[env-trinity] Eureka Times-Standard July 18, 2005

Byron bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Jul 18 14:28:33 PDT 2005


A river rising 

Eureka Times-Standard - 7/18/05
By John Driscoll, staff writer

DOUGLAS CITY, TRINITY COUNTY -- For the Trinity River to rise, Donald Tullis
will have to move. 


Tullis is in the strange position of pulling stakes not to make way for a
reservoir as happened in so many places across the West in the past century,
but to make room for more water to be sent from the reservoir downstream for


The 79-year-old retired plumber built his little yellow house on a flat
stretch of the Trinity River 7 miles outside Weaverville in 1975. 


"I wasn't figuring on moving," Tullis said. "I figured I'd die here." 


Instead, the federal government bought him out. It's paying to move him to a
modular home in Weaverville. It's closer to shopping and to his girlfriend,
a good thing given his failing eyesight and a recently replaced knee. 


Tullis is resigned. He said he's been treated fairly, and had nice things to
say about Denise, the woman who helped broker the agreement. But what about
his dog, Heidi, a golden lab who takes to the river several times a day? 


"She's gonna miss that," Tullis said. 


He said he'll get a pool for her in town. 


Sitting on his back deck, where Tullis smokes cigarettes and drinks root
beer into the evening this time of year, the Trinity River chortles by. 


Water was flowing from Lewiston Dam, 18 miles upstream, at 1,180 cubic feet
per second. But when dam operators released 7,000 cfs in May as part of a
fisheries restoration effort, the river licked at Tullis' doorstep. 


It wasn't the first time. In 1997 -- two years after Tullis canceled his
flood insurance -- heavy rains pushed the river into his house. Four feet up
the walls. 


It also cleared out sand and silt that had settled in salmon spawning
grounds following the dam's construction in 1963. In wet years in the
future, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may release up to 11,000 cfs, big
water meant to trim gravel berms, recreate flood plains and reshape gravel
bars for salmon. 


Along with adding pea to softball-sized gravel to reaches 18 miles below the
dam -- to make up for what the dam traps in Trinity Lake -- and bulldozing
sections of stream bank, the Trinity River Restoration Program hopes to
resurrect the river's suppressed salmon runs. 


It's part of a 2000 decision by former U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce
Babbitt. The Hoopa Valley Tribe relied on salmon historically and still
catches fish for sustenance and for its cannery operation on its reservation
north of Willow Creek. 


After nearly 30 years of building scientific support for restoration, the
tribe had to fight for the program in court. 


Last year, the tribe beat Central Valley irrigators' efforts to undermine
the program, getting clearance from the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals.
About three-quarters to 90 percent of the river's water had been diverted
from Trinity Lake into the Sacramento River, where it's sent to farmland
from pumps in the larger river's delta. 


Under Babbitt's decision, just over 50 percent will be sent to the


The tribe's battle may also help revive a sport and commercial fishery in
Northern California and Oregon. But threats remain. 


The long-standing use-it-or-lose-it standard of the West is a constant
concern for the program. In extremely wet years, the program is expected to
release 11,000 cfs from Lewiston Dam. 


But Tullis' house isn't the only property in the way of such big flows if
the Trinity's tributaries are flowing strong. In the Indian Creek area
alone, more than a dozen could be affected if those big flows are released
while tributaries are also flooding. 


"Some litigation surrounding that could be a real stick thrown in the
spokes," said Hoopa Valley Tribal Fisheries biologist Mike Orcutt. 


He said it's important to wisely use the water that's appropriated for the
program to further its goal to restore the fishery. It's also vital to get
the full funding to do the mechanical treatments necessary for the water to
do its work, he said. 


Had the program been in place with Babbitt's signature, many of these issues
would be resolved. Litigation slowed down raising bridges, buying houses and
closing wells. 


"We're trying to be prepared for anything nature throws our way," said Joe
Riess, a civil engineer for the project. 


That may mean sand bagging property at risk from such high water. With any
luck, the weather this winter and coming spring won't be overly wet, giving
the program time to work out details. If that luck turns, however, the
program may have to consider using, or losing, the water. 


It's all about fish. 


Byron Leydecker of Friends of the Trinity River and California Trout pleaded
with the Trinity Management Council on Wednesday to meet its legal mandate
to restore the river's fishery. 


The 77-year-old fly fisherman remembers fishing on the river before the dam.
He watched the collapse of the salmon runs after the dam. And he has
committed himself to the restoration for years. 


"I ask you to restore this river in my lifetime," Leydecker said. 


All the restoration in the world, though, can't eliminate the fact that
every salmon in the Trinity River must swim up the Klamath River for more
than 40 miles before turning due south up the Trinity. 


Water quality and temperature, disease outbreaks, low flows and a generally
hostile environment in the Klamath can wipe out salmon trying to reach the
cold, clear Trinity. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has bought billions of
gallons of Trinity water from Sacramento Valley contractors again this year
to cool and raise the Klamath if conditions become dangerous. 


No one wants a repeat of the massive Klamath fish kill of 2002. 


Troy Fletcher, a consultant with the Yurok Tribe, told the council that the
Klamath's weighty issues must be front and center while restoring the

"We're running the risk of wasting our money," he said. 


Bureau Deputy Area Manager Christine Karas agreed. But she said there is
"big horsepower" behind a conservation program headed up by the agency for
the Klamath, and said progress can be made. Reclamation's leadership is no
reason not to participate, she said. 


The blood is not good between Reclamation and the tribe, which holds the
agency responsible for killing tens of thousands of salmon it's obligated to

Fletcher said the conservation program is the bureau's attempt to walk away
from its responsibility. 


"We don't trust the Bureau of Reclamation or the federal government in
general," Fletcher said. 


For the most part, the Trinity's heavy flows historically came in the
winter. The dam now captures that water. So the program must instead
simulate large spring snow melts that probably didn't do the heavy
geomorphic work. 


That's why bulldozers are needed, coupled with flows from Lewiston Dam to
maintain reshaped habitat. 


Rod Wittler, a scientist for the program, said the river's role above the
dam -- the 109 miles of spawning grounds that were lost -- must now be
played out in the 40 miles below the dam. 


"Will that be adequate to restore the fishery?" he asked. "That's part of
the grand experiment."



Byron Leydecker, 

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

Consultant, California Trout, Inc.

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 ph

415 383 9562 fx

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org (secondary)





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