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Commissioner dedicates passage

 Joe Hobbs, vice chairman of the Klamath Tribes, and Allen Foreman, chairman, bless the Link River Dam's fish passage during a dedication Tuesday afternoon

October 12, 2005 by DYLAN DARLING

Fish and farmers. Farmers and fish. The two words define the tension in the Klamath Basin since 2001, when the federal government didn't deliver water to farmers at the start of growing season for the sake of protected fish.

Since that summer, there has been enough water to meet the differing needs and federal money flowing in for changes to the Klamath Reclamation Project.

John Keys, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Tuesday dedicated the latest Basin change, the Link River Dam fish passage.

”It's another step in making the Project what we want it to be,“ he said.

He said the $2.2 million fish passage - which allows suckers to pass through the dam from Lake Ewauna to Upper Klamath Lake and vice versa - will help the fish recover, allowing the Bureau to deliver water to farmers.

Keys reiterated his point later in the day in a speech at the Klamath Water Users Association's annual meeting at Reames Golf and Country Club.

”We have to do it,“ Keys said. ”We have to find a way to keep these fish alive. We have to find a way to work with the tribes. And that in turn will allow us to put water on your crops.“

A crowd of about 200 were at the evening meeting, including irrigators as well as civic and community leaders.

During the afternoon dedication, Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said the building of the fish ladder, for the benefit of suckers, represents a recognition of the Chiloquin-based Tribes' needs.

”The federal government is finally starting to live up to its trust requirements to the Tribes,“ Foreman said.

He said the Tribal members want to have enough suckers to have a fishery again, which the Tribes haven't had since 1986.

Already done in terms of changes to the Project is the construction of the $16 million A Canal headgates, completed in 2003, and the Link River Dam fish passage, finished this spring.

Up next on the list is the removal of the Chiloquin Dam, which scientists say blocks suckers from some of their spawning beds, Keys said.

The changes, as well as studies concerning the suckers in the lakes, protected salmon in the Klamath River and other aspects of the Basin, could contribute to the federal government reviewing how it manages the Project.


If everything goes right, Keys said, there will be new biological opinions, which define how to run the Project in regards to the two kinds of fish, in place for the 2008 irrigation season.

Keys said the changes to the Project since 2001 are already improving things.

”I don't know of anybody who missed any water this year,“ he said.

But for the changes to keep happening, the federal funds need to keep coming.

This year, with the economic needs of hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast and the war in Iraq, discretionary money in the federal budget could be cut. And the changes in the Project have been fueled by discretionary money.

If the money doesn't come, federal managers hope more water will come from nature. Since 2001, the water inflow has been below average into Upper Klamath Lake, the Project's main reservoir, but it has been enough to get by without crisis.

”When you add water, things get better,“ said Kirk Rogers, Mid-Pacific regional director for the Bureau and former Project manager.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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