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Klamath Tribes want upstream salmon back


Published January 12, 2005


CHILOQUIN - A new license for Klamath River dams should help get salmon upstream, the Klamath Tribes say.

"It's a huge gap in the Upper Basin's fauna," said tribal biologist Larry Dunsmoor.

Restoring chinook salmon is the major goal of the Tribes in the relicensing, and Tuesday they made their case in a meeting with the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Tribes' leaders haven't taken a stance on how to do so, said Torina Case, Tribes' Council secretary.

Ways of getting the fish back up to the Basin include adding fish ladders to the dams, trucking the fish around the dams or removing the dams completely.

"All these options are on the table," Case said.

The federal officials held the three-hour meeting to learn about the Tribes and what they have at stake in the relicensing. The company's license to operate the dams expires in 2006.

Although Upper Klamath Lake has water quality and temperature problems in the summer, Dunsmoor said, the lake would support salmon in spring and fall migrations. He said there is some salmon habitat in the rivers above the lake, but a good deal of restoration would need to be done on many of them.

He said dam removal would be the best way to get salmon into the Basin, but the Tribes are evaluating the other options.

"The fish just need to be able to move when they need to move," Dunsmoor said.

Whether PacifiCorp has to mitigate for the effects of the power project on Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River near Keno is one of many issues the commission is weighing, said John Mudre, who is managing the relicensing for the commission.

"Nobody said this was going to be easy," he said.

Currently, the project has six hydroelectric and one flow-control dam. It generates 151 megawatts of power, or about a third as much energy as the Klamath Falls cogeneration plant. In its application, PacifiCorp plans to shut down two small powerhouses on the Link River and have the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation take over Keno Dam, the regulatory dam.

PacifiCorp didn't include a return of salmon to the Basin in its application, said Jon Coney, company spokesman in Portland, but that doesn't mean it won't be done as part of the final relicensing.

"We've said all along that nothing is off of the table," he said in an interview Tuesday.

After Dunsmoor's presentation, some of the Tribes arguments for the return of salmon turned emotional and spiritual. Elwood Miller, Tribes natural resources director, said the Tribes have been dealing with the issue for 90-plus years, and the salmon are a missing link in their culture.

He pointed to a collection of hand woven basket artifacts kept in a display case in the auditorium.

"Some of the baskets here probably carried some of the fish we are talking about," he said.

After the meeting, the federal officials headed south. They are meeting with the Hoopa Valley Tribe in Hoopa, Calif., Thursday and with the Yurok Tribe in Klamath, Calif., Friday.






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