[env-trinity] Herald & News: BOR May Release Trinity Water

FISH1IFR@aol.com FISH1IFR at aol.com
Fri Jul 19 14:12:41 PDT 2013

BOR May Release Trinity Water
Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013 11:45 pm   
DEVAN SCHWARTZ H&N Staff  Reporter 
Proposed federal intervention may soon shift the focus away from the 
Klamath  Basin’s drought conditions toward predictions for strong salmon runs and 
the  possibility of a fish kill. 
Every fall, salmon return from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Klamath  
River and its tributaries as far as the Iron Gate Dam, 190 miles  upriver. 
To support fish health, the Bureau of Reclamation has proposed releasing  
additional water via the Trinity River, a tributary that empties into the  
Klamath 42 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
Reclamation said releases of 62,000 acre-feet of water would take place  
between Aug. 15 and Sept. 21 “to supplement flows in the Lower Klamath River 
to  lessen the likelihood of a fish disease outbreak and fish mortalities 
during  late summer.”
Salmon habitat
The Yurok Tribe estimates about 34,000 fish died in-river from various  
diseases in 2002 due to low flows, high temperatures and inadequate  habitat.
As a result, mandatory salmon minimums weren’t met in 2006 — leading to  
fisheries closures up and down the West Coast.
Glen Spain, Northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of 
 the Fishermen’s Associations, said losses of more than $200 million were 
felt  from Monterey, Calif., to the Oregon-Washington border.
Spain has pressured Reclamation to provide water in order to lower river  
temperatures and enhance salmon access to habitat in the Trinity River, which 
he  said provides 40 percent of spawning and rearing beds in the Klamath 
River  system. This would be the second year of such releases.
Early salmon already are coming into the river, Spain said, though the  
majority arrive between August and September when the planned releases would  
take place.
Central Valley Project
A possible speed bump for securing increased flows is that Trinity River  
water also is pumped into the Central Valley Project.
A lengthy legal battle pursued by the Hoopa Valley Tribe culminated in 2000 
 when water allocations shifted dramatically from the Central Valley back 
to the  Trinity River.
This history creates contentiousness whenever water releases from Trinity  
reservoirs are discussed.
A group of Central Valley irrigators already have filed a 60-day notice of  
intent to sue over the Bureau of Reclamation’s proposed action.
“We’re concerned about the dedication of that much water,” said Dan 
Nelson,  executive director of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority.
“I don’t think they have proper support for taking this action. The Bureau 
of  Reclamation didn’t do the proper planning or preparation. We could have 
come up  with a collaborative way to address this issue, but the Bureau 
never gave us  that opportunity.”
The Central Valley faces its own obligations under the Endangered Species  
Act, Nelson said, and its own drought issues. “The folks in our area are in  
water supply crisis mode as well.”
Spain argues the Central Valley has more water and water sources than the  
Klamath, though in a drought year, he says there are no great options.
Insufficient water
Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon Wild, said the releases may  
help in the short-term, but don’t address issues of insufficient water and  
quality of water in the Klamath River.
Though proposed releases would be colder and cleaner and raise the river  
level, he said most salmon spawn on the Klamath upstream of the  Trinity.
“In general we would be supportive of it as a tool to avoid a fish kill in  
the fall — but it doesn’t help recover salmon in the Klamath Basin in a 
serious  way,” he said.
Pedery added that the Central Valley has more money and more political 
clout  than the Klamath Basin.
Fishing, tribal and conservation groups also are pushing for additional 
water  releases from Iron Gate Dam to support Klamath River salmon runs in 
August and  September.
Biological opinion
Regina Chizola, communications coordinator for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, said 
 making sure there’s enough water for the fish “hasn’t been a priority 
this year  and all the focus has been on the upper Basin issues with the 
farmers, but  meanwhile California and the Klamath River are being shorted on  
Spain said a new biological opinion completed by two federal agencies gives 
 greater flexibility to take into account river conditions and the prospect 
of  fish kills.
“If we start seeing a few diseased fish at the wrong time, the red flags 
will  go up,” he explained, “and there may be the need for an emergency 
measure to  pulse flows in the main-stem (Klamath River). The agencies are all 
gonna take a  hard look.”
If the fall salmon run is severely impacted, Spain predicts low numbers of  
returning salmon in future years, and subsequent fisheries closures that 
would  cause huge economic losses.
As the salmon run begins, he said fishers hope for as much water as 
possible  in the Klamath River, at the coolest temperatures, and with the highest 
water  quality.
Another lingering uncertainty is how much water will be available in the  
Klamath River due to drought conditions and water calls made by Klamath 
Project  irrigators.
“I’ll be watching the fish counts all through the summer,” Spain said. “
As  always, it’s a white-knuckle ride for everybody in the Basin.”
_dschwartz at heraldandnews.com_ (mailto:dschwartz at heraldandnews.com) 

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