[env-trinity] Hoopa Valley Tribe: Interior Secretary turns her back on Klamath salmon
danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Wed Jul 30 18:02:53 PDT 2014
Toxic Algae on the Klamath River. Photo courtesy of the Hoopa Valley
original image ( 960x720)
Hoopa Valley Tribe: Interior Secretary turns her back on Klamath salmon
by Dan Bacher
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today rejected pleas by Indian
Tribes, scientists and river communities in the Klamath Basin to
release water to protect migrating adult salmon from a potential major
fish kill in the low, warm conditions caused by a historic drought.
Bureau of Reclamation officials said they would release extra water
into the Trinity and Klamath rivers only once salmon start dying from
disease, but not before.
"Just a week after California officials reported salmon deaths in the
Klamath basin, Bureau of Reclamation officials announced that
Secretary Jewell has decided to roll the dice," the Hoopa Valley Tribe
said in a statement. "She will continue to divert water to irrigation
uses and set aside the senior rights to water under federal and state
law for Trinity and Klamath River salmon."
In a recent fish survey on the Salmon River, a major tributary of the
Klamath, volunteers counted 55 dead adult spring Chinooks and 300 to
400 dead juveniles. A total of 690 live adult spring Chinooks were
counted in 90 miles of river, mostly in cold pools fed by springs or
at the mouths of colder tributaries.
The fish deaths resulted from high water temperatures and low water
conditions. Water temperatures on the main stem of the Salmon River
are now 76 to 78 degrees, according to Sara Borok, California
Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist.
"So far we are seeing what expect in low flow and high water
temperature conditions," Borok stated. "The question is whether the
fish mortality will be a spreading problem."
The Hoopa Valley and Yurok Tribes have fisheries on the Klamath River
and its largest tributary, the Trinity River. Those rights are
protected by federal law and held in trust for the tribes by the
United States. Tribal officials are very concerned about another fish
kill like the one that occurred in September 2012 of taking place if
the water is not released.
“The Secretary is betting that if fish start dying she can make an
emergency release of water to provide relief,” said Mike Orcutt, Hoopa
Valley Tribe Fisheries Director. “But our scientists say that water
wouldn’t reach the fish for 4.5 days and once disease appeared in
2002, up to 70,000 adult salmon were dead within days.”
In prior years, including 2012 and 2013, the Secretary released water
to create water conditions for safe migration of salmon. In 2013
Central Valley Project contractors, led by the Westlands Water
District, filed suit to block flow releases. "The court rejected their
claims, water flowed, and there was no fish kill," the Tribe said.
However, this year the Secretary abandoned this science-based, field-
tested flow release fish protection measure that is widely recognized
as "prudent and necessary," according to the Tribe.
“It is as if the Secretary of Transportation said let’s forget about
automobile seat belts, airbags and antilock brakes and spend the
savings on ambulances,” said Hoopa Valley Tribe Chair Danielle Vigil
Masten. “The problem is that the ambulance may or may not get to a
crash scene in time, and when it does arrive, the crew will have to
deal with far more serious injuries.”
Council Member Ryan Jackson stated, “We have made numerous trips to
Washington, D.C. and Sacramento visiting with Congressmen, Senators,
Interior Department officials, White House representatives and
countless staff. We are extremely disappointed in the wide gulf
between the Administration’s statements professing commitment to
Indian trust responsibility and respect for Indian Tribes, and the
federal actions that are taking our trust resources to the brink of
destruction. That is no way for a trustee to act.”
“The law of the Trinity River has been set aside by the Secretary’s
decision; in its place she has put the risk of catastrophe entirely on
us and Trinity Basin communities, in order to cater to politically
favored interests,” said Masten.
These politically favored interests include the Westlands Water
District, which represents corporate agribusiness operations
irrigating toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San
Joaquin Valley, and Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms in Kern County,
the largest grower of orchard fruit in the world.
Matt Maucieri, acting public affairs officer with the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, responded to the Tribe's statement by saying, "This is a
difficult decision that has been brought on by extremely dry
conditions in these river basins this year."
"We will work closely with the Yurok, Hoopa Valley and other tribes in
the basin, as well as with the Fish Health Center that is part of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," Maucieri said. "While we have made
the decision to not release preventive flows, we will work with all
parties to monitor fish health and we are prepared to make emergency
releases in the event that certain criteria are met."
Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) issued a statement
criticizing the Bureau's decision to withhold water releases on the
Trinity River needed to prevent a repeat of the 2002 Klamath fish kill:
“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s decision today to withhold water
releases needed to prevent a repeat of the 2002 fish kill in the Lower
Klamath River is the latest example of how the federal government
fails to plan for drought to the detriment of tribes, fishermen, and
Even now, Reclamation continues to divert Trinity River water to the
mismanaged Sacramento River system and has drained Trinity Reservoir
so there is virtually no available water to protect salmon in the
Trinity or Klamath rivers. By state law, Trinity River salmon – which
begin their upstream migration in the Klamath River – must be
protected before water is used to bail out the Central Valley Project.
When you find yourself in a hole, you’re supposed to stop digging, but
Reclamation has dug itself a hole it cannot get out of, and tribes and
fishermen may once again pay the price.”
Interior Secretary Jewell's decision to not release water for salmon
occurs as the Brown and Obama administrations continue to fast-track
the biggest, most expensive and most environmentally destructive
project in California history, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)
to build the peripheral tunnels. The completion of the $67 billion
tunnel plan will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook
salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species, as will
imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and
Klamath Rivers. The last day for the public comment period for the
BCCP and EIR/EIS was yesterday, July 29.
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