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Fisheries Task Force stirs up health concerns
Are your tax dollars well-spent?

By Jacqui Krizo
Klamath Courier  Reporter
Vol. 3, No. 44, page 1, Oct 26, 2005 edition
(an edited version was run in the Klamath Courier)

KLAMATH FALLS Ė Last week the Klamath River Basin Fisheries Task Force met at the Shilo Inn to discuss issues related to the restoration of salmon and other anadromous fisheries of the Klamath River.

Fish disease effects, fact or fiction-

Susan Corn, along with Petey Brucker and others, tested waters for toxic microcystin blue-green algae blooms at Iron Gate and Copco Reservoirs. She said it causes liver failure in fish, decreased dissolved oxygen and increased pH. She said it acts as "tumor promoter" in humans.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong reminded Corn that she was not supposed to speak of detriments to humans since they said they wouldnít and because the Siskiyou County Health Department requested to be included if this was to be discussed.

Corn kept slipping in comments regarding health effects. She said the toxic algae was only between Copco and Iron Gate Dams and only during low flows. Her point was: no dams, no fish disease, no human kill.

When questioned, she admitted that there have been no fish reported dead from this dreadful algae bloom.

By then, her sense of emergency brought concern by the Tribal Members who feel they canít fish during the algea bloom and their people might die.

Dr. David Herfindahl from Siskiyou County Public Health sent a letter to the group that said, "We are extremely disturbedÖ" by actions of State Water Resources Control Board of posting health advisories with no critical information, poor communication, and no local input.

Herfindahl states that they have not been told how this was tested because he knows of no EPA approved testing that does not also pick up other microcystins and nodularins. Siskiyou has not received requested copies of lab data containing the name or address of the lab, contact person, date of samples analyzed or other information. The county was denied a meeting or conference call with the Executive Director. The local health department was not provided opportunity to review and discuss the science being used by the Water Board. No reply has been offered as to why Lake Shastina , a drinking water source for Montague, was selected as a point of concern when other recreational areas were not.

Herfindahl says, "The data being used is being collected by a non-governmental agency that has not affiliation with the State or County. In addition, the firm, Aquatic Ecosystems, contracted with a tribe who has a publicly stated position and are active opponents of the Iron gate dam re-licensing. The public, as well as the health officer, is entitled to an explanation of why data from this non-governmental agency is being considered."

     Fish Kill Response Team and GAO report-

Katherine Carter gave a presentation from the Klamath River Fish Health Assessment Team, which they call "Klamath River Basin Fish Kill Response Plan." They formed this group in response to the "2002 fish-kill". She said they are not a regulatory group, but they monitor water conditions, provide early warning of "fish kills", coordinate responses, and try to better understand conditions leading to "fish kills." Theoretically they donít make policy, however they provide recommendations for resource management actions. Many Indian Tribes and government agencies form this team.

Carter said in 2002 "no one defined whether there was any disaster out there," (like hazardous spills. A lot of their data is based on "professional judgment". She said in 2002 there was a problem with information sharing but now they will share their data with technical people only.

There was discussion of the Government Accountability Office report that said the Task Force was not tracking their funds well enough. They are also supposed to match government funding 50/50 with other sources.

Dave Hillemeier from the Yurok Tribe spoke about monitoring water quality and fish with the C Shasta disease. He believes there is a correlation between low flows and the disease. Mike Orcutt from the Hoopa Tribe said he wanted to do "more study for information for management opportunities."

-TMDLís Ė Total Maximum Daily Load water quality regulations Ė

Dave Leland said they hope to have a completed technical analysis of the Lost River TMDL by the state board by December 31, 2005 with the public draft available in 2006. All the water going through D Plant in the Klamath Project to Straits Drain will be analyzed.

In the Scott Valley they feel impacts to water quality are the amount of shade for the river and sediment caused by roads, timber harvest, and mines.

Hellemeier wanted to know how these improvements could be enforced on private individuals, especially their recommendations of groundwater studies.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong said they must rely on landownersí cooperation to do the studies and strict enforced regulations would not be productive. She also noted that there have been no signs of adverse impacts to water quality due to current mining operations.

