Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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KBC commentary to Tidepool's Cutbacks Reflect Klamath Fish Kill Legacy
Tribes and farmers come together while Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen and Eugene attorney, still fueling the flames
It was hoped by over ninety attendants of the Chadwick sessions to have a ceasefire, eliminating the press war. As an attorney representing the Yuroks and environmentalists, apparently Spain did not get the message...irrigators and tribes want to come together and find solutions. Spain's remarked in the tidepool article: "Among the solutions are forcing the federal government to leave more water in the Klamath, stopping cheap electricity subsidies to Klamath Basin farmers and removing the six Klamath hydroelectric dams up for relicensing in 2006."
Coastal fishermen and many tribal members have expressed goodwill towards the Klamath irrigators. They believed, as concluded by the National Research Counsel peer review team, that irrigator's did not kill Trinity River Fish 200 miles away with their four percent of the water. They realize that on low water years, before the Project was built, the Link River used to go dry.
Most fishermen and tribal members support the negotiated reasonable power rate, which gives power companies free water and communities cheap power due to the excess Klamath Basin water. Fishermen and Indians and irrigators want healthy farm families and healthy tribal families. Spain's message would eliminate farm families, fueling the flames rather than coming together with solutions.
In Spain's desperation to eliminate the irrigators, he spreads untruths and broadcasts them with every environmental writer wanting to feed his agenda. In 2002, the Klamath irrigators warned water regulators not to send hot water down the river to kill the fish on that low water year when historically the river would have gone dry without the stored irrigation water. But noooooo, they sent the hot water down the river, the fish died, and who do you think the environmentalists blamed? Yes, you are right, they blamed the irrigators and the Bureau of Reclamation.. Spain and environmentalists said that more of our stored hot irrigation water would have kept the fish alive. Go figure.
So when Roger Thomas, president of the Golden Gate Fishermen's Association and a member of the PFMC, says:"All users of the river, including the Indian tribes, commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen and farmers, should get together and work things out or we'll continue to face this crisis on an ongoing basis every year," he might want to tell Glen Spain to go back to his city and leave the Klamath alone to come together and find some solutions that work for all, not just the attorneys. Why would attorneys want Klamath Basin to find solutions?
Cutbacks Reflect Klamath Fish Kill Legacy
devastating 2002 salmon kill on the Klamath River,
this year's harvest will be cut back and divided
among many angling interests
While the ocean abundance estimate for Sacramento River chinook salmon is the highest on record, recreational anglers on the Klamath River and commercial fishermen on California's North Coast will be subject to severe cutbacks. The reason for the low abundance is the juvenile fish kill in the spring of 2002 that preceded the adult fish kill that September on the Klamath.
The fall run ocean abundance estimate is 239,700 fish, based on jack returns last year. The river and ocean fishing seasons are based on achieving a goal of 35,000 natural spawners on the Klamath. The fish are divided between the river recreational, tribal, recreational ocean and commercial ocean fisheries. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) will adopt its final salmon management measures at its April 3-8 meeting in Tacoma, Washington.
The California Fish & Game Commission, at its meeting in Oakland on March 18, chose a 15% allotment for the fall salmon harvest for in river anglers. "This means that we will have to divide 1262 salmon as follows: 631 salmon to the Lower Klamath, 210 salmon to Upper Klamath, 210 to Lower Trinity and 210 fish to Upper Trinity," said Ed Duggan, fishing guide. "This fall looks like a very short salmon season on the river."
Because of this, the in-river recreational fishery will be mainly a catch and release fishery for adult salmon. Although anglers will have to release adult chinooks after the quota are reached on the river, they can keep jack salmon and hatchery steelhead.
The Yurok Tribe on the Lower Klamath will also be constrained by the low abundance of Klamath River salmon. "It is highly unlikely that we will have a commercial season at the mouth like we have had in the past," said Dave Hillemeier, Yurok Tribe fishery biologist. "We will not even have enough for our subsistence fishery -- probably 6800 to 7000 fish at best."
North Coast ocean recreational anglers will also feel the impacts. In the Klamath Management Zone from Humbug Mountain to Horse Mountain, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is proposing a season of May 21 through July 4 and August 14 through September 11. Oregon anglers will be able to fish in a selective coho fishery, whereas anglers fishing California waters have to release all coho.
