Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Posted to KBC 9/24/04 Letter from Don Stevens and attachments:
9/11/04 Don Stevens is on the Oregon Salmon Commission and a commercial salmon troller. The folks he addressed the letter to are members of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
Steve Kandra, KWUA board president, and Dan Keppen, KWUA director, were introduced to Don in Sacramento last spring by Ralph Brown, coastal fisherman.
Attached is an article (Fishermen want Salmon Plan NOW!) typical of some California Salmon Trollers and I emphasize SOME CALIFORNIA FISHERMEN and of course Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen (PCFFA).
The first time I gained attention of this most recent News Release was when Jerry Reinholdt, retired Oregon Troller and current Salmon Advisory Subpanel (SAS) Processor Representative from Oregon ( and member of the Oregon Salmon Commission Regulatory Committee)called me asking where PCFFA was coming from on the issue of Klamath Fall Chinook 3 year olds this time of year.
His original request for information came from First Purchasers (Buyers) in California and Oregon
I contacted Duncan MacLean, the California Troll Representative to the SAS and PCFFA member on the fishing grounds out of Shelter Cove and he said the News Release was planned and they (PCFFA) were going ahead with the Release.
Both California and Oregon Salmon Trollers enjoyed very good landings in 2003. As a matter of fact California had a tremendous catch out of Ft. Bragg in '03 and had to pay for the fall portion of the '03 catch this year (2004) due to Klamath Fall Chinook Credit Card impacts. As well, Oregon had successful fall fisheries in 2003 and paid for their Credit Card Impacts with large closures during July and August this year, 2004. The Klamath Management Zone Oregon (KMZO) salmon trollers stepped up and took reduced quota opportunity throughout the summer and early fall of 2004.
Oregon salmon trollers were the first fishermen to initiate closures at the end of August for accounting purposes on Klamath Fall Chinook. Oregon imposed this closure on themselves back in 1999. California for the first time imposed the end of August closure this year 2004.
Oregon salmon trollers first increased their size limit in 2003 in an attempt to increase the value to the fishery by removing the smalls from the landings and avoid Klamath Fall Chinook in the Fall. Oregon will standardize their size limit beginning March 15 of 2005.
California salmon trollers were the first to increase their size limits on occasion several years ago to avoid Sacramento Winter Run Chinook. It has been successful and the Winter Run do not appear to be driving their opportunity at this time.
Oregon salmon trollers contracted through the 1995 Disaster Program with the scientific community and developed a reduction in gear in an attempt to reduce contacts or encounters with Coho Salmon. The study proved beneficial in reducing encounters with coho and surprisingly rockfish. Oregon has the only Salmon Fleet on the West Coast using reduced gear techniques and have been successful at reducing impacts and for that they receive credit in the various computer models used by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).
Until three years ago the Klamath River Technical Team used a spreadsheet model based on Coded Wire Tags (CWT's) collected by the States of Washington, Oregon, & California. This particular model was only o.k. at best. It contained, coho, steelhead, spring chinook and was suppose to be the Klamath Fall Chinook model. The last 3 years since the Oregon, California, Tribal and Federal scientists cleaned up the data set (A MONUMENTAL TASK) we are now using the Klamath Ocean Harvest Model (KOHM).
The OSC regulatory members were willing to accept the outcome good or bad, increased or decreased impacts. We wanted the best science available and then we would fish accordingly.
The new KOHM is a 20 + year data set that is evolving all the time, Klamath Fall Chinook impacts from March through August are added to the model each spring. Effort is also added and credits that accrued in the Coos Bay Cell have been eliminated as this effort has increased.
Oregon Salmon Trollers, the Oregon Salmon Commission, Community Leaders, Ports along the coast have been kept informed of the consequences that might arise when the weak 3 year old component of the Klamath Fall Chinook was predicted for the 2004 season. It should be noted that the 3 year old predictor is notorious for it's inaccuracy and there is NO DATA available at this time to predict the 2005 Salmon Opportunity in California or Oregon.
That information will not be available until the late February 2005 at a scheduled meeting of the Klamath Fishery Management Council. Some anecdotal scale sample info may be available from the Tribal Gill-net fishery in the Klamath, but it is doubtful at this time that Ocean scale sampling will be available for review at the November PFMC meeting in Portland Oregon. Run reconstruction and predicted availability of Klamath Fall Chinook will be accomplished over the winter of '04-'05.