- Power rates, fish reintroduction, dam removal and FERC re-licensing -

Phil Detrich, Fish and Wildlife Field Supervisor from the Yreka Office, is involved with putting salmon in cages for a few days in Upper Klamath Lake and the Williamson River. Detrich told the Courier that they suggest that all the dams have fish ladders, which would cost 100 million dollars. He said this is a good opportunity with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing to try to introduce salmon in the Upper Klamath Basin.

Detrich said that the Klamath River Stakeholders, including Klamath Water Users Association, are at the table trying to find if there is a way to all agree to take out the dams. He said these negotiations are confidential. (The public does not have a way to know what is being negotiated.)

-Bureau tells about Unimpaired Flow Study and CIP

Cecil Leslie from the Bureau of Reclamation Klamath office said this was a good operational year. With rain this spring, the water year went up to a below-average water year. There was water for Project use and they met the Biological Opinions on suckers and coho salmon. Klamath irrigators fallowed land and pumped groundwater in the mandatory water bank to put more than 102,000 acre feet of irrigation water into the Klamath River for downstream demands.

The Bureau is working on an Unimpaired Flow Study in Denver, which should be available, the middle of November. Then the National Academy of Science will review it. It will have more information on how this basin worked before the Klamath Project was built, said Leslie.

Klamath Basin irrigators hope that the NAS review will not be ignored as was the National Research Councilís peer-review of the Biological Opinion that said it was flawed.

Jenny Hoblet from the Bureau said the Conservation Implementation Program is going to be made public in December. It will consist of the input from stakeholders, incorporating everyoneís goals. There is still time to send input to the Bureau.

The Bureau if trying to find an organizational group to bid on being a consultant/facilitator in building and coordinating this process. She said she believes there are 2.5 million dollars appropriated for CIP for 2006 from Bureau of Reclamation funds.

    National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) tells about hatchery fish and ESA Ė

A court ruling stated that hatchery fish were not different from wild salmon. Irma Lagomarsino from NOAA said that with three hatcheries, the salmon were abundant. However, she said that it didnít increase their growth rate and resilience so they will remain on the endangered list.

Chairman John Engbring from the Department of the Interior brought up Congressman Pomboís proposed amendment to the Endangered Species Act. He explained that is will effect designated habitat, use of science, and landowners would be paid for impacts to their property.

"Itís uncomfortable that we donít have a recovery plan now," he said.

   Awards for restoration and road decommissioning Ė

Chairman Engbring presented Shasta Valley RCD with a Nathanial S. Bingham Memorial Award for their efforts in restoration and dam improvement.

Ron Reed from the Karuk tribe accepted the individual award for Earl Crosby who was not in attendance. Crosby was honored for his work on miles of road decommissioning.

Chuck Korson from the Bureau of Reclamation gave the task force a tour through the new 2.2 million-dollar Link River fish passage. He said that with radio tagging they have documented three sucker fish that have made it through the ladder.

   Klamath Working Group, Klamath Compact Commission, FERC relicensing, and Chadwick -

Alice Kilham representing Hatfield Upper Basin Working Group, said that they have a successful science team.

She encouraged everyone to attend Chadwick consensus sessions. There are committees for Klamath Basin "dam removal, electrical rates, water allocation. Itís about getting people educated." Several tribes, government agencies, environmental groups, some playwrights and filmmakers, and farmers attend. She said some people donít come because they "donít want their perspective broadened."

Kilham was asked what the status is of the Klamath Compact Commission.

"Iím on my 5th term of Republican administration; I know thatís a concern to some people."

A question was asked about what the Compact Commissionís involvement is in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission power rate negotiations since the Compact was instrumental in negotiating the original power rate for the Klamath Project. She said that Dwight Russell, California Department of Water Resources, told the Compact Commission to stay out of the FERC relicensing negotiations.

Jim Ottoman asked if the government realizes that the wildlife refuges will be in danger without an affordable power rate. Then chairman Engbring said that these questions and comments are not to be discussed at these meetings.

