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 KBC commentary to:  Salmon fishermen feel pain of Klamath's troubles

followed by the Olympian article Salmon fishermen feel pain of Klamath's troubles

Barnard from AP has been recently saturating his readers with his repetitive lies or half-truths along with Glen Spain, PCFFA-Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen (who represents some California fishing groups)

Presently 700 miles of the Pacific Coast is faced with a possible season closure. Why? NOAA Fisheries tried to limit fishing because there were not enough 'wild' Chinook. When the court of law ruled that there are no genetic differences between wild and hatchery fish, they with the Pacific Coast Fisheries Management Council created a new goal of demanding a certain percentage of 'natural spawners' to limit fish harvest and always blaming the Klamath Project. So the possible closure is because of estimated Chinook run on the Klamath to meet a random number that they want of 'natural spawners.' There are rivers and tributaries and places where fish have not been counted, however they have chosen this particular area with a low run in a certain age group to decimate the fishing season on the West Coast.

The difference between a 'natural spawner' and a 'hatchery spawner' is simple. According to Scott Cook, coastal fisherman, they are genetically identical, however you help a hatchery fish spawn, whereas you watch a natural spawner spawn. So they picked a number they want of natural spawners. And they found one tributary lacking this number of 'natural' spawners. It has nothing to do with the record numbers of Chinook in the rivers and tributaries, but only to do with terminology. According to John Griffith, Coos County Commissioner, there were millions of Chinook last summer out of the Sacramento River but they weren't allowed to catch them because they might catch a Klamath River Chinook.

Barnard, in his typical rhetoric, states that the Klamath River was the third biggest producer of salmon on the West Coast. He then proceeds to blame mining and the Klamath Project. Then he follows with what he calls the "2002 fish-kill' caused by Klamath Irrigators.

Let's look at this loaded collection of blame. He forgets, Link River, between Klamath Lake and Lake Ewauna, occasionally dried up in the fall. Much of the huge Klamath and Tule Lakes were is a closed basin and this water had no way to reach Klamath River. When a channel was created to send water out of the basin and into Klamath River, only then could the Klamath River produce power with these regulated, artificially elevated flows. Klamath irrigators put regulated, elevated, free water into the River at the irrigators' expense.

According to Bernard, "low flows" created the 2002 fish kill. He states, "That September, low warm water led to the deaths of some 70,000 adult chinook returning to the Klamath to spawn, according to the California Department of Fish and Game." This is not true.

In 2002, flows in late summer of 2002 were not atypically low or historic lows. The National Research Council (NRC) in its final 2003 report found "....no obvious explanation of the fish kill based on unique flow or temperature conditions is possible" and "It is unclear what the effect of specific amounts of additional flow drawn from controllable upstream sources (Trinity and Iron Gate Reservoir) would have been. Flows from the Trinity River could be most effective in lowering temperature." (p. 8).

According Dr William Lewis, NRC Chairman, "A simple explanation based on a unique low flow or high temperature is not possible." He also said, "There must be some other dimension to this, other than flow or temperature. The CDFG findings are skeptical. The cause of the fish kill is unproven at the moment."

But Barnard repeatedly quotes the CDFG findings. And he doesn't mention that these were Trinity River fish, and that year was a record run of Chinook in the Klamath.

When Barnard and Spain say low water causes the river problems, they don't mention that the Bush administration has taken from the irrigators more than 100,000 acre feet of water per year from the irrigators' water storage and aquifer to artificially elevate flows. The historic storage did not exist. When parts of the river historically dried up, they had no Klamath Project to extract more water.

The Klamath Project is 200 miles from the mouth of the river, and accounts for only 3% of the water at the mouth. In 2002, David Vogel, fisheries scientist, warned that a large amount of warm water put into the river in the fall would be a lethal temperature for the fish. It was.

