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Dam removal could help Tribes

March 9, 2006 by STEVE KADEL H&N Staff Writer

A key piece of Klamath Tribes' history could live again if removing the Chiloquin dam helps sucker fish thrive.

“These fish have had a subsistence and cultural importance to the Tribes,” said Doug Tedrick of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “They are a natural resource that is important to the Tribes. They have a treaty right to harvest these fish that they are not able to enjoy because they are endangered.”

A big step toward removing the dam, built in 1914, comes this summer when a pumping plant will be built next to the Sprague River. It will supply water to irrigators after the dam is gone.

However, removal won't happen for at least another year because the pumping plant must undergo a 60-day test in April 2007.

Tedrick, chief range conservationist for the BIA, was in Klamath Falls this week to talk with Modoc Point Irrigation District representatives and other collaborators about the dam's removal.

But that is just part of efforts to bolster the sucker population. Upstream habitat restoration also is needed to get suckers off the endangered list, Tedrick said.

Dave Northrup of Chiloquin worked on the crew that replaced a fish ladder on the north side of the dam in the 1960s. He visited the dam this month and watched a crew from the U.S. Geologic Survey working in the ladder - tagging and counting fish.

“They told me the suckers are not running yet, but they expect them in a week or two in the ladder,” Northrup said. “They did see three large trout in the ladder.

“They also told me they have tracked suckers they have tagged in the ladder as far upstream as the Sycan Marsh.”

Northrup would hate to see the dam removed because it creates a popular fishing hole.

Tedrick acknowledges that some fish get past the dam, but not enough to improve sucker numbers.

“Some fish can zip right up, but others have more trouble,” he said. “It doesn't block passage, but it impairs passage. It's been identified as one of the causes of their reduced population.”

The National Academy of Sciences' research council has given removal of Chiloquin dam high priority as a recovery effort.

Tedrick said environmentalists, the Tribes, and federal, state and local officials all support removal. The BIA and Modoc Point Irrigation District are working together on the project.

“We're not pushing ahead of the district,” Tedrick said. “It's their private dam. We've worked hand in hand with the district to make sure they remain whole.”

That includes the BIA paying to build the pumping plant as well as for its maintenance. The agency also will pay electricity costs to pump water to Modoc Point, where 5,000 acres are cultivated.






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