Posted By Thadeus Greenson @ThadeusGreenson on Fri, Dec 16, 2022 at 2:51 PM
The Karuk and Yurok tribes issued a warning this morning that a Bureau of Reclamation proposal to reduce flows on the Klamath River could kill off an entire salmon run in advance of a historic dam removal and restoration effort aimed at saving the fish.
Noting that tribes and state officials just last week celebrated the historic agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams from the lower Klamath River — a pact reached after decades of efforts by the tribes and environmental groups — the tribes issued a press release this morning warning that regulators have proposed reducing the river’s flows by 40 percent.
“We are hurt and frustrated,” said Yurok Vice Chair Frankie Myers in a press release. “We are on the verge of the biggest salmon restoration project in history and now we learn of plans to de-water the river.”
Historic drought conditions in California and southern Oregon have caused poor water quality on the river and several fish kills, despite upriver irrigation diversion curtailments. But the tribes say mounting political pressure on the Bureau of Reclamation to fill Upper Klamath Lake has spurred the proposal to reduce river flows by 40 percent. The impact, said Yurok biologist Barry McCovey in the release, could be catastrophic.
“The river is already suffering from inadequate flows,” he said. “The salmon simply have no more to give.”
McCovey said coho salmon are currently spawning in the river’s main stem, as tributaries have run dry.
“Cutting water now will kill salmon eggs, possibly wiping out the entire run,” he said.
Additionally, the tribes said illegal water diversions continue unimpeded upriver in the Klamath Drainage District, calling on law enforcement to step in.
“We are removing dams and Congress has provided significant restoration dollars to the Klamath but at the end of the day, fish still need water,” said Karuk Chair Russell “Buster” Attebery. “We call on the administration to act promptly to stop illegal water diversions.”
Beginning next year, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation will begin the process of removing four hydroelectric dams from the river, launching the largest dam removal project in United States history. It is slated to be completed in 2024.
See the tribes’ full press release copied below.
FEDS PROPOSE CUTTING KLAMATH RIVER FLOWS AS IRRIGATORS ILLEGALLY DIVERT RIVER
Plan could cut Klamath River Flows by 40%
Klamath Basin, CA – Last week Tribal communities celebrated as Klamath dam removal plans were approved. This week, the celebration was cut short as the Bureau of Reclamation proposed a plan to cut Klamath River flows by 40%.
“We are hurt and frustrated,” said Yurok Vice Chairman Frankie Myers. “We are on the verge of the biggest salmon restoration project in history and now we learn of plans to de-water the river.”
Several consecutive years of drought has led to irrigation diversion curtailments, poor water quality, and fish kills. With mounting political pressure on federal agencies to fill the only water storage feature on the mainstem Klamath, Upper Klamath Lake, the Bureau of Reclamation has floated a proposal to cut river flows by 40% when flows are already below recommended minimums.
“The river is already suffering from inadequate flows. The salmon simply have no more to give,” noted Yurok biologist Barry McCovey. McCovey adds that endangered Coho salmon are currently spawning in the mainstem of the Klamath River because flows in tributaries in which they normally spawn are too low. “Cutting water now will kill salmon eggs, possibly wiping out the entire run.”
Adding insult to injury, the Klamath Drainage District in Klamath Falls, OR is currently diverting nearly 1,000-acre feet of water a day from the Klamath. This diversion is deemed illegal by federal agencies, but so far, no law enforcement agency has acted to stop it.
“We are removing dams and Congress has provided significant restoration dollars to the Klamath, but at the end of the day fish still need water,” said Karuk Chairman Russell ‘Buster’ Attebery. “We call on the Administration to act promptly to stop illegal water diversions.”