[env-trinity] Despite dam agreement, Klamath battles rage on
tstokely at att.net
Sun Aug 7 14:58:42 PDT 2016
Despite dam agreement, Klamath battles rage on
FILE - This Aug. 21, 2009 file photo shows the J.C. Boyle Dam diverting water from the Klamath River to a powerhouse downstream near Keno, Ore. The U.S. Department of Interior on Thursday, April 4, 2013, issued a final environmental impact statement recommending this and three other dams be removed from the Klamath River to help struggling wild salmon runs. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)Posted: Yesterday 6:00 p.m.1 CommentSHARE FILE - This Aug. 21, 2009 file photo shows the J.C. Boyle Dam diverting water from the Klamath River to a powerhouse downstream near Keno, Ore. The U.S. Department of Interior on Thursday, April 4, 2013, issued a final environmental impact statement recommending this and three other dams be removed from the Klamath River to help struggling wild salmon runs. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)In this Aug. 21, 2009 file photo, water trickles over Copco 1 Dam on the Klamath River outside Hornbrook, Calif.Â An Oregon Republican congressman has released a proposal to resolve disputes over scarce water in the Klamath Basin â but it doesn't include the removal of four aging dams, a central point in historic settlement agreements.By Damon Arthur of the Redding Record SearchlightAn agreement this past spring to remove four dams on the Klamath River has not brought an end to the legal battles over water in the river.The four dams had long been viewed as obstacles to improving conditions in the river for salmon and other fish. So when governors, a CEO and other political and tribal officials gathered along the Klamath River in April to sign the accord, it was considered a historic pact.But by this summer, threats of litigation — and at least one actual lawsuit — were flying.The Hoopa Valley tribe sued two federal agencies, claiming they did not adequately protect threatened coho salmon that spawn in the river. Other tribes and environmental and fisheries groups have sent letters to federal agencies threatening to sue them for not taking action to improve conditions in the river."Water quality issues are not resolved," said Konrad Fisher, executive director of Klamath Riverkeeper, an environmental group that joined with Earthjustice and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations in sending 60-day notices of their intent to sue federal agencies.The Yurok and Karuk tribes also sent notices of intent to sue, claiming the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation were not doing enough to protect coho salmon, which are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.The groups claim that in 2015 up to 90 percent of the young salmon in the river were being infected by a parasite called ceratonova nova.The groups want the federal agencies to consult with them over the problem and to increase the amount of water coming out Klamath River dams during the winter and spring to eradicate the parasite and prevent spread of the disease.Until the four dams are removed, the groups want the National Marine Fisheries Service and the bureau to require the dams' owner, PacifiCorp, to release more water in the winter and spring.Removing Irongate, Copco No. 1 and 2, and the J.C. Boyle dam should also provide better flows in the river to prevent ceratonova outbreaks, said Craig Tucker, natural resources policy advocate for the Karuk Tribe.Officials also hope removing the dams help lower the river temperature in the summer, preventing outbreaks of another fish disease called ich, which spreads among adult spawning salmon crowded into pools when the river is running low and warm.Fisher said there are three parts to restoring the lower Klamath — habitat restoration, dam removal and proper river flow levels."Dam removal in and of itself will not solve the flow problem," Fisher said.Felice Pace, who writes a blog on Klamath Basin environmental issues, said removing the four dams is not a panacea. Water quality will improve in the river after the dams are taken out, but not to the extent needed, he said.The environmental impact statement on dam removal appears to back that up. Taking them out will eliminate toxic algae blooms in the reservoirs and restore more natural water temperatures.Other water quality goals, though, such as reducing harmful levels of nutrients "would be accelerated but could still require decades to achieve," the report says."That fact has tended to be overshadowed by the romance of dam removal and the exaggerated claims of its promoters," Pace said in an email.Creating wetlands of tule marshes upstream of the Keno Dam would reduce harmful levels of nutrients in the water and lower the water temperature — both beneficial to fish, he said.All four of the dams will be removed in one year, so the release of sediment behind the dams is not spread out over several years, Tucker said.An estimated 13.1 million cubic yards of sediment is stored behind in the reservoirs, according to the environmental reports. While the sediment is harmful to fish in the river, federal officials say the impact to salmon and other species would be less than two years.Much of the sediment is so fine it would be carried out into the ocean rather deposited in the river, the report says.
About Damon Arthur
Damon Arthur covers resources, environment and the outdoors for the Record Searchlight and Redding.com.
- damon.arthur at redding.com
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