[env-trinity] Herald & News: BOR May Release Trinity Water
FISH1IFR at aol.com
Fri Jul 19 14:12:41 PDT 2013
KLAMATH FALLS HERALD & NEWS
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
Another lingering uncertainty is how much water will be available in the
Klamath River due to drought conditions and water calls made by Klamath
“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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