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Klamath salmon active despite dry conditions

By TAM MOORE Oregon Staff Writer

What a difference two years make. This week in 2002, thousands of migrating salmon died about 18 miles up the Klamath River from the Pacific Ocean.

Critics, including the state of California, quickly blamed the kill on irrigation diversions to the Klamath Reclamation Project far upstream. Scientists later said a variety of factors, including a drought-shorted water supply, contributed to the disease outbreak.

This fall, another year with short natural water supply in the 10-million-acre Klamath Basin shared by Oregon and California, river guides report an active salmon fishery on the mainstem Klamath and its major tributary, the Trinity River.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased flow on the Trinity, sending a total of 34,000 acre feet downstream from Lewiston Reservoir before returning to a 450 cfs flow late this week. Lewiston water is pumped into the Sacramento River for use by BuRec’s Central Valley Project. Briefly, BuRec also sent a shot of extra water down the main Klamath from Iron Gate Dam, 160 miles upstream from the ocean.

Dan Bacher, who writes a fishing column, said his sources reported upstream movement starting before Labor Day.

But in San Francisco, Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association held a news conference to say that the 2002 kill damaged the chinook and that 2006 could be bad for fishermen. He said first indications of impact came in predictions of smaller returning 3-year-old chinook given to the Pacific Fish Management Council.

Rather than wait until next March to take action, Grader urged a curtailed harvest strategy that protects remaining salmon.

The Klamath fish range both north and south of the river mouth once they hit the ocean. Most chinook return inland to spawn as 4-year-olds, meaning a shortened 2002 spawning population would result in a smaller 2006 migration.

Meanwhile, at Shasta Dam, the largest CVP reservoir upstream from Redding, BuRec contractors began patching the concrete dam face. It’s cosmetic, a spokesman said, and not a structural defect in the 60-year-old concrete.

Below the dam, the Wintu American Indian tribe gathered for a four-day protest over a BuRec study of raising the 445-foot-high dam. Any increased lake elevation will flood the few remaining Wintu sacred sites on the McCloud River arm of Lake Shasta, said Caleen Sisk-Franco, a tribal leader.

In a news release, the Wintu called their gathering a “war dance” and said the last time they held one was in 1887, when a fish hatchery on the McCloud interfered with migrating salmon.

Information the Wintu, and Sisk-Franco’s speech, are available on the Internet at www.winnememwintu.us.

Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail address is cappress@charter.net.





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