Klamath Water Users Association board
member Bob Gasser, in the straw hat, tells
commercial fishermen about the U.S. Bureau
of Reclamation Klamath Project. Upper
Klamath Lake is in the background. - Steve
Kadel For the Capital Press
‘Fishery resource disaster’ declared
While coastal commercial fishermen toured
the upper Klamath Basin last week, U.S.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez declared
a 700-mile-long “fishery disaster area” from
Point Sur (south of Monterrey Bay, Calif.)
to Cape Falcon (north of Tillamook Bay,
Commercial ocean fishing is restricted to a
few days this summer to protect the natural
fall chinook salmon who are swimming their
way to the Klamath River for spawning.
Biologists now estimate that about 25,000
natural spawners, far short of the 35,000
cap set by the Klamath Fisheries Task Force,
are in this year’s run.
Gutierrez’s proclamation blames the low
salmon returns on droughty conditions
between 2001 and 2005 in the 10 million-acre
basin shared by Oregon and California.
Biologists who track the fish argue that
many factors are involved in the crash of
natural fall chinook on the Klamath. Several
other Pacific Coast chinook runs have been
strong in recent years.
The declaration opens the doors for federal
loans to fishermen. Several members of
Congress are also seeking direct cash
payments for fishermen idled by the closure.
Steve Kandra, a Merrill, Ore., farmer and
president of Klamath Water Users
Association, called the commerce declaration
“a critical first step” in helping
Coastal fishermen, farmers expand alliance
Irrigators lead tour of Klamath project
By TAM MOORE Capital Press Staff Writer and STEVE
KADEL Freelance Writer
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Coastal Oregon commercial
fishermen are working with Klamath Project
irrigators to find answers to problems facing both
industries, and an exchange visit here last week was
underwritten by the Oregon Department of
Fishermen are hurt this summer by the severely
curtailed salmon season due to expected low wild
fall chinook runs. Farmers hold their breath each
summer, hoping irrigation water won’t be shut off as
it was in 2001, when a drought-shortened supply was
reserved for federally protected fish habitat.
Eight fishermen and their wives toured the project
July 5 and 6 to discuss those and other issues.
Among the biggest obstacles, they agreed, are 2002
federal biological opinions mandating Klamath River
flows and Upper Klamath Lake levels.
“We’re like you guys,” Klamath Water Users
Association board member Bob Gasser told fishermen.
“We’re frustrated by management decisions made about
flow levels years in advance. We’re beyond
Barry Nelson, a salmon fisherman from Winchester
Bay, Ore., said, “Fishermen have next to no say
about how water is used. We’re the canary in the
mine, and you guys (farmers) are the miners.”
Nelson blamed sea lion predation at the Klamath
River mouth for dwindling coho salmon runs. But
because sea lions are protected by the federal
Marine Mammals Act, no action can be taken against
them, he said.
State Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, noted
that Native American tribes do have capability of
harvesting sea lions. He didn’t suggest they do so,
nor that farmers or fishermen ask them to, but he
raised the issue for consideration.
Rich Gouche, a fisherman from Coquille, said a
coalition of farmers and fishermen — and maybe the
tribes — would carry more clout than each industry
fighting federal mandates alone.
“I’m trying to find places where we can support
(irrigators) and it benefits us, too,” Gouche said.
Farmers took the role of myth-busters during much of
the two-day event. Merrill farmer Dick Carleton, who
played a big part in bringing commercial fishermen
to the upper basin, said “misinformation” has come
from media and other sources.
One of the incorrect stereotypes, Carleton said, is
farmers being portrayed “as having a great big pool
of cool, clean water that fishermen need.”
In fact, irrigators pointed out, water in Upper
Klamath Lake is warm and loaded with naturally
occurring phosphorus from the eruption of Mount
Mazama. Once diverted for irrigation, water courses
south through canals to Tule Lake, where it is
pumped uphill to the Klamath River.
The water is cooler and cleaner when it joins the
river than when it leaves Upper Klamath Lake,
several irrigators said.
Newport fisherman Bob Kemp said his industry suffers
from stereotypes, too.
“Fishermen are perceived as over-harvesting,” he
said, adding that doing so would be counter to the
The coalition of industries has already won some
high-profile attention. Costs for the fishermen’s
visit was paid for by the Oregon Department of
Agriculture, whose director Katie Coba supports the
A return trip by farmers to the coast is being
planned. Getting together with fishermen “helps me
understand what they need,” Carleton said. Still, he
said, there’s a long way to go in providing stable
water supplies for irrigators.
“What frustrates me is that we’re nowhere closer to
a solution than we were 25 years ago,” Carleton