-Fish Kill Prevention-

Hoopa Tribal representative Mike Orcutt from the Trinity Management Council discussed Trinity and Klamath water management. He wants to see coordination between the two rivers, wanting extra flows coordinated between the Klamath Project management and Trinity River whenever the fisheries experts think fish might die. $11.3 million for the Trinity side was spent mostly on mitigation and little was spent on monitoring. Lagomarsino said that science isnít as developed as the construction side and there is tension over who gets the funds.
Yurok Hillemeier asked what Klamath could do to prevent fish kills. He said Klamath flows are "not based on science management." He said the Klamath Act is expiring which brings about one million dollars per year.

  • TWG-

Klamath Forest Alliance member Petey Brucker brought a draft report from the Technical Work Group TWG.

The report tells about how mining, dams, timber harvest, roads and agriculture have decimated the fishing runs. He said the Klamath Act was adopted by Congress October 27, 1986 to authorize $21 million, or $1 million per year for a Federal-State cooperative Klamath River Basin Conservation Area Restoration Program "to restore anadromous fisheries of the Klamath River Basin."

"The Klamath Act established two Federal Advisory committees, the Klamath River Basin Fisheries Task Force and the Klamath Fishery Management Council, to assist with implementation of the Restoration Program."

- Strategies for Congressional Reauthorization -

Chairman Engbring from Interior said that, rather than presenting the Congressional Delegation with this detailed packet of spending and projects, they should show them a few "polished papers." They discussed hiring "a lay-out person" to help make an impressive pamphlet.

Brucker told the group about the fish numbers being low, with only 90 spring chinook salmon counted in the Salmon river. When asked the discrepancy later by the Courier on fish numbers of 600,000 fish he quoted the day before, he said that the 600,000 were only juvenile fish, not adults.

Neil Manji, California Fish and Game, said they need to look at forming steps for a Chinook recovery plan. He said they should focus on the "huge disease problem on the Klamath," present fish numbers and present more habitat. It should suggest, "Do you want more fish? Try to present Ďmore habitat, more fish.í "

NOAA Fisheries Lagomarsino told Brucker that most of the money goes to Upper Basin suckers. She said perhaps they can get that money spent on the lower basin.

Ensbring said they can ask Reclamation. Hillemeier suggested that since they have 20 yearís experience with TWG, maybe they can get the money.

Ensbring told Brucker to try to tie fish numbers to restoration projects.

Brucker responded, "We can take a quick and dirty look at it." Water quality, flows, "How do we give direction what did and didnít work?" He said it would be hard to do something to hold up on the witness stand.

Chuck Blackburn from Del Norte County suggested maybe they can be a joint task force with Trinity.

Lagomarsino threw in that the Klamath water management is dictated by biological opinions and the water bank.

     What is the Task Force?

The Task Force is a Federal advisory committee that assists the Secretary of the Interior in the formulation, coordination, and implementation of a 20-year program to restore the anadromous fish populations of the Klamath River Basin Conservation Area. The Task Force membership includes representatives of the commercial salmon fishing industry including Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen (PCFFA), the in-river sport fishing community, the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa, and Klamath Tribes, Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity, Siskiyou, and Klamath Counties, the California Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). No Klamath County Commissioners attended.

The National Resource Council peer reviewed the Klamath Project 2001 water shut-off and also the fish die-off from 2002 on the Klamath. They said that there was no scientific justification in shutting off the water; - the biological opinion was flawed, and the fish die-off was not due to lake levels or river flows.

The Klamath Fishery Management Council has promoted shutting down commercial fisheries and has helped shut down ocean fishing up and down the Pacific Coast, blaming the Klamath Project. The flows from the Klamath Project only amount to 4% of the water at the mouth of the Klamath River, however the Project is blamed for 100% of the fish woes. Task force funds helped fund Dr. Hardy who provided studies to form biological opinions. These were used by the tribes against the Upper Basin to shut down the Klamath Project in 2001 and take Project water currently.

    Should the group be reauthorized? Ė

Jim Ottoman from Malin told the Courier, "Iíve observed this organization for 20 years and finally came to a conclusion that too many individuals have made a living off of the Endangered Species Act with little results."

Write your Congressman and Klamath County Commissioners. Tell them why you would like or not like the Klamath River Basin Fisheries Task Force to be recommissioned in 2006.

 

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