When Oregon Senator Gordon Smith was up for re-election in 2002, Dick Cheney working with Sue Ellen Wooldridge (Stephen Griles’ current wife who was deputy chief of staff to Gale Norton at the Interior Department before moving on to Justice) moved to divert more water from the Klamath River for irrigation purposes to help the area’s Republican farmers. In February 2002, Bush and Karl Rove announced their support for the idea. In March after a preliminary report by the National Academy of Sciences requested by Cheney, Interior’s Gale Norton approved the diversion and quashed scientific views to the contrary. As a result, in the following months, water levels dropped resulting in a large die off of salmon but Senator Smith won his election. In March 2006, a federal judge put limits on the draw off in an attempt to protect Northwest fisheries.
On November 13, 2008, the Interior Department signed a non-binding agreement with PacifiCorp to remove 4 dams on the Klamath by 2020. PacifiCorp is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The company would spend up to $200 million for removal and restoration of the river with the state of California covering any overruns. The whole thing would be financed by a $250 million bond issue by the state. The federal government would also kick in another billion for restoration projects. The deal would end water quality hearings by the state and absolve PacifiCorp of any liability. And the utility could back out of the deal as late as 2012. All in all, lots of promises, lots of loopholes, and all taking place as the Bush Administration heads for the exits.