Board of Supervisors is understandably ticked, and responded in a unanimous letter to the Agency that “Both the tone and content [of Chrisman's letter] are inconsistent with the Board’s understanding of appropriate discourse between someone at the Secretary’s level and a group of elected officials.”

The war of words is reported today in the Siskiyou Daily News:

County supervisors warned in letter they could lose state support

By Dale Andreasen, The Siskiyou Daily News, April 1, 2009 [here]

Yreka, California - The continuing war of words over the controversy surrounding the possibility of dam removal on the Klamath River escalated March 17, as the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors sent a letter of response to California Resources Agency natural resources secretary Mike Chrisman.

The letter was in reply to Chrisman’s threat to end support for the county’s participation in the process of looking into the status of four hydroelectric dams and the effects of their possible removal on the river system and the local economy.

“I cannot find a factual basis for many of the allegations that you asserted,” said Chrisman in a letter dated March 10, which contained references to the board’s recent letter to President Barack Obama and to a statement issued by the board on March 3, both of which addressed dam removal issues and questioned the way the process is being handled.

“Such commentary is not only harmful to the negotiations, but confusing and contradictory, and directly conflicts with your commitment to support the process,” Chrisman’s letter continued.

He noted that the state has been supporting the county’s participation in the process that could likely reach the conclusion that dam removal should proceed.

“We must now consider if that [support] continues to be possible,” Chrisman concludes. “If your interest is in constructive engagement, I invite you immediately to restate those intentions and then to act accordingly.”

“It’s nuts!” responded board chair Michael Kobseff, “It’s just wrong. The bottom line is, we just want the scientific studies to be done.”

“Being accountable to our constituents is seen as putting up unnecessary barriers to the progress of the AIP negotiations,” commented supervisor Marcia Armstrong.

An Agreement in Principle was reached late last year among the states of Oregon and California, the federal government and PacifiCorp, owner of the dams, regarding the four hydroelectric dams. Pending the results of a four-year study that is being conducted currently, the dams are tentatively scheduled for removal in 2020. The U.S. Interior Secretary will ultimately decide if dam removal is in the best interest of all concerned.

A Final Agreement is being worked on at this time and is scheduled to be finished sometime in June. The county has signed on to take part in Final Agreement discussions, but has made it clear that it does not favor dam removal, and wants to make sure that scientific studies and analyses are conducted in a fair, unbiased manner before a decision is reached.

“The heart of the matter,” said supervisor Ed Valenzuela, “is that we are fighting tooth and nail for the interests of Siskiyou County. We’re not just going to lay down and accept everything that comes our way.”

The board’s letter of response to Chrisman, which was prepared by county counsel Tom Guarino and signed by all five supervisors, said, “Both the tone and content [of Chrisman's letter] are inconsistent with the Board’s understanding of appropriate discourse between someone at the Secretary’s level and a group of elected officials.”

“We do not find it productive to reply with a similar response, but wish to make it known to you that the Board of Supervisors will continue to firmly assert the interests of the citizens of this County and will not be intimidated by such actions, even when they come from such a high level of State government,” the letter states.

“We would hope that the Governor would not endorse such a position.”

The supervisors’ letter states that “the intended removal of the Klamath River dams is likely to fundamentally and irreversibly” harm the county’s economy. The letter asks, “Why is the State of California so willing to sacrifice the economic well-being of one of its counties, particularly in light of the current economics in the United States?”

The letter goes on to describe “the long-term devastating effects … of ill-conceived policies” and mentions “… ongoing attacks on the timber industry, mining, and now agriculture [that] are essentially wiping out the economic engines of the County.”

“Therefore, when you admonish the Board of Supervisors to ‘act accordingly,’ we believe we are,” the letter states.

Supervisor Grace Bennett reflected the views of the board when commenting on the letter from the natural resources secretary.

“This truly demonstrates that the people at the various agencies involved in looking into the Klamath dams situation are just not taking us seriously,” she said, “They just don’t get it.”

“The letter really shows their lack of cooperation and their failure to take the needs of the people of Siskiyou County into account,” Bennett continued. “My feeling is that he (Secretary Chrisman) did not do his homework before he wrote the letter.”

Chrisman took exception to the charge made by the supervisors in the letter to President Obama that, “The principal parties have publicly indicated the removal of the dams is imminent, even before any environmental review is conducted.”

However, the letter to Chrisman says that, “…PacifiCorp has publicly stated they have no option but to go forward with dam removal because of policy changes of the states of California and Oregon.”
It also states that Oregon is moving forward with legislation that funds removal costs before the environmental review planned by the AIP to determine if dam removal is appropriate.

“We would also ask you to recall your [Chrisman's] comments to Supervisor Cook a couple of years ago when he visited your office and you told him at least two dams were coming out,” the letter said.

The letter goes on to itemize several other concerns that the supervisors have in regard to the process of possible dam removal that is moving forward and emphasizes the need for impartial scientific analysis along with many economic questions that remain unanswered.

“It’s just wrong,” stated Kobseff, “the state should be looking out for the best interests of Siskiyou County.”

“We’re being accused of thwarting the purpose and progress of the AIP,” said Armstrong, “by trying to advocate for mitigations for the local population. Our fundamental purpose [as supervisors] is to protect the health, safety and livelihoods of the people of Siskiyou County.”



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