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The Scientists, Day 3

by KBC (jdk) 2/5/04

I wasn't able to attend yesterday, but today was day 3 of the Klamath Basin Science Workshop at the Shilo Inn, organized by the Department of the Interior. For the past 2 days, scientists were divided into 2 rooms, suckers and hydrology, so I listened to a half day of each. Not pretending to be a scientist or sucker/hydrology informed enough to understand their language, and not having videotaped it to share many quotes,  I will endeavor to share what I did learn and my impressions--from an irrigator's perspective.

First in the sucker room was Cecil Jennings from Georgia.  His role was to relate what the Georgians and Carolinans did to study the Robust Redhorse fish. They found 5, only 5 lone fish so immediately formed a committee. A very big committee of dozens of agencies. They wanted to keep the Robust Redhorse fish unlisted despite the efforts of the USFW and environmental groups. And they didn't grab land as there were no willing sellers.

The Robust Redhorse Committee took a year to make a  policy on how to study these fish.  They defined the terms of recovery, defined what they meant by restoration, conducted surveys, made rules on how to vote, figured who had rights in which waters. And everyone had a right to publish their studies. 

Within that time it was discovered that there were other identical Robust Redhorse fishes, thousands of them, but they now had an organized committee to study them and make plans for them. Everyone was invited to be on the committee, and The Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club came for awhile but lost interest. The committee did 9 years of research.

Jennings said that the difference between here and there is, their members and scientists were coordinated and ours are not, they  prioritized and we do not, they figured out who was best to do what study, and we do not. They didn't list them as endangered and we did. I wanted to ask him late if their efforts increased the Robust Redhorse population, but didn't get the chance.  Maybe tomorrow. But it was evident that they were good at forming a great committee and working with the entire community.  They did not shut down their community. And they included everyone in the efforts.

Kris Kelleher, biologist studying Utah Lake suckers. They listed the suckers. They acquired funds, engaged The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited and acquired land. They hired a media firm to show the public how good it was that they should have listed species and acquire land. They hired outside technical experts. "Everyone with regulatory authority is at the table".  Locals could be on a committee, but they could not vote.

I liked #1.

Rip Shively, USGS Klamath Station, gave an overview of adult sucker monitoring program in the Upper Klamath Basin (UKB). Monitoring began in 1995 on the Lower Williamson, with 5 more monitors in 1999. He said that there is no good way to estimate sucker age. They are trying to  provide survival estimates of size and sex. He said they need to 'enhance coordination of existing programs."

Larry Dunsmoor, Klamath  Tribes biologist, asked Shively what he thought of Bill Lewis's, National Resource Committee member's, analysis of lake level management, as Dunsmoor argued with Lewis on Tuesday telling Lewis that he was wrong. Lewis had said there is no scientific reason to use lake-level management, as it will not help the fish. Shively agreed with Dunsmoor. Lewis was not here to defend himself today, but he did a good job on Tuesday.

Rich Piaskowski, BOR (Bureau of Reclamation) gave an overview of adult sucker behavior studies below UKL. He showed the river, canals and dams, water quality, how they tagged and monitored the tagged fish, counted them, and monitored where they were.

He said that in Lake Euwana, sucker movement did not correspond with PH levels. A rise in PH had no effect. He said suckers passed in 233 to 1500 CFS. The minimum flow of 233CFS is sufficient for suckers. Most of the tagged fish died, and he said that the tagging could be killing them.

Barbara Adams from USGS told about suckers with respect to water quality in UKL. They tagged 100, 36 died, and many of the rest got lost.

"Suckers are not always located in the places with the best dissolved oxygen." They followed one tagged sucker for several weeks. I think that sucker died. Then they learned later from a sucker-tag expert that the tags typically malfunction much of the time. Another scientist suggested that putting the tag in a different place on the suckers would probably  keep them from dying due to improper tagging.

Tamara Wood, USGS, studied water quality--the dissolved oxygen dynamics in UKL. She studied wind speed, temperature and oxygen. They found that in 2002 the oxygen into the lake was turned off by the weeks of heavy smoke from the forest fires. She was asked about lake levels effecting the suckers, "I don't think the relationship is there." Wood felt that, "It can't be overstated how much progress we have made."

During questions, one man wanted someone to monitor the effects of ice, snow and wind and those effects on suckers.  Someone asked him if he wanted to volunteer. It was brought up that "Pacific Power has a wind station next to a hill and a highway."

An idea was shared that perhaps we need more water quality monitoring on a consistent basin.

Another suggestion by a scientist was that it may be helpful to check many fish depths and not just one tagged fish.

Ralph Cheng, USGS from Menlo Park,  CA, explained in detail his ADCP, acoustic doppler current profiler, which measures 3-D velocity. He said that they need to have much more data to relate hydrodynamics to water quality.

Mike Deaz of Watercourse Engineering Inc described his studies of water quality, flow, temperature, oxygen N and PH, etc, from Link Dam to the Pacific Ocean.  He said the agricultural fields and municipal industries effect on the lake's water quality is negligible. "We don't have enough date to have restoration goals...." We must characterize the lake before we make restoration goals, and "this conference is a good starting point."

A man from Eureka asked what the contribution of bad water is from the Klamath Project.

Answer, "Water from Straights Drain is better than what we already have in the river. Even without the Project we see a DO (dissolved oxygen) sag."

That's what I learned today.  So, between today and Tuesday, I, as an irrigator who does not want to be downsized out of business, was elated. Lake level management is not justified. Project water is better than river water. Wetlands don't necessarily help fish or PH and use more water than ag lands.  Suckers swim and eat and make babies regardless of lake levels and water quality. And "We don't have enough data to have restoration goals."

Before I left a USGS guy was chatting with a CDFW (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) guy, and they were discussing how much water they could have the farmers store on their farmland, and how much of our aquifer we could pump out. ...?  I'm pretty sure that they were at the same meetings that I attended...?

Tomorrow is the summary.

I'm hoping that some of the scientists will send me the text of their speeches so you can have the rest of the story.





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