Reclamation cancels water surges on Klamath River
Herald and News 6/1/17
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that Klamath River
emergency dilution flows will not be required this year to
mitigate the effects of a fish parasite.
That means 50,000 acre feet of water that was to be flushed down
the river will remain in Upper Klamath Lake and could benefit
irrigators and the wildlife refuges.
The parasite is called Ceratanova shasta (or C. shasta) that
affects migrating juvenile salmon heading to the sea.
The announcement is made following weeks of monitoring parasite
spore concentrations and prevalence of C. shasta infection among
out-migrating salmon, according to a press release. The
monitoring was conducted by Oregon State University, the Karuk
Tribe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered
Reclamation to implement two types of flows to mitigate the
effects of C. shasta on juvenile salmon; winter-spring flushing
flows designed to dislodge and flush out an intermediate host
for the parasite, and emergency dilution flows designed to
reduce the concentrations of parasite spores in the water
The winter-spring flows were conducted on multiple occasions
during February and March 2017, after which Reclamation shifted
its focus to planning for implementation of emergency dilution
flows, which the court ordered to be implemented between April 1
and June 15 if certain disease thresholds were exceeded.
Specifically, the court ordered Reclamation to utilize up to
50,000 acre feet to implement emergency dilution flows if:
Shasta spore concentrations exceed 5 spores/liter based on
quantitative polymerase chain reaction at any sampling
- Prevalence of infection
of all captured juvenile Chinook salmon exceeds 20 percent
for the preceding week at the Kinsman Rotary Screw Trap
These flows would be required until June 15 or until 80 percent
of juvenile salmon had migrated to the sea if either of the
preceding two thresholds were exceeded.
The court order also specified that the USFWS Arcata Office
would develop the out-migration estimation model. The Arcata
Office released the results of the model May 15 which estimated
that 80 percent of the wild Chinook had out-migrated by the week
of May 7-13.
To ensure a reasonable level of confidence that the wild salmon
out-migration was complete, the court required an additional
seven days be added to the estimate, making May 20 the last day
emergency dilution flows could be required in 2017.
“Now that the emergency dilution flows are not required this
year,” said Jared Bottcher, acting Water Operations Chief for
the local BOR office, “Upper Klamath Lake will remain fuller to
meet the needs of endangered suckers and also improve the
possibility of water deliveries to the Lower Klamath National
Wildlife Refuge later in the season, consistent with provisions
contained within the 2013 Biological Opinion.”
Reclamation appreciates the close coordination between a number
of partners that allowed for expedited processing of fish and
water samples, and the development of an emergency dilution flow
plan, the press release said.
Reclamation is encouraged by the near ideal conditions
experienced by juvenile salmon during spring and it will operate
the Klamath Project for the remainder of the water year
consistent with the 2013 Biological Opinion.
The court order and its flow requirements will remain in place
until reconsultation of the 2013 Joint Biological Opinion is
completed in early 2019, the release said.
The biological opinion is used by the BOR to protect endangered
species of fish and helps it guide its water releases
Summary of Reclamation actions: (Web only)
Summary of winter-spring
flushing flows provided in 2017:
The Court ordered Reclamation to implement two types of flows to
mitigate the effects of C. shasta on juvenile salmon;
winter-spring flushing flows designed to dislodge and flush out
an intermediate host for the parasite, and emergency dilution
flows designed to reduce the concentrations of parasite spores
in the water column. The following is a summary of the
winter-spring flushing flows that were provided in the 2017:
February 10-12, and as a result of the hydrologic conditions
occurring at that time, Reclamation was able to provide a
surface flushing flow of 6,030 cfs for 72 hours and a deep
winter-spring flushing flow of over 8,000 cfs for 24 hours.
During the event, IGD flows reached a peak of 10,000 cfs
- On February 22-24,
Reclamation coordinated with a number of stakeholders to
release a shaped” flood control flow that met the criteria
contained within the Court Order to dislodge and flush the
intermediate host of C. shasta. Increased flow releases
through Link River Dam began on the afternoon of February
22, as the UKL elevation had risen above flood control
guidelines. UKL releases increased to approximately 6,400
cfs and IGD flows increased to approximately 9,300 cfs (on
How Reclamation will operate
now that emergency dilution flows are no longer necessary in
Reclamation will operate consistent with the Proposed Action
contained within the 2013 BiOp for the remainder of the 2017
If the emergency dilution flow criteria relative to disease
would have been exceeded, Reclamation would have provided up to
50,000 acre-feet of water from UKL to reduce the concentration
of spores in the Klamath River. This volume of water would have
been provided from the Klamath Project's allocation of 390,000
acre-feet from storage within Upper Klamath Lake. Now that the
emergency dilution flows are not required this year, Upper
Klamath Lake will remain fuller to meet the needs of endangered
suckers and also improve the possibility of water deliveries to
the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge later in the season,
consistent with provisions contained within the 2013 BiOp.
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