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Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603

October 3, 2003

Mr. Don Koch
State of California Ė The Resources Agency
Department of Fish and Game, Northern California Ė North Coast Region
601 Locust Street
Redding, California 96001

Re: Draft Report "September 2002 Klamath River Fish Kill: Final Analysis"

Dear Mr. Koch:

Steve Turek from your office contacted me last week and noted that California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) will not be able to grant our request for a 60-day extension to the comment period on the above subject document. I mentioned to Steve that we would not be able to provide substantial comments on your modified draft report at this time for the following reasons:

  1. The report is 224 pages in length and is highly technical in nature.
  2. Over 80 references are cited in the report, which we would like to review, as appropriate.
  3. Fifteen "personal" references are cited in the report, which we would also like to assess and confirm.

We were initially told that we had approximately two weeks to submit formal comments, a deadline which we could not meet. Last week, Steve notified us that an additional ten days or so would be provided for comments. Unfortunately, our understanding was that our opportunity to provide comments had already passed, and Mr. Vogelís other commitments precluded his ability to immediately address this topic.

We appreciate your willingness to open up the review process to our association. However, given the quick turnaround you are looking for, we cannot at this time provide you with the sound, constructive and thorough comments that your draft report deserves. We do intend to prepare a comprehensive review of the report and believe all parties would be best served by allowing more time to consider such comments.  In our view, the unexplained urgency for completion does not foster good science.

With that said, for the purposes of meeting your current time constraints, I would refer you to the handouts (attached) provided to CDFG Director Robert Hight by David Vogel on June 11, 2003. Also, we would ask that you consider the discussion that occurred later in the summer at your office in Redding when Mr. Vogel and Dave Solem (KWUA President), met with your staff and again discussed Mr. Vogelís handouts. Copies of the handouts are included as an attachment. Finally, I have attached hereto a copy of Dave Vogelís statement that was submitted in PCFFA et al v. USBR et al, which directly pertains to issues of concern we had with the draft report that was released last January. In summary, our key concerns raised with the January 2003 draft CDFG report are as follows:

  • The inappropriate use of monthly averages to explain that September 2003 was not unusually warm as compared to past years.
  • The incorrect assumption that Upper Klamath River temperatures were colder than lower river temperatures near the location of the fish die-off.
  • Incorrectly plotted water temperatures at the fish die-off, which were skewed four days earlier; this CDFG error did not show the sudden warming trend at the time of the fish die-off.
  • The assumption that a fish passage barrier occurred in the lower river is not sufficiently justified in the draft report, and is contradicted by other evidence.
  • The assumption that the Klamath Project is a major factor affecting coho salmon in the Klamath River.
  • The assumption that September 2002 was unique because of a large salmon run and low river flows ,when there was a much larger salmon run in 1988 with the same lower river flow but no fish die-off.
  • The application of an inconsistent standard: In 2002, a die-off of 3,000 spring-run Chinook salmon occurred in Butte Creek immediately downstream of a water project. CDFG attributed the cause to natural causes, warm water, and called it a "die-off". Also in 2002, a die-off of Chinook salmon occurred more than 200 miles downstream of the Klamath Project in Oregon. CDFG attributed the cause to water project operations and called it a "fish kill".
  • The draft report does not discuss the significance of the Trinity River, despite the fact that the die-off occurred below the Trinity-Klamath confluence.

In summary, we believe the available data suggests that the most plausible true reasons for the fish die-off are twofold:

  1. An unusual earlier peak run timing of a large salmon run occurred in 2002 compared to prior years.
  2. Two dramatic and uncharacteristic cooling and warming trends occurred during late August and September (when the Upper Klamath River was still naturally unsuitably warm) that probably both attracted fish into the lower river and exposed the fish to chronically and cumulatively stressful conditions.

These circumstances were ideal for a disease outbreak among crowded numbers of salmon.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments. If you have any questions or concerns about this letter, please do not hesitate to call me at 541-883-6100.

Very Truly Yours,

Dan Keppen
Executive Director




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