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Fishermen, farmers agree on ideas for Klamath River fixes By Susan Chambers, October 23, 2006 The World Link

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 Klamath Basin.

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 river.

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 distribute.

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 effort.

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 summer.


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 Association.

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 shelf.

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 the predators.

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.

Long Lake

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 Lake.

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.

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