[env-trinity] Times-Standard: Federal agency to reconsider Trinity-Klamath releases for salmon
tstokely at att.net
Sat Aug 16 10:27:06 PDT 2014
Federal agency to reconsider Trinity-Klamath releases for salmon
Decision comes after several meetings with tribes
Will Houston and Jeff Barnard
The Times-Standard and The Associated Press
POSTED: 08/16/2014 12:33:18 AM PDT0 COMMENTS| UPDATED: ABOUT 10 HOURS AGO
Click photo to enlarge
Moss and blue-green algae on the Trinity River near Hoopa is one... (Photo courtesy of Viv Orcutt)
Following several meetings with North Coast tribes and government officials, the federal agency that oversees water in Northern California's Klamath Basin is taking another look at releasing water from Trinity Lake to prevent the spread of disease among salmon returning to spawn in drought conditions.
A U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman said Friday a decision is likely next week.
Yurok Tribe Fisheries Program Manager Dave Hillemeier called the announcement "good news."
"We met with the Bureau of Reclamation last week and presented our rationale why they should provide some preventative flow releases to minimize the risk of another fish kill," he said. "They told us that they would consider that information, and I'm glad that they are. It sounds like they are gathering more information. Hopefully, some more knowledge on the conditions — as they are right now — is going to get them to do the right thing."
After the bureau's July 31 decision not to make pre-emptive releases from Trinity Lake to cool the waters in the Trinity and Klamath rivers, tribes and North Coast government officials have urged the agency to reconsider due to the drought causing low flows and high temperatures — optimal conditions for a fish kill. In 2002, the combination of those two factors led to a massive fish die-off in the Klamath River during which tens of thousands of salmon and other fish perished in a matter of days.
The bureau had earlier denied a request from the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes to release water from Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River to prevent the spread of a parasite that attacks salmon in stagnant waters, stating that it would perform emergency releases should significant numbers of fish start to sicken or die.
Tribal scientists, like Hoopa Tribal Fisheries Director Mike Orcutt, said by then it would be too late as it would take several days for the water to reach the downriver salmon and steelhead.
"Part of the problem is that it has been the feds coming up with the different alternatives," he said.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe took its case to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell when she was in Redding on Tuesday, and she agreed to review the situation by sending staff members to see the condition of the rivers with their own eyes.
On Thursday, the official responsible for making the controversial decision — Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo — and several other federal agency representatives took a river tour with the tribe. During the trip, the tribe was able to show the officials alarming signs such as the blooming of blue-green algae that creates toxic aquatic environments and large groups of salmon huddling near small tributaries.
With the announcement coming the day after the tour, Orcutt said it was a step in the right direction, but the state and tribes should be more involved.
"They need to put the experts in the room and come up with, hopefully, an agreeable release of water," he said. "That will be the biggest thing we'll bump our heads up against is the volume of water that is released."
Proper protection for the salmon and the rivers is critical to the tribe, Hillemeier said.
"This is something that has been a great concern for the tribal council and tribal members, and it's encouraging that they're considering this information because we don't want to relive what we experienced back in 2002 with the fish kill," he said.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.
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