Commercial fishermen and environmental groups today filed an information request with the federal government seeking documents disclosing White House political pressure on decisions that led to the death of over 33,000 adult salmon in the Klamath River in September 2002. The letter seeks information fleshing out an article in the July 30 Wall Street Journal stating President Bush's chief political advisor, Karl Rove, influenced senior government managers in a pending decision regarding how the river's waters should be divvied up over the next ten years. That decision pitted irrigation interests against the government's obligation to leave enough water in the river to protect salmon. The decision also was supposed to weigh how much water should be left in the river to comply with the government's obligations to sustain Indian tribal fisheries.
"The government can't decide the fate of our most precious natural resources based on the political ambitions of the White House," said Kristen Boyles with Earthjustice. "This information request seeks to get to the bottom of exactly what White House operatives did to achieve the political outcome they wanted at the expense of the Klamath River and coastal communities."
According to the Wall Street Journal, Rove reminded the federal managers responsible for the Klamath Irrigation Project that farming interests comprised the President's political base and polling data suggested more water to them would achieve a favorable political result for the President and Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith.
"If the Wall Street Journal is correct, it's clear the Bush administration is willing to sacrifice the well being of Northern California coastal communities and the Native American tribes of the Klamath Basin on the altar of political expediency," said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
"The Bush administration has clearly written off California in its political strategy. Fair enough. But to take down the Klamath River, all the wildlife that depends on the river, and all the native and coastal communities that depend on the wildlife, for political gain – that's not right," said Bob Hunter of WaterWatch of Oregon.
The letter seeks a full accounting of all costs reimbursed to the government for Mr. Rove's political activities on the Klamath, as required by federal law, as well as a breakdown of all the taxpayer supported costs incurred by Mr. Rove while working on Klamath issues.
The groups signing on to the information request include: Earthjustice; Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations; Institute for Fisheries Resources; WaterWatch of Oregon; Oregon Natural Resources Council; Northcoast Environmental Center; Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club; Defenders of Wildlife; Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility; The Wilderness Society; and Friends of the Earth. The letter sent by the groups is available here.
- Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340 x33
- Leslie Catherwood, The Wilderness Society, 202-454-2524
- Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, 541-689-2000
- Bob Hunter, WaterWatch of Oregon, 541-772-6116
- Wendell Wood, Oregon Natural Resources Council, 541-891-4006
- Tim McKay, Northcoast Environmental Center, 707-822-6918
- Kara Gillon, Defenders of Wildlife, 505-248-0118
- Eric Wingerter, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, 202-265-7337
- Kristen Sykes, Friends of the Earth, 202-783-7400 x100