NAS in Klamath Falls

by KBC 1/30/07

(corrections of the original article are in red)

KLAMATH FALLS - The third public meeting of the Committee on Hydrology, Ecology, and Fishes of the Klamath River Basin met in Klamath Falls January 29th at the Shilo Inn. Nearly 80 community members attended.

This multidisciplinary committee was established to evaluate new scientific information that has become available since the NRC 2004 report was issued on Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin. Information to be evaluated includes two new reports on (1) the hydrology of the Klamath Basin and (2) habitat needs for anadromous fish in the Klamath River, including coho salmon. The committee will identify additional information needed to better understand the basin ecosystem. They will consider water quality and flow volumes and seasonal flow patterns.

They will:
1 Review and evaluate the methods and approach used in the Natural Flow Study to create a representative estimate of historical flows and the Hardy Phase 11 studies, to predict flow needs for coho and other anadromous fishes.

2 Review and evaluate the implications of those studies' conclusions within the historical and current hydrology of the upper basin; for the biology of the listed species; sand separately for other anadromous fishes.

3. Identify gaps in the knowledge and in the available scientific information

Will Graf, Committee Chair, introduced the Committee and presenters.

If you wish to send them information regarding the above items of study, send to:  or
David Policansky
Room 229
Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
National Research Council
500 Fifth St NW
Washington DC 20001
Any material they receive is required by law to be made available at reasonable cost (to cover our expenses of duplicating and distributing it) to anyone who requests it.

Speakers made presentations regarding TMDL's (water quality), Virtual Tour of the Klamath River Basin, Forest Management, groundwater, Conservation Implementation Program, climate change, as well as informational speeches regarding evaporation, the Klamath Reef, and basic Klamath Project plumbing as it applies to the Bureau's undepleted flow study.

John Hicks from the Bureau of Reclamation described the Klamath Project. He said Klamath Lake is up to 8.1' deep. He showed photos of when the Link River went dry in the fall before the Klamath Project was built. The Project provides drainage, flood control, irrigation, and water for refuges.

The Tulelake Refuges were originally scheduled to be given to WWII veterans to farm. However in 1964 the Kuchel Act was passed  to end homesteading of the remaining lands in the Refuge and designate the leaselands as combined benefits for agricultural production and wildlife habitat.  Klamath Basin has the largest concentration of waterfowl in North America, and farms produce over half of the food for these migrating birds.

He said that the leaselands have the strongest protective laws regarding chemicals, and many of the fields are certified organic. The water quality coming from these fields is good and sometimes better than Klamath Lake water.

Water quality issues by Dan Turner, DEQ Klamath Basin TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) ODEQ, and Matt St. John, Lead of TMDL Unit, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Rosa, CA.

Turner explained how the Clean Water Act triggered TMDL's, which make regulations regarding dissolved oxygen, temperature, organic enrichment, nutrients and PH or other water quality limiting parameters. Lawsuits by environmental groups have escalated demands for water quality standards and regulations to control those working on the land. They will review the data, find sources of impairments, develop targets, then use models to create regulations.

St. John cited many mainstem and tributary problems and concluded agriculture caused them.

Cindy Williams from the Bureau of Reclamation showed a video virtual tour of Klamath River up to the Klamath Project.

Brian Staab, hydrologist for the Fremont and Winema National Forests, presented 'Forest management practices and effects on water quantity and quality.

He said 50% of land in Klamath Basin is managed by the Forest Service, and 50% of that land generates 70% of the runoff.

He elaborated on the damage caused by historic practices of clear cutting timber. He said road construction and fire suppression harmed vegetative conditions, and applauded the 1990 Endangered Species Act mandates over the spotted owl and praised the forthcoming "ecosystem management and conservation." He said there is more water flows after fires.

Staab said only 15-20% of previous timber harvests currently take place. He concluded that forest management damage was moderate compared to damage from mining.

Hydrologist Marshall Gannett, USGS Oregon Water Science Center, discussed the basin's groundwater.

He said ground water recharge is estimated at about 2 million acre feet, MAF, per year. The discharge from the upper basin at Iron Gate is about 1.5 MAF/year. The discharge at IG is from combined surface flows and groundwater discharge to surface bodies. Springs account for about 60 % of the inflow to UKL. There are over 1000 wells and many major springs.

