By Hilary Corrigan, Crescent City
Klamath River groups more accustomed
to battling in courts shared fish and
potato salad in a cookout at Beachfront
Park on Saturday.
Yurok Tribe members, commercial ocean
fishermen, farmers from upriver and
government officials from California and
Oregon spent the morning at the Flynn
Center, talking about the river's problems
in the first Common Ground Alliance
meeting in Del Norte County.
"We're not that much different. We're
rural communities up and down the river,"
said Greg Adding-ton, executive director
of the nonprofit Klamath Water User's
Association that represents about 1,400
people in upper basin irrigation
The event stressed similarities between
the mostly family-owned, up-river ranches
and the family-owned, downriver fisheries.
Farmers described how they irrigate crops
with water — a resource restricted to meet
levels on the river and Upper Klamath
Lake. Fishermen detailed businesses forced
to move along the coast or shut down after
fishing season closures, fish kills and
stricter catch regulations.
Groups that rely on the river need to
understand each others' businesses and
agree on plans to rebuild the river's
water quality and fish populations in
order to keep operating, said Yurok Tribe
fisheries manager Troy Fletcher.
"We need to continue to foster that
relationship," Fletcher said, adding that
radical environmental groups, government
intervention and court cases have failed.
"It is too easy to sit back and go, ‘It's
The alliance formed over the past year as
various groups aim to repair the waterway
that has suffered with fish kills and
parasites, toxic algae blooms and low
Alliance leaders are drafting by-laws to
govern the group and form a nonprofit.
They aim to include timber industry
representatives and eventually focus on
other natural resources.
Part of the plan to revive the river's
quality must target the parasites that
kill fish, Humboldt State University
fisheries biology professor Gary
Hendrickson told the crowd. Otherwise,
more fish kills will occur.
Hendrickson aims to collect more data on
the little known microscopic creatures
that, until recent years, have lived
peacefully with salmon.
"They've evolved for millions of years
with their host," he said. "Somehow, we've
upset that balance."
Ceratomyxa shasta and Parvicapsula
minibicornis now kill fish by releasing
spores that attack their kidneys and
intestines. Learning about the parasites'
life stages and survival needs could help
determine how to flush them from the river
by raising flows at certain times of year,
for instance, Hendrickson said.
He urged the group to focus on research
"This is where you can fix things,"
Hendrickson said. "When the river gets
better, everybody wins."