Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Klamath Water Users Association
May 18, 2004
Mr. Don Koch
Dear Mr. Koch:
On behalf of the Klamath Water Users Association, I would like to outline some concerns and questions our association has regarding operations at Iron Gate Fish Hatchery. It is our understanding that the hatchery is scheduled, or has started, releases of fingerling chinook salmon into the mainstem Klamath River below the hatchery. It is our understanding that the hatchery has modified practices in recent years, but we are not completely clear on several issues. The purpose of this letter is to secure additional information on this matter, and more importantly, to urge that the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) collaborate with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to ensure that hatchery and Klamath Project operations are coordinated and enhanced to the maximal possible extent.
Overview of Concerns
In the past year, our association has accelerated outreach efforts with other stakeholder groups, particularly those that rely on the resources of the Lower Klamath River. In meetings with commercial and sport fishermen, as well as irrigators in the Scott and Shasta Valleys, the issue of state hatchery management often arises. It appears that the effect of hatchery fish on populations of wild salmonids in the Klamath basin is not well understood. However, judging this matter based upon our recent stakeholder discussions and based on the final 2003 report prepared by the National Research Council Committee on Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin, hatchery impacts to threatened coho salmon appear to be negative. For example, the release of millions of juvenile chinook salmon every spring floods the river with fish that are larger than the wild fish. The hatchery fish may displace or stress wild coho salmon. If hatchery production does indeed result in net loss of wild coho salmon, hatchery operation should be modified.
Questions about Iron Gate Hatchery Operations
Currently, just over a week since Reclamation was required to change the water year type to "dry" on the Klamath River because of plummeting runoff forecasts, it appears that CDFG is still on track to release 6 million juvenile chinook into the river at Iron Gate. We are hearing reports of diseased fish in the Klamath River, which may or may not have a relationship to the hatchery fish. We have three questions related to this issue:
If CDFG or others are not planning on performing
a disease assessment, including a disease history
for the fish that are being released, please
consider this letter as the formal request from our
association to do so.
Our fisheries scientist – David Vogel – played an important role in coordinating hatchery releases from Coleman Fish Hatchery with water releases from Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River. This required improved cooperation between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in the Central Valley. Mr. Vogel believes there is merit to pulse flows associated with release of juveniles, but that the related flow magnitude and duration is a matter that must be very carefully developed. On the Sacramento River, Reclamation’s Shasta Dam water releases were coordinated with fish releases from Coleman hatchery to allow larger fish to move downstream earlier in the year. We believe that Reclamation and CDFG should investigate developing a similar relationship between Iron Gate hatchery operations and Klamath Project flow operations. With that said, we have two questions on this matter:
It is our understanding that CDFG has an option of holding some of the fingerling populations over the summer at the hatchery and releasing them downstream when the fish are larger and stronger. We understand that this practice does entail increased expenditures at the hatchery, and that, in recent years, this policy has not been exercised. One question:
On behalf of KWUA, I thank you for considering these questions. Again, we strongly encourage that CDFG work closely with Reclamation to enhance the Klamath River objectives of both agencies wherever possible. If you have specific questions about this letter, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
cc: Senator Sam Aanestad
Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa
Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors
Modoc County Board of Supervisors
Chuck Blackburn, Del Norte County Board of Supervisors
Dave Sabo, USBR
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