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Board discusses Klamath Watershed

By Jamie Gentner, Siskiyou Daily News 8/22/07

HORNBROOK – Area residents from the Seiad Valley up to the Oregon border converged at the Hornbrook Grange on Monday, Aug. 20, for the first semi-annual community meeting of the Upper Mid Klamath Watershed Council Community Meeting.

The Watershed Council works to support watershed health, community economic development, fire management, recreation and other outdoor pursuits, according to Leo Bergeron, chairman of the council’s Board of Directors.

“Our goal is to protect and enhance not only the physical structure of the watershed, but also the status of community,” he said. “We want to help make this an economically viable community as well as a community that protects the watershed.”

To start the meeting, Dr. Ken Rykbost, a retired director of the Oregon State Klamath Experimental Station (KES), gave a presentation entitled “Nutrient Loading in the Klamath Basin.”

Rykbost worked in the Klamath Basin for 20 years and has over 30 years experience studying and testing water and water quality.

“This presentation will give vital information about the area we live in,” Bergeron told those in attendance at the meeting. “It will show how nature and man has an effect on water quality.”


The environmental issues facing the area are driven by political and regulatory forces, Rykbost reported. Some of those forces include such laws as the federal Clean Water Act that requires 303D listings and TMDL processes, Oregon Senate bill 1010 with its Private Property Agricultural Management plans and the Endangered Species Act.

Issues of concern in the upper Klamath include phosphorous enrichment that supports blue-green algae, pH levels above 9.0, dissolved oxygen levels below 4.0 mg/l, high ammonia concentrations and high temperatures.

The study conducted by KES and Klamath tribes from 1991 to 2000 “investigated nutrient loading from drainage of agricultural lands adjacent to Klamath Lake, natural background sources including major springs and several artesian wells, and loading to the Klamath Irrigation Project from diversions out of Klamath Lake and Klamath River,” according to a text version of the presentation on the KES Web site.


The results were compared to other major studies about nutrient loading by Miller and Tash of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1965-66, and Snyder and Morace of the USGS in 1993-95.

The KES study found that their data was well within range of data from previous studies, Rykbost’s presentation concluded. Nutrients were almost as high, even after cattle had been removed from one area.

“Findings indicate contributions from agricultural lands adjacent to Klamath Lake have been overestimated, and the Klamath Irrigation Project is probably a net sink for nutrients diverted out of Klamath Lake and Klamath River,” the online version of the study says.


After his presentation, Rykbost answered questions.

“If blue-green algae is such a problem, why don’t we see the deer being affected when they drink it all the time,” one woman in attendance asked.

Rykbost reported that, throughout most of the year, the concentration of the algae isn’t high enough to have much of an affect on those drinking the water.


“When it’s in high concentration, you definitely don’t want to drink it, but most of the time there’s not enough to do much harm,” he said. “That’s why concentration levels need to be highly monitored.”

Rykbost also answered questions about odor, temperature and the dams’ affect on nutrients.

Finally, he was asked about a solution to the problem.


“The National Academy of Sciences committee met to study these findings in 2001 ... and during that meeting, the chair said that you won’t really be able to get the phosphorous level low enough to get rid of the blue-green algae completely,” he said. “So, we just have to keep seeking solutions.”

Bergeron said the presentation and information Rykbost provided was beneficial to those in attendance.

“The purpose of the presentation was an attempt to educate the average person involved in the process and dealing with the problems we are incurring today,” he said. “I think he did an excellent job, especially in providing the clarification that the blue-green algae is a natural occurrence – that the source of phosphorous is not purely an act of man but of nature.”


The meeting continued, with the main agenda item being an update on the progress of a watershed plan.

The council is seeking a grant from the Department of Fish and Game to develop the plan that would look for ways to support their goal of improving and protecting the physical land, economic growth and people in the area. The plan will be developed over a period of years. A committee will be assembled to help guide the direction of the plan, and the council board is currently looking for community members interested in serving on that board.

“Once we get the plan put together, we will take it to the county Board of Supervisors and incorporate it into their general plan,” Bergeron said. “That will ensure everyone around the county is consistent.”


Bergeron also reported on the accomplishments of the board since the beginning of the year, which include participating in the Federal Land Use Advisory Committee meetings, speaking at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board meetings, writing letters to Congress regarding several bills and more.

“We having just been sitting around having coffee and tea; we’ve kept pretty busy,” Bergeron said. “But our main thrust right now has to be this watershed plan. Once we have that in place, we’ll have ground to work from.”

The council meets the first Monday of every month at the Hornbrook Grange at 6 p.m. Due to Labor Day, the council will meet on Sept. 10 instead of Sept. 3.


For more information about the Upper Mid Klamath Watershed Council and their watershed plan, call Bergeron at 842-4400.

To view the written document of Rykbost’s presentation, visit www.oregonstate.edu/dept/kes.

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