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Lake missed minimum level

Published Jan. 12, 2004

Official says summer levels more critical

By DYLAN DARLING

Not many people noticed, but Upper Klamath Lake in late November slipped below the minimum water level established to protect endangered suckers.

The lake's elevation on Nov. 30 was 4,139.95 feet above sea level, or about a half-inch below the minimum for that date.

Curt Mullis, field supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Klamath Falls office, said the lake level requirements were established to ensure suckers have enough oxygenated water under the winter ice.

But Mullis said it's more important to maintain minimum lake levels in the heat of summer than in the dead of winter.

"We know that we can lose large number of fish during the summer dieoffs as opposed to some fish during the winter because of lack of oxygen," he said.

Carl "Bud" Ullman, attorney for the Klamath Tribes, said the Tribes don't plan to take any immediate action because of the missed target in November, but will bring up the issue at the next government-to-government meeting between the Tribes and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Reclamation officials recently negotiated with the National Marine Fisheries Service to decrease flows in the lower Klamath River in order to conserve more water in Upper Klamath Lake.

Officials hope a heavy mountain snowpack will fill Upper Klamath Lake and leave plenty of water available for the 2004 irrigation season, which begins in early April.

 

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