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Talks about Chiloquin Dam encouraging

HERE for Chiloquin Dam Page

Published March 4, 2006

Talks are continuing about taking out Chiloquin Dam, and things appear to be moving forward. Removing the dam on the Sprague River has been one thing that almost all of the major forces involved in the Upper Klamath Basin water battles have agreed on.

But the group that would actually lose the water - the members of the 5,300-acre Modoc Point Irrigation District - is still discussing the matter.

The small dam, built in 1914, diverts water from the Sprague at Chiloquin. The dam has long been seen as a major impediment for suckers heading upriver to spawn. Suckers are one of two fish species listed as endangered and under protection of the Endangered Species Act that use the Sprague River. The other is redband trout.

The legal protections for the suckers come into play on Upper Klamath Lake, the main irrigation reservoir for the Klamath Reclamation Project, because they dictate how high the lake water has to be kept to protect sucker habitat.

Increasing sucker numbers would help in dealing with the legal restrictions, and more spawning habitat would help sucker numbers.

At the same time, there are salmon on the lower Klamath River that are also protected under the Endangered Species Act, and that affects the amount of water that must be released from Upper Klamath Lake each year into the Klamath River, which is the river's source.

That leaves the Bureau of Reclamation in an annual juggling act trying to allocate water that, in a low water year, is unlikely to satisfy anyone.

Thus proposals such as removing Chiloquin Dam that attract support from people who are usually at odds with each other probably carry a symbolic importance as well as an actual one - if they can agree on this, can they agree on more? The process aimed at overall settlement of water issues in the Upper Basin needs victories - things that would reduce the mountain of litigation over Basin water issues and produce more certainty for those who count on the water.

But it's only fair that members of the Modoc Point Irrigation District come out of it with the water they need. The proposal being considered would change the district's source of water to the Williamson River and use a pump rather than a dam.

Mark Buettner, a fishery biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said this week that the project is moving, and there's been pretty good collaboration.

Good to hear it. Let's keep it going.

Editorial board

Pat Bushey wrote today's editorial, which represents the view of the Herald and News editorial board




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