Feb 182015

Federal whistleblowers are alleging that the Bureau of Reclamation's relationship with Klamath Basin irrigators has gotten too close, leading to the spending of nearly $70 million "without any apparent legal authority."

A 2008 contract between BuRec and the Klamath Water and Power Agency “has morphed beyond any recognizable shape from a feasibility study into a direct subsidy bearing no relationship to fish and wildlife,” said Paula Dinerstein, senior counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which filed the scientists’ disclosure with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. “It appears KWAPA just sucked in more and more government funds with little oversight and for no discernible benefit to the general public.” (PEER news release)

ESWR has requested a comment from KWAPA and will post whatever we receive. Update: KWAPA's Hollie Cannon responded to the charges, calling the complaint "nothing more than a petty and spiteful attack on the Klamath Basin's family farms and ranches from a disgruntled former BOR employee and an organization that is prone to hyperbole." He also said that "the allegations that the Water User Mitigation Program (WUMP) did not attain the task of 'benefit of fish and wildlife habitat' is absolutely false." (Full response here.)

In its news release issued today, PEER said:

"A federal program that was supposed to help drought-stressed fish populations in the Klamath Basin has been hijacked for the sole benefit of select irrigators, according to a whistleblower disclosure filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has spent nearly $70 million without any apparent legal authority to do so."

The Office of Special Counsel has 15 days from today to decide whether the disclosure shows a “substantial likelihood of validity.”

"If so, the Special Counsel is supposed to direct the Secretary of Interior to conduct a formal investigation into systemic violations," PEER said. "If the violations are confirmed it could result in the reimbursement of unauthorized payments as well as punishment for responsible Reclamation officials."

More documents from PEER:

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