Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Water tour brings stakeholders together
Klamath River Basin issues span cultures, states, livelihoods
By Jacqui Krizo For the Capital Press 9/28/07
Farmers, fishermen, ranchers, Indian tribes, miners and loggers share the Klamath River, and their livelihoods depend on it.
In late September, an alliance of Oregon coastal commercial fishermen, Klamath Basin irrigators, Yurok and Karuk tribes, along with representatives, elected officials and other guests toured the Klamath River Basin.
“We’re solution based,” said fisherman Paul Merz from Charleston. “We want solutions that don’t favor one user over another. Klamath River controls our fishing. Our heritage is going away.”
The two-day weekend tour included Iron Gate Dam, Scott Valley conservation projects, a Klamath Basin organic “walking wetland” and Tulelake Refuge. Some presentations preceded the tour.
Oregon State University scientist Sarah Bjork described diseases that are partly responsible for declining numbers of Klamath River fall Chinook salmon.
Bjork said the large concentration of salmon near dam reservoirs and tributaries needs to be thinned out, and fish carcasses should be removed. She said water surges, trucking, cold-water storage or other methods should be used to reduce or eliminate the problem.
Yurok Troy Fletcher and Karuk Ron Reed said dam removal would bring back more fish. Reed said he only caught 200 last year. Fletcher said the Yuroks caught 6,000, but they use a different type of net and a larger area.
Craig Tucker, Klamath Campaign coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, said he asked Klamath Water Users Association executive director Greg Addington: “We want dams out; what do you want that we can get the dams out?”
Tucker said he previously worked with the environmental group Friends of the River, a California group advocating dam removal, wetlands restoration and wilderness designations. He said dam removal is necessary to restore the fishery.
Addington said that in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission settlement negotiations, the farmers are asking for three things: a power rate reflecting the value of Klamath Basin water for power, a reliable supply of irrigation water and safe harbor from regulations when new endangered species are introduced.
The tour bus first went by Iron Gate dam and communities near the reservoirs.
Mike Noonan showed the guests his organic “walking wetland” project. His field is flooded most of a year, and then farmed for two to three years. This kills weeds and provides a ton of duck food per acre, the farm yield increases, and waterfowl droppings fertilize the field. Tulelake Refuge manager Ron Cole said working with private agricultural interests helps him meet his refuge conservation goals.
At a lunch stop, salmon fisherman Rick Shepherd from Crescent City said millions of dollars have been lost in coastal communities because of Klamath River mismanagement.
He said there were no season closures from May 1 through Sept.
30 before 1985. “In 2006 there was zero season, and in
Commercial salmon fisherman Rick Goche from Coquille said coastal fishing seasons are based on early forecasts of how many fish might come into the Klamath based in part on adult return counts four years previous. He said National Marine Fishery Service admits the model it includes fish counts in is only 50 percent right 50 percent of the time. “They need to start counting all the fish, not what someone determines are wild fish and someone determines are hatchery fish.”
A new DNA testing program revealed only 5 percent of the limited ocean catch in 2006 was from the Klamath River.
“We need immediate remedies as well as long-term solutions,” said Goche.
One of the organizers, Dick Carleton, said, “The event was a great success. We had a chance to visit and learn some of the issues facing each of the communities.”
Freelance writer Jacqui Krizo is based in Tulelake, Calif.
Page Updated: Tuesday September 04, 2012 01:23 AM Pacific
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