Oregon's Ocean Salmon Troll Regulatory Committee has taken a wait and see stance until the DATA is in. Yes, there could be curtailment of some summertime opportunity in 2005, but it is premature to be requesting DISASTER AID as some California Salmon Trollers and PCFFA are doing at this time.
It appears the timing of PCFFA's News Conference was to coincide with the recent SAVE Our Wild Salmon protest in Portland Oregon and the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in San Diego California.
It should be noted that Oregon Trollers did not participate in the SOW's protest as our impacts on Snake River Fall Chinook are low and Oregon's Governor supports more spill in the Columbia River.
I have added some additional attachments: PCFFA's July 2004 letter to President Bush. The Peoples Daily World article on the Court Ordered increase of Trinity River Flow Increase. Article from the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Oregon Salmon Trollers are enjoying the highest prices ever paid for WILD Troll Caught Salmon and have already surpassed the $7.1 million ex-vessel received in 2003.
It is hopeful, that the Counties, Ports, Cities and Towns on the Oregon Coast will continue to support the Oregon Salmon Troll Fleet as they have done in the past. We know the infrastructure for processing Quality Salmon has been overshadowed by other fisheries in the past couple of decades and many facilities have fallen into dis-repair. With record runs of Chinook into the Columbia River in 2003 and very strong runs to the Upper River this year, Oregon Coastal Chinook in fine shape, Sacramento Fall Chinook, Springer's and Winter Run doing fine and increasing the future looks good. The Klamath Fall Chinook and California Coastal Chinook and their rebuilding are always on our minds.
It remains up to the State of Oregon, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), The Restoration and Enhancement Board (R & E Board), and all the work recreational and commercial fishermen are doing, hands on work, to maintain Oregon's Salmon Stocks for the future.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission have many tools in their toolbox and they have used them appropriately in recent times. This must continue.
All of us have a front row seat, and we have paid the price to see the show.
P.S. Recent news reports indicate 400,000 acre feet of additional water has or is being released into the Trinity, the temperature has dropped up to 10 degrees and the recreational and tribal fisheries are catching Klamath Fall Chinook"
Fishermen want salmon plan now, Times Standard posted to KBC 9/13/04.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
EUREKA, Calif. -- Two years after more than 35,000 salmon died on the Klamath River due to low water, the different groups fighting over the future of the area are inching toward a so-far elusive goal: compromise.
Groups including American Indian tribes, commercial fishermen and conservationists said Monday they are tired of battling each other and moving closer toward the compromises necessary to find long-term solutions.
About 120 people attended a forum sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson to assess the status of salmon in the Klamath River after the 2002 deaths of between 35,000 to 70,000 fish, mostly adult chinook salmon.
"This was a pretty significant first step," said Thompson, a Democrat. "We heard from both sides. Everybody was singing from the same sheet of music."
Progress has been made, with $16 million spent on habitat restoration, more water released down the Trinity and Klamath rivers and increased monitoring and research, said Mike Long, a field supervisor from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, the dominant farmers group in the upper basin, and Mike Orcutt of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, which has been battling for water for salmon, joined several representatives of county governments and government agencies who said interest groups were tired of fighting and want a long-term solution.
"I realize we are going to have to sit down with the tribes and reasonable conservation groups, the stakeholders who are really impacted, and come up with a package," Keppen said. "It will take somebody with stature, a governor or somebody with a major portfolio to bring us together. Right now there is too much litigation, too many press releases. I'm guilty. So are others."
In 2001, Klamath Basin farmers pried open irrigation gates and formed a bucket brigade to dump water into irrigation ditches after the government cut off water to benefit salmon and other fish.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton's subsequent decision to divert water from the Klamath River to 1,400 farms was criticized by environmentalists and tribal leaders, who said it was the reason for the fish kill.
Not all groups on Monday were willing to compromise. Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribe, whose reservation straddles the Klamath River where most of the fish died in 2002, alleges the decision to restore water to farmers rather than devoting it to fish violated tribal trust obligations. Their lawsuit goes to trial next month.
