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Fishing for solutions

Fish talk By Dale Andreason, Siskiyou Daily News, Sep 10, 2008
Brian Ashton, executive director of Alaska Resource and Economic Development (second from left) and County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales (far left) listen as California Department of Fish and Game biologist Bill Chesney (far right) talks about salmon habitat restoration with Dave Webb of Shasta Valley Resource and Conservation District. They were part of a group of fisheries experts and others visiting the Shasta River along State Highway 263 about five miles from where it empties into the Klamath River.
On Thursday, Sept. 11, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors will present a workshop in Fort Jones entitled “A Look at a Successful Wild Salmon Propagation Program.”
The workshop takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fort Jones Community Center, located at 11960 East Street. All interested parties, including the general public, are invited.
Team members from Alaska Resource and Economic Development are in Siskiyou County this week to consult with local water shed and fisheries experts, along with landowners and other stakeholders, to determine if their system of salmon enhancement is applicable to the Klamath Basin.
Siskiyou County natural resource policy specialist Ric Costales proposed bringing the ARED team to the area last month. The board of supervisors approved the $8,000 expense for this initial assessment. If it’s decided that the Alaska system has a good chance of working, Costales will seek contributions and other funding sources to fully implement the ARED system.
On Monday and Tuesday, the team met with local experts and stakeholders to gain input.
At the initial meeting on Monday, held at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service building in Yreka, Brian Ashton, executive director of ARED, talked about some of the success stories in greatly enhancing the salmon populations in parts of Alaska.
Ashton, who was raised in a small village in Alaska, related his group’s restoration success stories with Alaska sockeye and king salmon. He said that indigenous  tribes there were very proactive in assisting with salmon restoration. ARED currently produces 110 million salmon per year. The organization developed a methodology to help the wild salmon survive.
Ashton is spending the week listening to local experts to learn more about the watershed and the local situations on the Shasta and Scott Rivers and other tributaries of the Klamath River.
Monday’s meeting was attended by representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, Shasta Valley Resource and Conservation District, Klamath Basin farming, University of California Cooperative, Oregon commercial salmon fishermen, Klamath National Forest, and other groups and organizations.
Congressman Wally Herger’s field representative Dave Muerer attended, as did county supervisors Marcia Armstrong and Michael Kobseff. Muerer stated that Congressman Herger was in full support of salmon restoration efforts.
Mount Shasta resident Dave Webb, a member of the Shasta Valley RCD, gave a detailed presentation about the Shasta River and its tributaries and springs. He noted that in 1931, the Fall Chinook salmon run in the Shasta was 82,000 fish. Today, the average number is about 5,000. The endangered Coho salmon runs are almost non-existent. And the Spring Chinook runs have basically vanished.
Problems adversely affecting the salmon, according to Bill Chesney of the California Department of Fish and Game, are high water temperatures and disease caused by parasites. Lack of oxygen in the water also adversely affects the salmon populations, he said.
Later in the day on Monday, much of the group toured locations on the Shasta River and Yreka Creek. On Tuesday, the group checked out the Scott River.
According to Costales, “The [county] supervisors felt that whatever the outcome on dam removal, action is too far away as far as the health of salmonid stocks are concerned. Strategies for preserving downward trending stocks, particularly the two weaker cohorts of Coho, need to be addressed now. It is hoped that this workshop will help lead to progress in this critical regard.”
Costales also said he wanted to emphasize the community-focused nature of this program. He said it is relatively simple, has a modest startup cost and “optimizes the propagation segment of the salmonid life cycle in ‘wild’ conditions.”
Area tribal representatives are expected to attend tomorrow’s workshop, along with area farmers, ranchers and fisheries experts. The Alaska Resource and Economic Development team will make themselves available for follow-up on Friday, Sept. 12, at a location to be announced at the workshop.
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