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Salmon lecture left questions unanswered

Klamath Falls Herald and News Letter to the Editor by Steve Rapalyea, Chiloquin 3/4/11

I went to the Klamath salmon presentation by Virginia Butler and Alexander Stevenson of Portland University at the Klamath County Museum Feb. 18.

They examined 15,000 bones from archaeological sites on the Williamson and Sprague rivers. Of the 15,000 bones, slightly less than half were identifiable as to species. Of those, 6,000-plus were from suckers and minnows, 185 from salmon. (They said the number of bones may not be a proportionate indicator of relative abundance).

These bones were dated from 7,000 to 100 years ago with most coming from the later period. One very large bone estimated to be from a 50-inch salmon was under ash from the Mt. Mazama eruption. (That's 185 bones in 6900 years).

They presented a pretty good case that at least some of these bones were not hand-carried to these sites, as they found head bones. Aboriginal peoples usually made fish meal or fillets for transport.

They used strontium/calcium concentrations in the bones to prove the fish were anadromous as sea-run fish have a much higher concentration of those elements than do fresh water fish.

I had these questions for them:

   Do you have an estimate of run size?

   Do you have evidence of the frequency of occurrence above Upper Klamath Lake?

   Can you tell if they were spring or fall run?

They could not answer these questions.

I said since dam removal liabilities were identified to be as high as $4 billion by the Camp Dresser & McKee Inc. report in a worse case scenario, maybe we should have evidence that massive runs occurred above Upper Klamath Lake before the taxpayer was put on the hook for that kind of money.

Their stance was that as long as any salmon came above the lake, we should attempt to reintroduce them.

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