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9th Circuit Court of Appeals court orders more flows down Trinity


Published April 27, 2004


It's going to be a wet summer on the Trinity River.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last Friday ordered that flows in the Trinity - a major tributary of the lower Klamath River - be increased by nearly 50 percent more than had been scheduled for this summer.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had planned to release about 453,000 acre-feet of water from reservoirs, but the appeals court ordered an increase to more than 650,000 acre-feet.

A network of reservoirs, pumps and tunnels in the Trinity Alps of Northern California divert water from the Trinity River to help supply the Central Valley Project.

Since 2000 the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Yurok Tribe have been battling irrigation districts, municipal water districts and a power company in court for water. While the case has been in court, flows on the river have been set by U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger.

The tribes want more water for threatened salmon, while the districts and power company want to make sure they have enough water to meet their needs.

Wanger had determined this year would be classified as a "dry year," with the river getting an allocation of about 453,000 acre-feet. But the appeals court said the river should be operated as a "normal year" this summer, said Jeff McCracken, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The change in flows won't impact those who use Trinity water in the Central Valley Project this year, because plenty of water is already being held in reservoirs to meet farmers' needs.

The 200,000 acre-feet needed to provide the higher river flows will come from water already stored in the Trinity Reservoir system.

"However, this could have implications next year if we don't have a wet winter," McCracken said.

The Central Valley Project provides 7 million acre-feet to about 20,000 farms that together irrigate about 3 million acres, McCracken said. About 800,000 acre-feet of the water comes from the Trinity.

The Trinity merges with the Upper Klamath River about 45 miles from the Pacific Ocean to form the Lower Klamath River. It was in the lower stretch of the Klamath River that an estimated 34,000 fish, mostly salmon, died in 2002.

While the case, which is the latest in a string of lawsuits going back to 1984, has been in court the Bureau hasn't been able to follow the Trinity flow plan it adopted in December 2000.

In a related matter, the Bureau, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Trinity County on Monday released a draft supplemental environmental impact statement for the river. The revised document is focused on restoring and maintaining the natural production of anadromous fish in the Trinity River basin below of Lewiston Dam and meeting the federal government's tribal trust obligations.

Two public hearings, one in Redding and one in Hoopa, Calif., have been scheduled for early June to get oral and written comments on the draft impact statement.

Written comments can also be sent to Russell Smith at Reclamation's Northern California Area Office, PO Box 723, Shasta, CA 96087, faxed to (530) 275-2441 or e-mailed to rpsmith@ mp.usbr.gov.



On the Net: www.usbr.gov/mp/ncao





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