Also in 2002 there were studies done on the meth labs on the Klamath that drained into the Klamath River. Barnard does not acknowledge these reports in the 2002 blame for the fish die-off. Also mentioned at a science workshop in Klamath Falls was the possibility of the months of black skies from the summer of wildfires creating the die-off. Fires put ashes into the river and robbed it of oxygen. Barnard does not acknowledge these theories. And he never, ever mentions the NRC final peer-reviewed report.

Why? What is the purpose of cutting off fishermen's seasons and blaming the Klamath Project? Said Glen Spain, Eugene attorney and affiliation with PCFFA/Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen "You've got to put more water in the river and you need to take down the four hydropower dams."

There you go. That's the goal. Let's look at it.

Spain's long proposed goal is to get the dams out of the Klamath River and the farmers out of the Klamath Basin. What better way than to ignore science reports, pick and chose figures, and create your own reality and sell it to the media.

When the dams went in, the mitigation was for hatcheries to provide fish for commercial and sports fishermen and tribes. That's where PCFFA and tribal members and NOAA Fisheries created the "natural spawner" illusion to downsize or eliminate hatcheries, creating the concept that 'natural spawners' are superior to 'hatchery spawners.' Because when the hatcheries were successful, tribes were happy, fishermen are happy, and there is nothing to blame on the irrigators. It's hard to support shutting down the resources and taking out dams when everything is working well.

One PCFFA member who is a coastal fisherman did not realize that Klamath Basin was once a lake, because Spain had told fishing groups and environmentalists that Klamath farmers were irrigating a desert.

Spain has long proposed buying out Klamath Basin farmers, which would suck water from the ditches, canals and refuge habitat into the ocean. He has filed lawsuits against the irrigators to take more of their irrigation water (water which was once the historic lake over what is now their farms. It is now rerouted into canals, ditches and reservoirs for irrigation). He has filed against the irrigators' contract extension with PacifiCorp. This contract was created because of the free regulated water created by the Project which irrigators paid for. This service by irrigators has allowed other PacifiCorp customers to have inexpensive power too. Spain feels if farmers get a higher power rate, more farmers will go out of business and more water can be siphoned out of the Klamath Basin.

By the way, there have never been 'fish kills' on low water years, but only high water years.

When there are fish die-offs and low runs  periodically on other rivers, sea lion predation, ocean conditions, entire watershed conditions all are factors. However on the Klamath, media like Barnard and attorneys like Spain blame the irrigators even before the low estimated runs have occurred.

Like fisherman Scott Cook said, if they would obey the law and use the hatcheries, fishermen, tribes and irrigators would be ok. Since there are no proven 'wild' fish left in the river after years of transporting fish, the mentality of making everything 'natural' does not make sense. It is putting everyone out of business. And the green media is pitting the resource users against each other.

Salmon fishermen feel pain of Klamath's troubles

NEWPORT, Ore. -- Just two years ago, Don Snow boated a chinook salmon that dressed out at 48 pounds 6 ounces -- the biggest he's ever caught in the lower 48 states.

Commercial fishermen were feeling good about salmon in 2004. As a result of aggressive marketing, prices for chinook caught by trolling the Pacific were up after years of being driven down by more plentiful farmed fish.

Those good times have gone bust this year. The third straight season of poor chinook returns to Northern California's Klamath River to spawn have federal fisheries managers considering closing 700 miles of coastline to salmon fishing for this year's May through October season, despite plentiful stocks elsewhere. They have already closed this year's spring season, and forecasts for next year are not good.

Because there is no way to harvest plentiful stocks from other watersheds without killing Klamath fish, fans of wild salmon expect to have a tough time getting troll-caught chinook, and salmon fishermen such as Snow will be scrambling to keep their boats.

The problems affecting salmon in the Klamath River -- aging dams, poor water quality, deadly parasites attacking young fish, and battles over allocating scarce water between farms and wildlife -- remain.

"For so many years we were told nobody wants your product, they just want it cheap," Snow said. "We finally turn the tide, and now this.

"I'm sure if we have a zero season or a severely restricted season, some people will go broke, and it doesn't really need to be," he said. "We need proper science and agreements with water users for habitat."

