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County decides to postpone ramp repair

May 28, 2008 by Nicholas Grube, Daily Triplicate - Crescent City

Many eager salmon fishermen are expected to migrate to the Klamath River for fall chinook season, and the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors did not want to disappoint them by not having a boat ramp ready.

On Tuesday, the supervisors voted to delay fixing the Roy Rook Boat Launch until 2009 in an effort to allow boaters to access the lower part of the river and to help cure Klamath's ailing economy.

"Klamath needs a break and this is the economic break that community needs," District 2 Supervisor Martha McClure said.

A large number of recreational fishermen are expected to troll the Klamath River for chinook salmon this fall as the waterway—along with the Trinity River—constitutes the largest open salmon fishery in the state.

Both state and federal restrictions closed ocean salmon fisheries up and down the West Coast this year and severely restricted fishing in California's rivers to protect the failing Sacramento River fall chinook population.

The Sacramento River provides the most abundant stock of chinook salmon on the West Coast, but projections for this year's fall run are expected to be at an all-time low of 54,000 fish. The minimum number of chinook for a sustainable population is 122,000.

However, recreational anglers on the Klamath River system, which includes the Trinity, will be allowed to bag up to 22,500 chinook—the second-largest catch in the past 30 years—and tribal members will be allocated 27,000 chinook.

With these numbers, the Klamath system and its businesses can expect to see a larger than normal influx of out-of-area fishermen.

Klamath Chamber of Commerce President Paul Crandall said this is important for Klamath businesses that have struggled due to unpredictable chinook salmon fishing for the past six years.

"They are actually looking forward to this season to get out of debt," Crandall said of some Klamath area business owners. "They've been handed a tremendous opportunity that nobody else in California has—fish, they got fish."

For this reason, Crandall supported the Board of Supervisors' decision to delay fixing the Roy Rook Boat Launch for one year.

"I think it's a viable option from my perspective," Crandall said. "I haven't heard a whole lot from people saying let's go forward now."

By delaying repairs to Roy Rook for a year, the county will avoid any conflicts that might arise between the construction on the ramp and fishermen trying put their boats in the water.

Construction can only take place on the boat ramp from July 1 to Oct. 15 due to restrictions that protect endangered coho salmon on the Klamath River. If construction went past Aug. 15 it would interfere with the start of the fall chinook season.

Permits and funding for the Roy Rook repairs can be postponed for one year, according to Assistant County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina, but it is unlikely state and federal agencies would allow any delays past 2009.

"Next year they will definitely want us to construct this ramp," Sarina said.

Roy Rook Boat Launch and the Klamath Townsite Boat Ramp—which are the only two public access points to the Lower Klamath River—were damaged by flooding and mudslides in December 2005. The Klamath Townsite ramp was completely destroyed, but Roy Rook is still usable.

Sarina said the only problem comes when people try to put their boats in during low water, as trailers tend to drop off the end of the ramp. Signs will warn anglers this year of the hazards, he said.

The supervisors also decided to buy the materials to fix the Roy Rook ramp for next year. This would help avoid any delays in construction next year when the ramp is being fixed.

After making these decisions Tuesday, Supervisor David Finigan, whose district includes Klamath, gave a proverbial "cheers" to his constituents who will benefit from the fishermen who will be able to use Roy Rook during this year's chinook season and spend their money at the local businesses.

"Here's to the economy of Klamath in this coming year," Finigan said.

Reach Nicholas Grube at ngrube@triplicate.com.

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