The water table fluctuates in response to climate changes.

Groundwater pumping effects water levels. The water table in some areas has declined 15-20' since pumping began between 2001-2004, and it continues to decline. Gannett said pumping effects are localized and easily observed. They effect streamflow; the effects are real but not easily measured.

He said research is focusing on quantifying response to ground water system to new sets of conditions like increased pumping. they are making a computer model to calculate effects of response to ground water stresses. has related information.

The estimated pumping in 2000 was 150,000 AF. With the federally mandated waterbank, pumping increased to approximately 225,000 AF by  2004. Gannet said that some groundwater levels recharge annually, however some take several years to recharge.

Christine Karas from the Klamath Office, Bureau of Reclamation, explained the Klamath River Basin Conservation Implementation Program, CIP, a basin wide forum for restoration.

There have been three drafts. Their first goal is to restore the ecosystem, 2nd is tribal trust, and 3rd sustaining agriculture, municipal and industrial while reducing water demands.

She said it is not only a Bureau program. It is meant to empower restoration groups, restore habitat, and improve water use practices. The plans were developed with public input.

A December meeting was planned to form committees and get the CIP off the ground, however it was postponed because of the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) settlement meetings. Water users, tribes and environmentalists are among the 28 parties at the negotiation table discussing dam removal, water for agriculture, river flows, endangered species and other issues related to the Klamath River and water. Now the Department of the Interior would like CIP to implement terms of the settlement.

The settlement talks are not being disclosed to the public.

Thomas Perry, hydrologist, Technical Service Center, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver, CO, talked about climate change impacts on the Klamath Basin. He said that precipitation has declined in the winters and increased in the summers, and the temperature is rising every century.

Marc Van Camp  from MBK Engineers said there were about 32,000 acres of open water and about 47,000 acres of wetlands in the Lower Klamath area at the time the map was made in 1906. He said the Flow Study indicated conversion of lands for agricultural use above Klamath Lake increased inflow to upper Klamath Lake but conversion to agricultural use below Klamath Lake reduced outflow at Keno.

He said 1904-1918 was the wettest recorded period, and that timeframe was used in the Bureau's Natural Flow Study as average. There is not enough pre-1904 data to calibrate water year types. He detailed several errors in the Flow Study and said these errors could greatly effect policy decisions.

Klamath Irrigation District Manager Dave Solem explained Project routing of the 1912 diversion channel, KID's canals, and the amount of water going into Klamath River through the slough. He said before diking of the Klamath River in 1890 to prevent water from going into the Lost River Slough, this slough was a major sink for water leaving the Klamath River system and going to Tule Lake where it evaporated in the closed Tule Lake basin.

Bob Gasser, Klamath Water User Association board member and local businessman, told the committee that there were no outlets from the lakes historically into the Klamath River. He was sorry the committee could not take a tour of the Klamath Project and see the farmland, huge refuges, wildlife, and the diversion channel which funnels runoff water from the Project into refuges and the Klamath River. He explained that the Project is 92% efficient.

Gasser said we want to help solve the Klamath problems. And after the NRC report comes out he hopes there will be a way to implement the findings since the last report and findings were totally ignored.

Dr. Ken Rykbost, retired Oregon State University Professor, has studied evapotransporation and consumptive use.   He said that pre-project loss was greatly underestimated. He said in his 20 years of research in the basin he has confidence that the BOR's AgriMet system, which predicts crop water use based on meteorological observations at local weather stations in the network, provides accurate estimates of crop water use. Given that program, he can't understand how the flow study could come up with an estimate of evapotranspiration from 55,000 acres of permanently flooded wetlands adjacent to Upper Klamath Lake of 1.0 AF/acre.

Project irrigator and KWUA board member Bob Flowers presented photos of large boats on Lower Klamath. He brought up concerns that were not addressed in the Bureau's Natural Flow Study.

Petey Brucker from Shasta Valley, co-founder of Klamath Forest Alliance, and past member of Klamath Fisheries Task Force Technical Working Group, said he'd like to see species relationships to flows and stock identification. He is interested in whether larger trees create greater flows.

The NRC Committee meeting ended, and there will be no tour by the committee of the Klamath Project.

We have asked some of the speakers for their presentations to share with our readers.








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