Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

What went wrong and how it was fixed
Link River Dam was built in 1921 to raise the level of Upper Klamath Lake and direct water into Klamath Project diversion canals. Copco, the predecessor of PacifiCorp, installed generators at the dam and operated it on cue from BuRec.

In 1926, the state of Oregon designed fish ladders to restore upstream passage at Link River Dam. Mark Buettner, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, said trout specifications, with two-foot jump pools, were used. The ladder was on the Link River’s left bank, across the stream from the dam’s most frequent discharge point.

That meant the ladder attracted few fish, and more important it was too steep for the sucker fish sacred to the upstream American Indians.

“They don’t jump,” said Buettner of sucker fish.

USFWS wrote orders to BuRec to install screens keeping fish out of the irrigation canals, and to replace the Link River fish ladders. Both of those orders were ignored for one reason or another until the spotlight turned on the Klamath Project in 2001. The new fish screens came first, the fish passageway second.

To make this one work, Buettner said a 3 percent grade is used and instead of jump pools, the long passageway has a group of baffles that let sucker fish rest before battling the current. