Klamath council talks Trinity, hatcheries

John Driscoll   The Times-Standard

EUREKA -- The near future of restoration on the Trinity River and talk of stepping up hatchery salmon tagging on the Klamath River were key topics on day one of a Klamath Fishery Management Council meeting.

Trinity River Restoration Program implementation branch chief Ed Solbos said the closure of a suit pressed by Central Valley irrigators against the river's full restoration has cleared the way for major work to begin on the river.

Four bridges will be replaced by April to make way for heavy flows during wet years. Heavy equipment will be used for the next several years to widen the river in places, allowing the river to reshape itself and increasing the area for chinook salmon to grow before migrating to the ocean.

The earth-moving alone won't create ideal habitat, Solbos said.

"What is the perfect habitat is what will happen after we've taken the handcuffs off the river," he said.







Other issues remain. One house sits in a spot that would be inundated by big water, and the federal government is arranging to move its owner and level the house.

This year is forecast to be a dry or normal year, and flows from Lewiston Dam would not rise above 6,500 cubic feet per second. In wet years, 8,500 cubic feet per second would be released. Solbos said flows that high would be increased in stages, while the river is monitored for possible effects to people and property.

The council is an 11-member body of agencies, sport and commercial fishermen and tribes who recommend to regulators, among other things, how the river's fish might be divvied up among the fishing groups. During today's meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Red Lion Inn, possible quotas and seasons for 2005 based on a predicted abundance of fish will be hashed over.

Also on Wednesday, the council weighed possibilities for increasing the number of juvenile fish tagged at Iron Gate Hatchery on the Klamath. Neil Manji, senior biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game, said there is a disparity between the percentage of hatchery fish tagged in the Klamath and at the Trinity River Hatchery.

About a quarter of Trinity chinook salmon are tagged before leaving the hatchery, compared to between 3 percent and 6 percent at Iron Gate. Some 6 million salmon are produced at Iron Gate, and funding a marking program that brings the number of fish tagged to 25 percent could be expensive.

Hoopa Valley Tribe biologist George Kautzky said during the 2002 fall fish kill, the difference made it difficult to estimate the damage done to the Trinity versus Klamath stocks.

Kautzky said a settlement agreement between the federal government and the tribe could provide seed money to boost the marking program. Building consensus among managers would be key to keeping the program at a consistent level beyond that, he said.