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Chinook salmon could get endangered species protection
Petition passes; year-long review process begins
by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 4/13/11
AP file photo Several environmental groups have petitioned
to list the chinook salmon in the Klamath River as an endangered species.
A petition to list chinook salmon in the Klamath and Trinity rivers under endangered species protection has passed an initial assessment and progressed to a year-long review process that could result in another biological opinion for the Klamath River.
In January, four environmental groups — Oregon Wild, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Larch Company — filed a petition that asserts dams, water withdraws, logging, hatcheries, disease and climate change have left chinook salmon at “immediate risk of extinction.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service determined the petition “contained substantial scientific information that warrants federal review,” said Jim Milbury, public affairs specialist with NOAA.
Now NOAA scientists will review the petition and decide if the salmon should be listed as threatened or endangered, Milbury said. The deadline is Jan. 28, 2012.
Environmental groups are asking for protection at least for spring-run chinook salmon, which migrate to the Klamath River from the Pacific Ocean during April and June each year.
But some local irrigators don’t think the fish should be listed.
“We don’t think a listing is warranted … and will be pretty engaged in trying to add information into the record,” said Greg Addington, director of the Klamath Water Users Association, which represents irrigators on the Klamath Reclamation Project.
Once a fish is protected under the Endangered Species Act, it cannot be hunted and its habitat is protected by a federal agency.
Coho salmon in the Klamath River have been protected under the ESA since 2005, when they were listed as threatened. Their habitat was designated as critical in 1999.
Since then a biological opinion enforced by the National Marine Fisheries Service has protected their habitat, most recently by requiring certain flow patterns created by releasing water from Upper Klamath Lake — also a source of irrigation water for area farmers.
“The bottom line is we don’t see a listing as a solution to dealing with (environmental) issues,” Addington said. “Whether chinook, coho or suckers … we’ve decided to take a collaborative approach to solutions.”
The Bureau of Reclamation doesn’t know how another biological opinion might affect water users on the Klamath Reclamation Project, said Kevin Moore, public affairs specialist for the Bureau. “We wouldn’t study something like that until it becomes official,” he said.
Addington said KWUA isn’t certain how a chinook listing could affect irrigators. “But the concern is always, what is this going to mean from a flow standpoint in the river?” he said. “It’s not just the implications for the Project, but also for the lake, the refuges. It’s far-reaching.”
Page Updated: Friday April 15, 2011 02:35 AM Pacific
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