"We are not willing to compromise anymore when you are killing our fish," Fletcher said.
Meanwhile, biologists still don't understand why untold numbers of juvenile salmon succumbed to parasites last spring. Long noted that most of the habitat work since the die-off has been done in tributaries, not the mainstem where chinook spawn.
"Whether improvement means you've flattened out the rate of decline or whether things are improving, I don't think anybody can say that," Long said.
Eureka commercial salmon fisherman Dave Bitts warned that the 2002 fish kill could result in so few adults returning to the Klamath in 2005 that fishing seasons would have to be shut down off most of California and Oregon
Court orders Trinity River flow increase
Archive Recent Editions 2004 Editions Jul 31, 2004
Author:Dan Bacher People's Weekly World Newspaper, 07/31/04 00:00
SACRAMENTO – In a landmark decision greeted with jubilation by
representatives of the Hoopa and Yurok tribes, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
ordered the release of river flows for more fish habitat. The decision would compel
the federal Bureau of Reclamation to release 47 percent of river flows for fish and
53 percent for agriculture and power.
"We’re just elated," said Clifford Lyle Marshall, chairman of the Hoopa Valley
Tribe. "Hoopa is a very happy town. The timing of the decision surprised us, since
we were told the decision could go either way."
The court upheld the federal government’s December 2000 Trinity River Record
of Decision (ROD) to increase water flows for fish. Prior to the ROD, up to 90
percent of the river had been diverted to agriculture and power users, resulting in
dramatic declines in salmon and steelhead populations.
"Nothing remains to prevent the full implementation of the ROD, including its
complete flow plan for the Trinity River," the court ruled July 13.
"This decision is awesome," said Marshall. "The river is a vital part of the
economy of our tribe and the northern California economy. The decision gives the
river the priority it deserved in the first place. It means that the river will get water,
salmon runs will come back, tourism will return, recreational fishermen will come
back, people will be eating in the local restaurants, and the commercial salmon
fishery may be sustained."
Although Marshall said the court made its decision based on the law and over 20
years of scientific studies, the outpouring of support for Trinity River restoration
by the public, newspapers and politicians throughout the state had a lot to do with
"It wasn’t a case of Indians versus farmers," emphasized Marshall. "The people of
California raised their voice to support the Trinity River. The river should be
regarded as a national treasure. We had a great alliance of people, with lot of
efforts on many fronts. Public opinion drives public policy – and the people of
California decided that for a small price, the Trinity River could be restored."
Although this decision portends well for the future of salmon fisheries, the
prospects for this year’s salmon runs on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers are
looking dire because the federal government granted 100 percent of contract flows
to agricultural water users in the Klamath Basin of southern Oregon, according to
Fletcher. The Trinity, which originates in northern California, flows west into
The Department of Interior, under pressure from Bush’s political strategist Karl
Rove to curry favor among agribusiness for the Republicans, decided to cut off
flows for fish and divert them to subsidized agribusiness in the Klamath Basin in
2001. The Bush administration’s change in water policy resulted in the largest fish
kill in U.S. history when over 34,000 salmon perished in September 2002. The
majority of these fish were destined for the Trinity River, the Klamath’s largest
The Westlands Water District, in conjunction with the Northern California Power
Association (NCPA) and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) filed suit
against the federal government in 2000 right after former Interior Secretary Bruce
Babbitt issued his ROD. However, a broad coalition of Indian Tribes, commercial
fishermen, recreational anglers and environmental groups forced SMUD and three
members of the NCPA – Palo Alto, the Port of Oakland and Alameda to pullout of
Whether Westlands, the largest federal irrigation project in the country, will appeal
the case to the U.S. Supreme Court is unknown at this time.
Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribe, said, "The bottom line is that
the fish won in this round. Now there is a need to defend this ruling and to make
sure that the ROD is implementing the decision."
Tom Stokely, senior resource planner of Trinity County, was optimistic about the
outcome of the decision.
Stokely said that the decision, when implemented, would result in an approximate
doubling of the total volume of water released down the river. "Salmon need water
to thrive, so this will have a very beneficial effect on the fishery," he noted.
The author can be reached at pww @ pww.org.
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