[env-trinity] SF Chronicle March 20
bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Mar 20 10:10:18 PST 2006
0/EDGU9GJD121.DTL> Where are the Klamath salmon?
San Francisco Chronicle Editorial
Monday, March 20, 2006
GOT SALMON? Come next month, federal rule-makers may so restrict
fish-catching off Northern California that the season will all but end.
The reason is diminishing population of the migrating fish on the Klamath
River. Farm diversions, dams and a long drought have reduced river flows,
decimating salmon schools stuck in warm, unhealthy pools along the North
Coast river. For several years, the numbers have dipped below a
35,000-fish-count judged minimal to perpetuate chinook salmon.
The water-quality problem isn't much in doubt, not after federal studies and
a review by the National Academy of Sciences. The hard part is coming up
with a solution that will revive salmon runs.
One painful step will begin in April. A federal fishery agency will likely
recommend a reduced salmon season that will drop from a half to a quarter of
last year's catch. Though salmon pour into the Pacific from many rivers, the
silvery schools are impossible to tell apart -- hence the need to limit all
fishing to save a sub-species reared in just one watershed.
But stopping fishing, by itself, won't fill the Klamath with future
generations of fish. If boat owners, deck hands and their orbit of
wharf-side businesses endure hardship, there should be a response by the
federal government that can do much to repair the larger problem of a sick
For years, upstream farmers in eastern California and southern Oregon have
held off calls for change. The salmon will come back after a bad patch, this
group says in defending their historic water rights. But that's a delusional
position, given the weak fish numbers. Farm runoff is tainting the water.
Dams warm the water flows to fish-killing temperatures.
Change can only come if there is concerted pressure on Washington to
negotiate a compromise to a complicated, multisided problem. U.S. Sen.
Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, have shown an interest in
the problem and should push for a solution.
For starters, the Department of Commerce, which sets fishing catches, needs
to press the Department of Interior, which watches over crucial water flows.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also has a role because it is
relicensing four dams on the Klamath River's upper end.
Finding the money for these changes won't be easy. Washington has little to
spare with the Iraq war, a Katrina fix-up and a deficit hitting $400 billion
this year. But doing nothing means fewer salmon, ever-shorter fishing
seasons and angrier participants from all sides.
The prospects aren't hopeless. Sinking numbers of salmon along the
Sacramento River, the state's biggest fish-nursery waterway, have shot up,
thanks to better management and water conditions. That's a fish story worth
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
Advisor, 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
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