[env-trinity] Eureka Times Standard 09 26 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Sep 29 19:02:45 PDT 2009

Concerns pool over salmon

Eureka Times-Standard-9/26/09

By John Driscoll


A heavy run of chinook salmon into a parched Klamath River tributary have
fishery managers watching for signs of a possible fish kill and working to
get additional water into the river. 


Since Sept. 4, at least 1,200 fall chinook have passed through the Shasta
River weir, with another 100 per day expected. Radio tags on some of the
fish have shown that all of the fish are packed into pools in a 1.5- to
2-mile section of the river, said California Department of Fish and Game
biologist Mark Pisano. 


The Shasta River has seen very low flows this year, at least partly because
of an ongoing drought. But conservation groups have also pointed to regular
irrigation withdrawals as depleting flows, and Fish and Game has worked out
agreements with irrigators to cut back on the amount of water they use
before the end of the season on Oct. 1. 


"We're very near a tipping point," Pisano said. 


The concern is that if warm-water-related diseases were to break out,
crowded conditions could spread the diseases through the fish rapidly and
devastate a strong run of salmon. Pisano said that cool mornings have helped
prevent the water from being unbearable for fish. He said that a handful of
fish have died -- but not more than what is typically associated with
natural mortality from the rigors of the migration from the ocean into the
middle Klamath River. 


California Department of Water Resources Shasta Valley Water Master Ira
Alexander said that his hands are tied 


by court adjudication over water rights in the basin, called the Shasta
River Decree. 

"We only have the authority to enforce the decree," Alexander said. 


Shasta Valley Resource Conservation District Administrator Adriane Garayalde
said that some irrigators are scaling back their diversions, which is easier
with new systems than old systems. She said that another diverter shut off
last night, and the water reduction should begin to show in the lower river


"We've been trying to do more," Garayalde said, "but the problem is we're
just in a really, really dry year." 


There are about 30,000 irrigated acres in the Shasta River Valley, most of
which are planted with alfalfa and grain. 


Agreements brokered by Fish and Game with irrigators to leave more water in
the river may now be beginning to take effect, Pisano said, and the
department will continue to seek more water. Pisano said that those actions
should help improve conditions. 


"As conditions are right now, we're at the higher end of what they can deal
with," said Malena Marvin with Klamath Riverkeeper, a conservation group
monitoring the situation. 


The group raised concerns about extremely low flows in the Shasta and Scott
rivers in late summer before salmon began moving into the Klamath
tributaries. Marvin said that it's critical to do something before a fish
kill starts. 


Marvin said that such a strong run of fish should not be squandered by poor
water management, especially in light of the recent restrictions on ocean
salmon fishing over the past two years. 


Biologists have been on higher alert for the possibility of a fish kill in
the Klamath River basin since 2002, when low flows and warm water kept a big
run of salmon packed into cold-water pools. A disease outbreak that followed
killed at least 68,000 chinook salmon that year. 



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

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