Fish report fallout keeps on coming
published Oct. 23, 2003
By DYLAN DARLING
The day after the release of a federal report about
fish in the Klamath Basin, reaction continues to
roll out from Washington, D.C., to Klamath Falls to
the Pacific Coast.
The most common message is that the National
Research Council's report on endangered fishes in
the Basin is going to change things.
Members of Congress said the report refocuses
restoration efforts on the Basin as a whole. Federal
officials said the report will change how the
Klamath River is managed. The Klamath Tribes said
the report shows the need for restoration of the
Meanwhile, a Northern California newspaper said a
draft version of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
report on the fall 2002 Klamath River fish kill
blames low flows in the river.
According to the Eureka Times-Standard, a
preliminary U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report
says about 33,000 chinook salmon died because of low
water flows in the Klamath River.
The paper said it got the draft Tuesday and quoted
it as saying ''decreased discharge'' delayed
migration of the salmon, which died from disease in
the crowded lower river in September 2002.
The California Department of Fish and Game came to
similar conclusions in a report it released shortly
The unfinished Fish and Wildlife Service report was
not considered in the National Research Council's
final report, released Tuesday. The report said it
couldn't determine whether low flows led to the
Peter Moyle, one of the scientists who wrote the
research council report, was quoted in the Eureka
paper as saying that one reason the council's report
took so long to be released was scientists were
waiting for the Fish and Wildlife report, which they
While the data on the fish kill is scant, it would
have helped the council in drafting its conclusions,
Jim Nickles, spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife
Service, said the report is still under review in
Washington, D.C., and he was leery of putting
credence in draft findings.
"The report went through several versions over
several months," he said.
He said it was unclear which draft of the report the
Times-Standard has or how the paper got it.
Tuesday's release of the National Research Council's
long-awaited report on threatened and endangered
fish in the Basin stirred a response from elected
officials back in Washington, D.C.
"It's a complete vindication of what the farmers and
what I have been saying all along," said U.S. Rep.
Greg Walden in a telephone interview Tuesday. "The
lake levels do need to be kept high for suckers. The
water did not need to be shut off in 2001."
Not only does the report rewrite the past, but it
shows where the future could lead, he said.
"It lays out a very clear road map of what needs to
be done to restore salmon and suckers."
U.S. Rep. Wally Herger, a Northern California
Republican who represents part of the irrigation
lands in the Klamath Basin, said people in the Basin
should be pleased with the council's report and use
it to proceed in a constructive manner. He said the
report's recommendations will need to be
"It is important that our primary focus continues to
be preserving agriculture and the way of life in the
Klamath Basin and elsewhere in Northern California,"
he said in a press release.
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, a Northern California
Democrat whose district is home to tribes and
fishing interests downstream, said the report
detailed "what many experts have been saying all
along about the Klamath River - that immediate
restoration is needed."
Thompson said he was skeptical that many of the
reports recommendations - which include studies of
dam removal, river bank restoration and water right
buyouts - would be supported in the current
"Unfortunately, the (Bush) administration has not
been receptive to common-sense and accountable
conservation practices on the Klamath," he said.
The report will affect an environmental impact
statement for the the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's
Klamath Project that will cover operations until
2012, said Christina Karas, deputy project manager,
according to the Capital Press.
Karas said the statement is still in the development
stage and the public comment period was extended
until December to allow consideration of the report,
according to the Salem-based agricultural weekly. It
could also affect a conservation plan being brewed
by the Bureau.
Next week, the Bureau plans to release another draft
of the proposed basinwide conservation plan, which
officials hope will bring together upstream and
"Think unified Basin," Karas said.
Above Upper Klamath Lake, the Klamath Tribes said,
in a press release, they are encouraged after a
cursory review of the report.
"The NRC final report clearly acknowledges the need
for large-scale ecosystem and fish habitat
restoration in the Klamath Basin, and that is
promising," Tribal Chairman Allen Foreman said. "It
also emphasizes that additional withdrawals of water
from Upper Klamath Lake cannot be reconciled with
the needs of fisheries. The Klamath Tribes and our
staff scientists will thoroughly review the full
report and look forward to participating in viable
remedial actions, as well as long-term solutions."
The Tribes had previously identified "inherent
problems" with the NRC Committee's interim report,
which was released in January 2002.
NOTE: The Associated Press Contributed to this
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