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Proposal would put chinook in local waters

ODFW biologist to present plan today
By DD BIXBY, Herald and News 4/23/08

   Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Roger Smith expects salmon to be knocking at the head gates to the Upper Klamath Basin in the near future, and he is ready for them.
   Smith drafted a proposal to reintroduce chinook salmon to the Upper Klamath Lake and its tributaries, and will present it to the public today.
   Proposal details
   The proposal calls for allowing fish to reestablish themselves below the lake at Spencer Creek, Smith said. However, recolonization above the lake could take longer, so ODFW wants to jumpstart that by reintroducing chinook into the lake and its tributaries.
   Smith will present the plan, an amendment to the 1997 Klamath River Basin Fish Management Plan, on May 9 to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission.
             If approved, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would draft an implementation plan. While investigation and research could take longer, Smith said the plan would likely take one to two years to develop.
             Implementing a fish reintroduction has to wait until passage is available, and must wait until PacifiCorpís completes relicensing negotiations with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for four hydroelectric dams south
of Upper Klamath Lake ó Copco I, Copco II, Iron Gate Dam and J.C. Boyle. 
   Under new federal mandates, providing passage for migrating fish like salmon and steelhead trout is required as part of dam relicensing.
   Such passage would allow these fish to make annual migrations to and from the ocean to spawning grounds in the lake and its tributaries, including the Williamson, Sprague and Wood rivers.

Salmon history in the Basin

   Salmon passage to the Upper Klamath Lake was blocked in 1911 with the building of the first Copco dam. At that time, the commercial fishing industry was booming downriver, and the Klamath River was regarded as the third largest producer of anadromous, or migrating, fish along the Pacific coastline after the Columbia and Sacramento rivers.
   People believed if they collected the fish by a rack system placed in the river, the run would stay alive, said Roger Smith, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. That didnít happen, and the natural fishery has been collapsing since.
   Fall chinook stocks are one of the weakest in Southern Oregon, Smith said. To protect that run, commercial fishing was closed, and Smith said he believed recreational salmon fishing along the river is at risk, too.
   The cohabitation of salmon with trout in the Upper Basin dates back about 2 million years, Smith said. The life and food cycles of the two species are interdependent, and he expects trout runs in the upper Basin would greatly improve with the return of salmon.
   Although the ODFW plan is mainly concerned with the reintroduction and continuity of self-sustaining runs of native species like chinook and coho salmon, steelhead trout and Pacific lamprey, Smith said impacts of returning native fish could create broad ripples.
   A healthier, more diverse fishery in the Upper Klamath Basin would eventually revive coastal fishing industries at the mouth of the Klamath River as stronger salmon runs resulted in more flexibility for fishermen, he said, and improved trout fisheries in the lake would greatly boost recreational fishing along the river, helping the tourism industry.
Meeting information
: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will host a public informational meeting about the reintroduction of salmon to the Upper Klamath Basin
: 7 to 9 p.m. today

: Oregon Institute of Technology, second floor of the Student Union in Mount Shasta and Mount Scott rooms.
Copy of proposal

   A copy of the reintroduction proposal is available at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Web site at  www.dfw.state.or.us under Special Plans and Programs.
   The public can comment on Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife projects by e-mail at odfw.comments@ state.or.us.
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