Hoopa Valley Tribal Members Protest Westlands Lawsuit

B y Dan Bacher  Members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Klamath Justice Coalition will be going to Fresno on Tuesday and Wednesday to pro...

By Dan Bacher 

Members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Klamath Justice Coalition will be going to Fresno on Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the Westlands Water District lawsuit blocking the release of Trinity River flows needed to stop a fish kill from occurring on the lower Klamath River. 

Tribal members plan to hold a rally - and then make public comments - at the Westlands Water District Board meeting today, August 20, at 11:00 am at the district's headquarters on 3130 N. Fresno Street, Fresno
They will also rally at the Federal Courthouse, 2500 Tulare St #1501, Fresno before the court hearing on Wednesday, August 21. The rally is at 8:00 am and the court hearing is at 8:30 am. 

The Westlands Water District and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority got a federal judge in Fresno to block increased water releases down the Trinity River, releases that are needed to help keep salmon alive on the lower Klamath. 

Lawrence J. O’Neill, United States District Judge, put the burden of proof on the federal government in showing how the releases are needed - and set a hearing by the parties on August 21. O'Neill first granted a temporary restraining order blocking the releases until August 16 - and then extended the order through August 21. 

The Tribe and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA) have filed as intervenors in support of the Bureau's plan to release the water. 

Then on Saturday, August 24, Tribal members, the coalition and their allies will sponsor a Trinity River Bucket Brigade at noon on Saturday, August 24 at Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River. 

“Come show your support for the rivers and the salmon by physically pouring from behind the dam into the Trinity River,” urged the organizers of the bucket brigade, Dania Rose Colegrove, Regina Chichizola and Allie Hostler. "Bring your buckets and meet at the Mary Smith National Recreation Area Campground in Lewiston (a.k.a. Lewiston Vista Overlook) at noon on Saturday." 

"If we don't get the requested flows, our salmon are destined for disaster," said Colegrove, Klamath Justice Coalition organizer and a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. "Please come and support our way of life!" 

Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk, speaking in support of the Hoopa Tribe’s efforts to protect their salmon, said: "The salmon need waters that were always theirs, water for them that Creator put there from the very beginning for them…that water was never intended for corporate farms growing watermelons and cotton in contaminated arid lands in the deserts of Southern California. Salmon FEED the World and clean the WATERS!" 

"When Salmon die, there is no Judge's Order that will make them spawn,” added Sisk. “Westlands is WRONG to do this for dry contaminated farm lands that should not be farmed so they sell the water. Salmon makes the world-go-around! But is there a NEW WORLD ORDER, if so it is killing everything for MONEY!” 

Sisk stated, "Money can't bring salmon back, it can make water clean and pure, it can't keep the sun coming up or the moon with the tides... Maybe some people, maybe a lot will, but....'they all can't just be dumb and die'!" 

Along with supporting the government’s temporary actions to avert a fish kill, the Hoopa Valley Tribe is asking for "long term solutions to the crisis in the Klamath and Trinity Rivers that reflect that most irrigators receiving water from the Klamath Basin are junior water right holders." 

They say proposals such as Governor Jerry's Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreements would "actually take more water from the Klamath and Trinity Rivers, and elevate junior water right holders over Tribes." 

Not only would construction of the peripheral tunnels hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, but it would imperil salmon and steelhead runs on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. 

“Central Valley water users have made untold billions of dollars at the expense of Trinity River salmon and communities," said Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten. "The greed and aggression represented by this lawsuit and the hypocrisy of the plaintiff’s exploitation of environmental protection laws both stuns and saddens us." 

“But make no mistake,” she said. “If the injunction remains, then the Central Valley contractors’ attack on us, on who we are, on what we stand for, could launch a war for the Trinity that could engulf California from the Bay Delta Conservation Planning process to Klamath River Basin water settlement negotiations.” 

For more information, call Dania Rose Colegrove (707) 499-3110, Regina Chichizola 541 951-0126 or Allie Hostler, 707-502-7122.

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