[env-trinity] Trinity Journal- Mixed reactions to river flow requests

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Fri Mar 30 10:35:54 PDT 2012


Mixed reactions to river flow requests
By Amy Gittelsohn The Trinity Journal | Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:00 am
The request from Humboldt County and the Hoopa Valley Tribe that an additional 50,000 acre-feet of water be released to the Trinity River this year to avert a fish die-off is met with varying responses in Trinity County.
The Hoopa tribe and Humboldt say conditions for a die-off like that seen in the Lower Klamath in 2002 are ripe in a water year looking to be dry or critically dry, with a big fall chinook salmon run anticipated. They seek the 50,000 acre-feet of water promised to be released from the Trinity Reservoir for Humboldt County and downstream water users in the 1955 act that authorized construction of the Trinity River Division.
While not taking a position for or against the higher release, the Trinity County Board of Supervisors reiterated comments made earlier that "any decision on allocation of water from the Trinity River and Trinity Lake should carefully consider Trinity County's preferential right as the County of Origin" and Trinity County citizens are clearly "downstream users" of Trinity reservoir releases.
A letter to that effect has been sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, adding that as the County of Origin, the board is committed to a plan for beneficial uses of the Trinity River below the dam. Such uses, the letter states, include development of community water systems in Trinity County along the river, addition of a new power plant in Lewiston, farm and ranch uses along the river and potential biomass facilities in Weaverville, Douglas City, Junction City and Burnt Ranch.
At the request of Sup. Judy Pflueger, the letter also states that the supervisors feel it's critical to maintain the Trinity Lake level to ensure adequate supply of cold water releases for fish. They suggest a minimum of one million acre-feet kept in the lake as reasonable.
From the Trinity River Guides Association, President Bill Dickens agreed with those concerned a "perfect storm" is brewing for a fish die-off.
"The more water down the river the better as far as we're concerned," Dickens said, adding that he would like to see releases that don't drop below 450 cfs at any time of the year. On Monday, the release was reported to be 315 cfs.
Projects on the river have made it wider and shallower, Dickens said, and that causes the water to heat more.
"The cooler water holds the oxygen," he said. "The warmer water does not."
From the Trinity Public Utilities District, General Manager Paul Hauser said he plans to see if the TPUD board wants to weigh in on the issue, but he can't imagine the board endorsing the request by Humboldt County and the Hoopa Valley Tribe.
"That 50,000 acre-feet would cost the customers of the PUD about $70,000 annually," Hauser said. "The total economic value of that 50,000 acre-feet (for agriculture and power production) would be $4 million."
Water released to the Trinity River does not go through as many power plants as water that is diverted, so decreased diversions mean decreased power production for the federal Western Area Power Administration. Costs to operate the dam don't vary much, and the higher cost per kilowatt is passed along to the TPUD.
"When we make those decisions, we need to make them knowing all the costs," he said.
Furthermore, Hauser said at a recent meeting of the Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group a hydrologist presented information that indicated because the reservoir is high the temperature goals for fish in the Trinity River can be met even if it does turn out to be a critically dry year.
"Why would you need an additional 50,000 acre-feet?" he asked.
In their letter to Interior Secretary Salazar and California Gov. Jerry Brown, Humboldt County supervisors and the Hoopa Valley Tribe said conditions are looking similar to those preceding the fish die-off in 2002. That fall, thousands of chinook salmon, many of them bound for the Trinity River, died in the Lower Klamath before spawning of diseases believed to have resulted from overcrowding and warm water conditions.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation has long contended that the 50,000 acre-feet they seek is already included in the amount sent down the river for fisheries flows. That position is now being re-evaluated in Washington, D.C.
On Monday, Reclamation area manager Brian Person said hydrologic conditions have improved with the latest storms, but it is not clear yet if it is improved to the extent that there is less concern about the Lower Klamath.
If more water is needed, he said, it could come from the Klamath River or the Trinity that feeds into it. If the Obama administration releases a decision on the 50,000 acre-feet, he said, "Humboldt County could choose to use it in the Lower Klamath" but there would be water rights requirements to be met first.
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