Wednesday, 12 June 2024

Members of Congress call for hearing into Klamath water diversion

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, 37 members of Congress from California and Oregon, including North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson, called for congressional hearings on Vice President Dick Cheney's involvement in the political decision that killed 80,000 spawning salmon.

They made this request to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) after a Washington Post investigative report found that Cheney pressured mid-level bureaucrats in the Department of Interior to divert water from the Klamath River Basin for political gain.

"We've known since 2002 that the Bush Administration manipulated science in a perverse and petty attempt to win votes," said Thompson. "Now it appears that this manipulation goes straight to the top. Despite what he may think, Vice President Cheney is not above the law and not above Congress' oversight. We want a thorough investigation of his involvement in the largest salmon kill and fishing disaster in our nation's history."

In 2002, the Interior Department diverted water from the Klamath River Basin to farmers in Oregon, resulting in the death of 80,000 adult salmon.

The Washington Post reports that Vice President Cheney called for the damaging water policy to secure the farmer's votes, despite scientific evidence that it would endanger two federal protected species of fish, a violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Thompson and others brought a lawsuit against the Administration in 2002, and three courts found that the water diversion was "arbitrary and capricious and in violation of the Endangered Species Act."

In the letter to Chairman Rahall, the members of Congress wrote, "The ramifications of that salmon kill are still being felt today as returns to the Klamath River are so low that commercial, sport and tribal fishing seasons have been curtailed for the past three years. In fact, last year's commercial fishing season for all of California and Oregon was cut by over 90 percent, and was the largest commercial fishing closure in the history of the country, causing over $60 million in damages to coastal economies."

"Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of Vice President Cheney choosing political gain over the health and welfare of the American people and our natural resources," added Thompson. "It's time the vice president is brought out of the shadows and held accountable for his actions."


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