Tribe posts warnings about algae in river
The Yurok Tribe has p o s t e d wa r n i n g s i g n s along sections of the Klamath River in California announcing what it says are dangerously high levels of blue green algae.
Tribe officials said water downstream from Pacifi-Corp’s Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs recently turned a bright lime green color, denoting the presence of algae.
Tests showed high concentrations of Microcystis aeruginosa in the river, according to the Tribe, which says the substance produces the toxin microcystin — known to cause liver failure and promote tumor growth.
However, Pac i f iC or p spokesma n Toby F ree - ma n of K la math Fa lls said Microcystis aeruginosa is prevalent in waters throughout Western states and the level of danger is unclear.
“We are not aware of any incidents where anybody has gotten sick from this,” Freeman said. “We’re not entirely sure what is going on here, but it is something we’re aware of and we’re working with (Siskiyou County) in terms of making the public aware of the risks.”
A spokeswoman from Siskiyou County Public Health Department was not available for comment Thursday.
Karuk spokesman Craig Tucker said officials from the California Water Quality Control Board and the Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment have formed a blue green algae work group. Water samples taken Sept. 18 from Klamath reservoirs contained cell counts about 100 times greater than the threshold at which the working group recommends posting alerts to the public, Tucker said.
“This is not some kind of natural phenomenon,” sa id Kev in McKer na n, the Tribe’s environmental director. “This is a direct effect of PacifiCorp’s antiquated dams.”
The Karuk and Yurok Tribes of California have long advocated removal of the dams to increase river health, in addition to providing migration passage for endangered salmon.
About two-dozen Klamath Basin stakeholders have met for several months seek i ng a n a g reement that would address issues of dam removal, Klamath River stream f lows, and power needs of farmers. Their work is proceeding as PacifiCorp applies for relicensing from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to operate dams on the Klamath River.
Freeman of PacifiCorp said algae blooms seem to appear one day and are gone the next, possibly reappearing in other spots. He said algae has become a political tool in discussions about the river.
“We’ve seen this used by folks as evidence in support of dam removal even though there are other treatment options that hopefully will prove effective and are less extreme,” he said.
To aid fish migration, PacifiCorp has proposed trucking fish around dams rather than installing fish ladders or removing dams.