|Fishermen, farmers agree
on ideas for Klamath River fixes By
Susan Chambers, October 23, 2006 The World
World Photos by Susan Chambers Gold
Beach fisherman Scott Boley, left; Merrill
potato and alfalfa farmer Dick Carleton; and
Charleston fisherman Paul Merz talk during
lunch in Merrill during the Potato Festival on
Saturday. Several fishermen traveled to the
Klamath Basin to continue discussions about
how fishermen and farmers can work together to
develop solutions to water issues that affect
several entities along the Klamath River.
MERRILL - Suits and ties were left at home on
Friday and Saturday when trollers from Oregon and
California met with farmers and ranchers from the
At several meetings, which coincided with the
69th-annual Potato Festival, members from both
groups got together dressed in the upscale work
clothes of their professions: jeans or Dockers,
T-shirts, plaid or striped dress shirts, chamois
shirts, work boots, tennis shoes, Romeos or
slip-on work shoes and baseball caps.
But the casual dress didn't detract from the
seriousness of their meetings. Both have been
victims of dire Klamath River problems - the
farmers left with no water in 2001 and the salmon
fishermen left without a season this year.
This weekend, though, they were just a bunch of
folks used to dealing with immediate problems in
the course of their respective businesses, this
time carrying that situation one step further, to
the bigger issue of the Klamath River system.
Like trollers who experience broken equipment
while fishing, when something breaks during
harvest, farmers grab their tools and fix it.
It's that can-do attitude that brought both groups
together in the first place. Farmers and fishermen
have worked over the summer, during both potato
harvests and limited salmon harvests, to build
alliances and brainstorm ideas about their
industries and the Klamath River system.
They all want the same thing: a fix for an ailing
Unlike rumors perpetuated for years, fishermen and
farmers are not at odds, they said.
“We found we have much in common,” said potato and
alfalfa farmer Dick Carleton.
Trollers and irrigators got together on Friday for
a public meeting in Merrill and again on Saturday
for a private meeting with Rep. Greg Walden,
R-Ore., and later to ride on a float in the Potato
Festival parade. The sign on the float read
“Farmers and fishermen united” and the float
received cheers and applause from watchers along
the parade route. Newport fisherman Bob Kemp, one
of the first trollers to talk with Merrill potato
farmer Dick Carleton, also had a booth set up at
the festival to show visitors a fresh troll-caught
Chinook and an albacore tuna on ice. Kemp also had
literature about salmon and tuna trolling, a slide
show on a laptop and canned products to
Much time at the meetings, and the float and the
displays, were to further the communication
between the stakeholders and their communities.
Both groups view education about each other's
industries as key to furthering the cooperative
For example, some festival-goers asked how many
salmon could be caught with one net, but ocean
trollers use only hooks, not nets, and catch fish
one at a time.
But it was at the meeting with Walden that
fishermen and farmers hoped to further the
solutions process, building on sessions held in
Coos Bay and Charleston during the spring and
Many fishermen and farmers are frustrated with the
“random acts of restoration,” as Family Farm
Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen said, and
want to see real solutions.
“We've been waiting for 20 years for the alphabet
agencies to fix the Klamath,” troller Rick Goche,
from Coquille, said, agreeing with Keppen. “Now is
the time to fix it from the bottom up.”
To that end, several ideas that fishermen and
farmers reached by consensus were proposed:
n Review hatcheries operations: The hatcheries are
important to sport and commercial fishing, but the
efficiency of those operations could be improved.
What, exactly, are the roles for mitigation
hatcheries and are they achieving the goals for
which they were built? Asked Greg Addington,
executive director of the Klamath Water Users
n Promote more genetic fish testing: A pilot
project this summer in Oregon that identifies the
DNA of salmon and can provide the origin of the
fish, from which river an individual salmon
started, could provide fishery management in real
time in the future.
n Klamath River dam removal: Fishermen said that
yes, that's an option, but it's likely to take a
couple decades to realize and should be studied
more. Furthermore, some fishermen are concerned
that if the dams are removed, the Klamath River
may dry up during drought years and be more
inhibitive to fish passage. “Dam removal is more
of a political issue than a scientific issue,”
Charleston fisherman Paul Merz said.
n Use an established plan: A National Academy of
Sciences report from a few years ago provided a
blueprint for restoration, and both states and the
alphabet soup of federal agencies signed off on
it, Addington said, but it's been put on the
n Involve users in the decision-making process:
Fishermen and farmers agreed - and so did Deputy
Secretary of Commerce David Sampson this summer -
that natural resource users can provide some of
the best ideas for solutions.
n Sea lions: Predation by sea lions at the mouths
of rivers is taking a toll on salmon. Lethal
options should be considered to eliminate some of
n Farm Bill: Fishermen also asked to be recognized
under the Farm Bill. It has incentives and
allowances that would also help trollers.
Overall, though, the main item that the 20 men
could agree on was water storage.
One of the main issues affecting salmon is the
timing of water releases through the dams on the
Klamath River and the origin of the water.
Often, water released downstream is warm - too
warm for fish in a shallow river and also so warm
that disease and parasites spread more quickly.
Timing also is a factor: Fish and farmers may need
the water releases at the same time.
But that could change with the addition of Long
Long Lake is a potential offstream reservoir site
near Upper Klamath Lake. Potentially, it could
capture surplus flows in the Klamath River system
and store upwards of 500,000 acre-feet of water,
which then could be used for meeting water flows
in the Klamath River.
The storage would hold water in a narrow, deep
reservoir, keeping the water colder than its
current storage in the shallow Upper Klamath.
Walden asked what two things, two primary things,
the fishermen and farmers could ask of the federal
government, what would they be?
The response was simple: direct assistance for
fishermen for this year's lost season and
acknowledging the ground-up approach by
stakeholders. Long Lake would be at the top of
that list, water users said.
Walden said both of those could be considered.
“There is pretty broad-based support (for the
Klamath River issues) in Congress,” Walden said.