[env-trinity] Trinity Journal: Groups seek increased fall flows again if needed to avert fish die-off

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed May 15 11:52:19 PDT 2013

Groups seek increased fall flows again if needed to avert fish die-off
Amy Gittelsohn The Trinity Journal | Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 6:15 am
The Trinity Management Council and Pacific Fishery Management Council have written federal Bureau of Reclamation officials requesting that Trinity River flows be increased in the fall if needed to avert a fish die-off in the lower Klamath River.
The Trinity River is a tributary to the Klamath. Last fall, an additional 39,000 acre-feet of water was released to the river in addition to the regularly scheduled flows as a preemptive measure when officials became concerned that the die-off that occurred in September 2002 could be repeated.
In 2002 at least 34,000 fall chinook salmon died before spawning in the lower Klamath, as estimated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The majority of the fish that died were bound for the Trinity River. The die-off was attributed the rapid spread of two fish pathogens resulting from high fish densities, low flows and relatively high water temperatures.
The TMC makes its request due to low flows expected this year in the late summer/early fall and the Pacific Fishery Management Council estimate of a bountiful run of 272,000 adult fall chinook salmon, more than the 170,000 in 2002’s large return.
There were no significant fish losses last year when the additional 39,000 acre-feet of water were released, the TMC noted.
The TMC requests support for augmented flow again this year if needed in its letter to David Murillo, regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, and Ren Lohoefener, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest Region.
Like last year, the TMC requests that the fall flow augmentation be in addition to the flows scheduled under the Trinity River Record of Decision.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council has written Interior Secretary Sally Jewell with a similar request and added, "It may be that this situation recurs more frequently in the future than the past few decades. Toward that possibility we recommend that the Department consider developing a permanent and comprehensive plan to address the needs of lower Klamath fish passage."
When it comes to Trinity River flows, there are many stakeholders with varying perspectives.
"We are hoping the bureau is making a balanced decision on the use of the water between power, recreation and the fishery," said Kelli Gant, president of the Trinity Lake Revitalization Alliance.
And from the Trinity Public Utilities District, General Manager Paul Hauser expressed concerns that the augmented fall flow could become an annual occurrence.
Water released to the Trinity River does not go through as many power plants as water diverted through tunnels for agricultural use. The result is increased power costs to power agencies, including the TPUD.
"I think the perspective of the PUD is we need to have an accounting of the cost," he said, noting that last year's extra release of 39,000 acre-feet of water had an economic value in excess of $2 million for power and agriculture.
That should be paid for with fisheries funds, Hauser said, or the rest of the flow schedule should be adjusted so that the total annual release does not change.
From the California Water Impact Network, Tom Stokely said the need for higher Trinity flows in the fall has "become sort of a fact of life because they can't seem to provide the flows and temperatures the salmon need on the Klamath side for whatever reason."
Stokely said the additional demand on Trinity water was not considered in the Record of Decision and is reason for higher carryover storage at the Trinity reservoir and reduced exports to the Sacramento River.
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