Commercial fishermen along the coast will face the surreal dilemma of being prevented from fishing the healthy stocks of Central Valley ocean salmon to protect Klamath fish. Commercial salmon troll seasons in California and Oregon are structured to protect the coast's weakest salmon runs, which are those from the Klamath River this year. Because the Klamath fish intermingle in the ocean with healthy stocks, 50 or more fish from the Central Valley must be excluded from harvest this year in order to prevent the accidental capture of each Klamath-origin fall chinook.
"We don't have a lot of choice,?" said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA). "We warned people about this after the fish kill happened and we wrote to the President last July to do something about it. Any one of the options proposed by the PFMC is a killer to our industry."
The commercial fishing season will be particularly grim along the North Coast. From the OR/CA Border to the Humboldt south Jetty, the PFMC is proposing a limited salmon season of September 1 through the earlier of September 30 or 6,000 fish. The other option provides for the complete closure of the fishery.
Along the coast from Horse Mountain to Point Arena, traditionally one of the most heavily fished commercial areas, the options are a limited salmon season from September 1 to 30 or a complete closure.
A variety of closure options are proposed in the three commercial fishing zones from Point Arena to Pigeon Point and Pigeon Point to Pt. Sur. The most liberal season, from May 1 through September 30, is proposed for commercial fishermen from Point Sur to the U.S./Mexican Border.
How will this closure impact the economy? "We could be looking at a $100 million loss to California's economy this year," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen?s Associations (PCFFA). "This is ironic when we're looking at a record number of Sacramento River chinooks on the ocean."
The impact upon commercial fishermen -- and recreational anglers as well -- will all depend upon where the fish go in response to ocean water and forage conditions. "If the salmon go south from Point Arena to Point Sur and Point Sur south, we could have a good year," said Grader. "If the fish go north into the closed or restricted zones, we could miss nearly everything."
The constraints on commercial harvest could result in the bizarre situation of the too many Sacramento system fish returning for the available habitat. "We could end up with a virtual train wreck, with too many fish for the available spawning gravel on the Central Valley rivers," said Craig Stone, owner of the Emeryville Sportfishing Center. "An overabundance of fish can be detrimental to the fishery."
Regardless of whether the salmon go north or south, it is obvious that the Klamath River stocks are in great crisis. According to Glen Spain, northwest regional director of the PCFFA, flows in the spring of 2002 were kept so low that the water warmed up too much and the conditions either didn't allow the fish to grow properly or killed them outright.
"This fish kill is different from the widely publicized fish kill that killed up to 70,000 adult salmon in 2002, but both were caused by the same thing -- low river flows," said Spain. "The spring 2002 juvenile fish kill is hitting the industry this year. The fall 2002 adult fish kill will hit us next year."
Spain emphasizes that "a deliberate act" of the federal government appears to be primarily responsible for killing the young king salmon in 2002. In order for the Bush administration to curry the favor of agribusiness for the reelection of an Oregon Senator, the Department of Interior ordered a change in water policy that favored subsidized agribusiness over Klamath salmon and other species.
Even in a dry year like this one, many scientists have called for Iron Gate Dam flows of between 1450 and 1600 cfs in March to have healthy salmon populations. At press time, releases to the Klamath River below Iron Gate were only 800 cfs.
The dilemma the recreational, tribal and commercial fishermen are in this year will only be resolved when we succeed in convincing the federal government to restore the Klamath. Among the solutions are forcing the federal government to leave more water in the Klamath, stopping cheap electricity subsidies to Klamath Basin farmers and removing the six Klamath hydroelectric dams up for relicensing in 2006.
"All users of the river, including the Indian tribes, commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen and farmers, should get together and work things out or we'll continue to face this crisis on an ongoing basis every year," said Roger Thomas, president of the Golden Gate Fishermen's Association and a member of the PFMC.
A march and rally held at the State Capitol on March 14 on the International Day of Action for Rivers points to the growing movement among diverse groups in tackling the complex problems of the Klamath. The four Klamath River Tribes -- the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk and Klamath -- united with commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, environmental groups and farmers over the common goal of getting the Governor to use his power to pressure for the removal of the Klamath River dams.
Dan Bacher writes for the FishSniffer
Page Updated: Friday August 14, 2009 03:18 AM Pacific
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