Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
6/16/06 Letter from environmental groups
to Congress regarding disaster relief for coastal
fishermen, and money to "fix" Klamath's problems,
which according to this letter are caused by dams
and Klamath irrigators.KBC
Klamath Water Users Response to Thompson Bill 4/21/06
Wanted to send out a copy of the text of the disaster relief support letter Earthjustice organized from national and West coast conservation groups that went to the US Senate last week and today to key members holding the purse strings in the House of Representatives (Wolf, Mollohon, Ohey and Lewis). The letter also urges Congress to fix the Klamath's problems.
As most of you know, Wyden, Smith, and Boxer secured amendments yesterday to Magnuson-Stevens in the Senate that 1. Create eligibility for fishing communities to receive disaster relief 2. Request that NOAA complete a recovery plan for Klamath salmon. Unfortunately, neither amendment guarantees any money, so the pressure must continue.
PO Box 151
Ashland, OR 97520
American Rivers * Association of Northwest Steelheaders * Berkley Conservation Institute * Center for Native Ecosystems * Earthjustice National Audubon Society * Natural Resources Defense Council National Wildlife Federation * Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association * Oceana * Oregon Council Trout Unlimited * Oregon Natural Resources Council Fund * Pacific Rivers Council * Sierra Club
The Honorable Frank Wolf
Dear Mr. Wolf:
On behalf of our millions of members, we the undersigned organizations are writing to applaud the efforts of Senators Smith, Wyden, Boxer, Feinstein, Representative Thompson and others to secure disaster relief for coastal salmon fishing communities in Oregon and California, and to express our disappointment that the Senate was ultimately unable to include $81 million in disaster relief in emergency appropriations.
This funding would have provided desperately needed aid to fishing communities facing an economic crisis arising from the closure of over 700 miles of California and Oregon coast to salmon fishing. This massive fishing closure will have dire consequences not just for commercial fishing families, but also for hundreds of other businesses in coastal communities and throughout the Northwest. We strongly support federal legislation to assist these communities in weathering the economic loss the salmon fishing closure is causing.
It is important to note that the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) and U.S. Department of Commerce did not institute this closure due to over-fishing or an overall shortage of salmon. Some Pacific coastal rivers, such as the Sacramento in California, are expected to host good returns of Chinook salmon this year. But the PFMC has taken this drastic action as part of a last-ditch effort to protect what remains of the Klamath River’s once mighty salmon runs.
It is expected that fewer than 30,000 salmon will return to the Klamath River this year to spawn—fewer than are needed to sustain the population, let alone support a robust fishery. Because it is impossible for fishermen to determine the river of origin of a particular salmon once they are in the Pacific Ocean, the PFMC has determined that a near total commercial salmon fishing closure is needed to protect what remains of the Klamath River’s salmon.
The ongoing decline of salmon in the Klamath is not the result of natural circumstances. A series of fish-killing dams, excessive water diversions, and poor water quality, have taken a severe toll on this river system, which once boasted the third largest runs of salmon on the West Coast. In the fall of 2002, excessive water diversions led to a massive fish kill that claimed over 65,000 adult salmon before they could spawn. Low flows and poor water quality sparked juvenile fish kills in the spring of 2002, and in each spring since.
It is the continuing decline of the Klamath River, and the ongoing fish kills, that have sparked the ocean salmon fishing closures that are threatening communities up and down the Northern California and Oregon coasts this year. Our hearts go out to these communities that depend on commercial salmon fisheries, and to the Native American and recreational fishermen who also rely on Klamath River salmon. But families in these communities deserve more than our sympathy – they deserve action to help them weather the economic hardship the closure is causing, and a long-term effort to finally solve the environmental problems of the Klamath Basin. As long as the Klamath River’s problems are left un-addressed, these fishing communities will continue to face fishing restrictions and economic hardship.
Recent progress toward recovering salmon runs in the in the Sacramento River provide a positive model for recovery in the Klamath. By the early 1990s it seemed the Sacramento River winter run salmon would soon join other California runs in extinction. In 1991 the winter run of the Sacramento – a species once numbering in the hundreds of thousands – stood at a mere 211 adult fish. The steady downward spiral through the 1970s and 1980s was due to problems similar to those facing the Klamath River today. For the past several years, officials estimate that an average of approximately 8,000 adult fish have returned to spawn. The population of spawning spring run Chinook also appears to be growing, and the fall run is expected to produce strong returns this year. This progress has been made possible by habitat restoration, fish barrier removal, temperature protections and improved flow conditions.
Although the winter and spring runs and Central Valley steelhead remain listed species, progress in the Sacramento Valley shows that, with adequate political will, the collapse of salmon populations can be reversed.
Congressman Thompson and Senators Boxer, Feinstein and Wyden have introduced legislation in the House and Senate that would improve the health of the Klamath river by securing $45 million for a series of immediate conservation measures, including requiring NMFS to produce a recovery plan for threatened coho salmon, installing and updating water monitoring equipment, improving river habitat and fish passage and adding additional NMFS staff and resources to better track and study the Klamath River's salmon. We believe that this a good first step in restoring the Klamath River.
Americans look to Congress for leadership in making hard decisions, resolving conflicts, and providing resources to help our communities weather unforeseen disasters. Through no fault of their own, salmon fishing communities up and down the Northern California and Oregon coasts are facing severe economic hardship this year, and they need our help. We urge you to act immediately to secure disaster relief for these communities. We also need you to provide the leadership necessary to reverse the decline of the Klamath River and its salmon. Congressional leadership is needed to help the Klamath Basin find balanced solutions to the environmental problems it faces.
S. Elizabeth Birnbaum
Vice President for Government Affairs
Norman E. Ritchie
Association of Northwest Steelheaders
Berkley Conservation Institute
Center for Native Ecosystems
Senior Legislative Representative
Director of Conservation Policy
National Audubon Society
National Resources Defense Council
National Wildlife Federation
Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association
Oregon Council Trout Unlimited
Oregon Natural Resources Council Fund
Pacific Rivers Council
Senior Washington Representative
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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