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Salmon parasites not a problem caused by Project irrigators

  • Mark Johnson, Deputy Director of Klamath Water Users Association

The Sept. 27 article by Alex Schwartz titled "How worms and a parasite harm salmon on the Klamath River and how a new data portal may help" was informational and well written.

This parasite issue, C. shasta, directly and unfairly affects the irrigation water supply for farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project.

The Klamath Project supply is used to mitigate the disease on the Klamath River by providing "flushing flows" and "spore dilution flows. " This water is directly taken from water that could otherwise be available to the irrigators. The polychaete worms mentioned in the article have adapted to the managed flows in the Klamath River. Reducing these polychaete assemblages requires much more water than historically needed. Once again, this is not due to Klamath Project operations.

Oregon State University trials show that high C. shasta spore concentrations do not necessarily equate to mortality. In most years, the majority of wild juvenile Chinook have outmigrated prior to high infection rates and elevated spore concentrations. We need to read the fine print in the science before passing judgment about the overall population-level impact.

Farmers and ranchers care deeply about the health of the fisheries in the Klamath Basin. Project irrigators have been strong proponents of gravel augmentation below Iron Gate Dam to provide a more dynamic streambed during the high flow events, which is much more effective in reducing polychaete populations.

Also, we support altering hatchery practices to reduce the C. shasta impacts on hatchery Chinook, which is a significant factor contributing to disease impacts the following year.

C. shasta is a problem. However, the problem must be understood in the proper context. The solutions must move away from the old, failed paradigm of using Klamath Project water to mitigate all environmental concerns in the Klamath Basin.

Mark Johnson
Deputy Director
Klamath Water Users Association


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