The Pacific Fishery Management Council makes its final decision the first week of April. If it shuts down sport and commercial salmon fishing from Cape Falcon on the northern Oregon Coast to Point Sur south of San Francisco, salmon won't disappear from supermarkets. Sixty percent of the world supply is farm-raised in Chile, Norway and Canada, and the bulk of the ocean catch -- pink and sockeye -- comes from Alaska.

The 668,000 chinook or king salmon caught by about 1,200 active West Coast trollers last year account for less than 1 percent of U.S. consumption. But it is the filet mignon of salmon, prized for superior taste and texture as well as heart-healthy oils.

The demand for wild salmon has encouraged fishermen to boost their prices by handling their fish carefully -- bleeding them before putting them on ice, avoiding bruising, and sometimes flash-freezing them at sea.

Some will still be caught off southeast Alaska and Washington, and small harvests may be allowed inside state waters off Oregon and California. But millions of pounds will be off the market.

Mark Newell, a salmon fisherman and wholesaler who serves on the Oregon Salmon Commission said the $3.18 per pound he was paying fishermen last year is likely to go over $4 this year if there is any fishing allowed.

"They're saying next year doesn't look any better than this year," said Newell. "If you lose this for two years, you'll lose a lot of these fishermen."

Commercial salmon landings last year were worth $13 million in Oregon and $23.3 million in California, according to the council. Recreational fisheries were worth another $5.2 million in Oregon and $17.9 million in California.

By the time that money runs through restaurants, seafood markets and gear stores, the overall losses from closing the season will be more like $150 million, said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, which represents California salmon fishermen.

That money depends on healthy salmon in the Klamath River.

Cutting through the Cascade and Siskiyou mountains in southern Oregon and Northern California, the Klamath was traditionally the third-biggest producer of salmon on the West Coast, after the Columbia and Sacramento, which this year expect healthier returns than the Klamath.

During the gold rush of the 1850s, the Klamath suffered the ravages of hydraulic mining. In 1917, the first of a series of hydroelectric dams blocked hundreds of miles of spawning habitat. Political and legal wrangling continue over how much water goes to irrigating crops in the Klamath Reclamation Project and how much goes down the river for salmon.

In 2001 those farmers paid the price. Drought forced the federal government to cut back irrigation so there would be enough water for coho salmon, a threatened species that shares the Klamath with chinook. An Oregon State University study put crop losses between $27 million and $46 million.

The Bush administration threw its support behind farmers, and in 2002 Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman made a special trip to turn the valves that restored full irrigation. That September, low warm water led to the deaths of some 70,000 adult chinook returning to the Klamath to spawn, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

The fish kill meant thousands of fish would not be spawned to return this year.

"The fix is obvious. It is the political will that is not," said Spain. "You've got to put more water in the river and you need to take down the four hydropower dams."

The Oregon Natural Resources Council, a conservation group, figures the Bush administration has put $100 million into the Klamath to boost flows for fish, help struggling farmers, and improve fish habitat, but problems remain.

Four dams block salmon from hundreds of miles of habitat upstream. Their reservoirs warm the water, which carries high levels of agricultural runoff. Young fish migrating to the ocean run a gauntlet of parasites whose impacts are poorly understood, but may be exacerbated by the poor water quality and the lack of high flows.

The dams are up for relicensing this year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will decide whether they need to be modified or removed to restore salmon access to hundreds of miles of habitat. Indian tribes, fishermen and conservation groups would like to see them removed, but the Portland utility PacifiCorp wants to keep them. Participants in closed-door negotiations report a growing spirit of cooperation after years of fighting.

Bob Kemp, who bought his first salmon boat in 1973, is planning to fill a cooler with crab and beer and head to the Klamath Basin to get to know farmers better. He is less interested in getting disaster relief than fixing the Klamath so he can fish for salmon. He's already been working as a deck hand on a crab boat, putting out traps for black cod, and is a partner in an albacore canning operation, so figures he can survive a closure.

"I'm determined not to get angry," said Kemp. "And I'm not going to give up."




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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