[env-trinity] Bush Administration Attempts Raid on Trinity River Water

Daniel Bacher danielbacher at hotmail.com
Fri Apr 15 17:40:02 PDT 2005

Department of Interior Attempts Raid On Trinity River Water

By Dan Bacher

Fishing groups, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and environmental organizations are 
outraged over a plan by the Department of Interior to shift water designated 
for Trinity River salmon restoration to the Klamath River to avoid another 
fish kill in the drought-hammered watershed.

Kirk Rodgers, Mid-Pacific Region Director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 
outlined the plan in a letter to Douglas Schleusner, Executive Director of 
the Trinity River Restoration Program, on April 11.

Rodgers asked the restoration program, along with representatives of the 
Trinity Management Council and the Trinity Adaptive Management Group, to 
develop flow schedule options to prevent a "serious die-off" of adult salmon 
in the lower Klamath River by releasing an “appropriate volume of water into 
the Trinity River at the most effective time in late summer or early fall.”

Rodgers argued that since most of the fish killed in the 2002 fish kill were 
Trinity River fish, this water would be proper use of the water under the 
Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which authorizes the restoration of 
the Trinity’s anatropous fish.

Byron Leydecker, chair of Friends of the Trinity River and consultant to 
California Trout, immediately blasted Rodgers’ letter as being “absolutely 
outrageous,” saying that the letter’s proposal totally undercuts the Trinity 
River Restoration Plan and the Record of Decision of 2000.

“The Bureau is attempting to apply a Trinity water band aid to Klamath River 
problems to avoid dealing with the basic and real problems of the Klamath,” 
he stated. “It is clearly an attempt to provide political cover for the 
Administration in the face of another potential fish kill in the Lower 
Klamath. It is also a blatant violation of the Trinity Record of Decision.”

Leydecker pointed out the hypocrisy of the Bureau of Reclamation proposing 
use of the Trinity water to avert another 2002-style fish kill when the 
Department of Interior has maintained that factors other than inadequate 
flows created the disaster, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence 
that the fish kill was a result of low, warm flows.

“If Interior is to have credibility, it could achieve that by pursuing a 
consistent position,” said Leydecker. “Fish either need water or they don’t. 
If fish need water, then the Bureau should obtain water needed by the 
Klamath other than by the misuse of Trinity water.”

Leydecker said the Department could purchase water from Central Valley 
contractors, as it did two years ago.

Jill Geist, Humboldt County Supervisor, said she was “astounded” by the 
ability of the Department of Interior to continue to ignore ignoring use of 
the county’s 50,000 acre feet of contract water – and the county’s 
willingness to have that water available for late summer/early fall release 
for the Trinity and Klamath fisheries.

“There is absolutely no need to go after Trinity River ROD water,” she 
emphasized. “We have, and will likely continue, submitting correspondence to 
the DOE that we willing to make this water available.”

While this has been will be a normal year in the Trinity, most of the 
Klamath Basin is experiencing another drought year  in a series of dry 

"Snow pack in the upper Klamath Basin is estimated at 30 percent of normal, 
significantly increasing the possibility that low flows and high 
temperatures could lead to another die-off similar to the one that occurred 
in 2002,” said Rodgers. “When combined with one of the lowest projected 
adult spawning escapements in recent years, impact to fisheries in both the 
Trinity and Klamath Basins could be severe.”

However, Rodgers neglected to mention in his letter that subsidized Klamath 
Basin farmers would receive 70 percent of the normal irrigation water, in 
spite of the fact that this year is the third driest year on record!

The Hoopa Valley Tribe, in a March letter, said the Trinity Management 
Council had no authority to redirect Trinity River Record of Decision (ROD) 
flows to be used in late summer/fall to prevent another lower Klamath River 
fish kill. The ROD, issued by then Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt, 
provides 53 percent of Trinity River water for irrigation and hydroelectric 
uses and the other 47 percent for Trinity fisheries.

Clifford Lyle Marshall, chairman of the Tribe, said the Council risked 
dealing a “triple blow” to restoration by postponing the ROD, underfunding 
it and then withholding the water needed to restore the river’s 
geomorphology.  “Each of these actions is unlawful and potentially 
jeopardized the fishery that United States holds in trust for our tribe,” he 

The Trinity Management Council in its meeting on April 15, in response to 
the Bureau’s letter, voted 7 - 1 against a fall 2005 pulse flow.

“Diverting ROD flows from their planned purposes in order to provide water 
for a fall pulse flow will result in not fully meeting ROD objectives,” said 
the Council. “Therefore, the TMC does not support use of ROD water for fall, 
2005, flow releases.”

The Council also recommended that scientists from the Klamath and Trinity 
coordinate the “establishment, monitoring, and assessment of criteria for 
determining the onset of fish die-off conditions" in the Klamath River this 
year and in coming years.

The TMC said it will convene and recommend emergency actions should those 
conditions develop. In the meantime, they advised the Bureau of Reclamation 
to explore the potential for acquiring “outside sources” of water should the 
need arise.

It’s great that Friends of the Trinity, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the Trinity 
Management Council and others have taken a strong stand against this 
attempted raid on Trinity River water by the Bush administration. This 
request from Interior is appalling, considering that the Bureau is giving 
Klamath Basin farmers 70 percent of their irrigation water when this is the 
third driest year on record.

The Bureau should have considered the precarious situation that Klamath 
salmon and steelhead would be in this year BEFORE allocating near-normal 
water allocations to Klamath agribusiness. The Klamath fishery, faced with a 
projected record low spawning escapement this year, cannot afford another 
taxpayer-subsidized fish kill this year.

However, the restoration of the Trinity River, whose fall chinook run bore 
the brunt of the September 2002 fish kill, cannot be sacrificed because of 
the Bureau’s abysmal management of Klamath Basin water.

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