flow curbed in wake of downstream concerns
Liedtke, Herald and News 2/14/17
It wasn’t as
much as initially planned due to flooding concerns
downstream, but a three-day water release from Upper Klamath
Lake is hoped to have fulfilled the task of cleaning out
parasites that have plagued Coho salmon along the Klamath
A court order
last week called for a reduction in a planned water release
by the Bureau of Reclamation, the total amount released not
to exceed 6,030 cubic-feet-per-second across a three-day
That fell well
below the initially planned release of more than 11,000 cfs
in the hopes of effectively flushing downstream areas that
provide habitat for polychaete worms — hosts of the C.
shasta parasite affecting Coho salmon.
The process was
intended to combine high-levels of strong water flow
downstream with strong flow already building from
tributaries filled by recent rains. By increasing the amount
of water, it was hoped to cleanse river beds of parasitic
hosts that have affected the already threatened salmon
species for several years.
U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick ordered the
bureau to implement “winter-spring flushing flows designed
to dislodge and flush out polychaete worms that host C.
recent heavy rains have raised flooding concerns,
particularly in the wake of evacuations in California
following the ongoing Oroville Dam crisis, resulting in
precautions taken to reduce the planned initial flow.
order required us to go three days with 6,030 cubic feet per
second and we were able to do that, though we were hoping to
do an even bigger flush,” said Laura Williams, bureau public
“Due to the
danger looming downstream and terribly high water levels
just from the run-off from the river and side hills, we
decided to scale back. We were hoping for a great big huge
flush, but we still got a good one in there.”
The water flush
lowered Upper Klamath Lake’s levels by approximately
one-third of an inch, according to Williams, which
hydrologists hope will be replenished by incoming water to
the reservoir from tributaries. Now it is simply a waiting
game for fish biologists and hydrologists to see if the
water release was enough to effectively reduce the
population of polychaete worms by cleaning out their
preferred river bed habitats.
Areas of focus
for the pulse flow extend along much of the Klamath River in
California, especially in the area below Iron Gate Dam.
In the Happy
Camp area, where river water levels were reaching the
highway, residents were getting nervous, according to
Williams, of public safety in the wake of planned pulse
getting phone calls from homeowners with concerns about the
safety downstream, so we decided to keep it a lower
intensity level,” added Williams. We’re trying to do the
best for the irrigators and ecosystem and animals, but our
first concern is public safety. We sent a good healthy
amount of water down after the heavy run-off waters were
past the danger point, but we didn’t go as intensely as
indicated plans for an eventual complete pulse flow, but
noted that such further actions will be “played by ear”
based on collected water level data and spring salmon
research. She emphasized the importance the bureau places in
making sure irrigators will continue to have enough water
for their needs during the year.
“It sure is a
lot nicer this winter than the droughts we have had for the
past four to five years,” said Williams of the recent winter
storms. “There’s hope, we’re doing the best that we can.
We’ll watch and see what is possible with the hydrology that
comes to us through the spring season.”
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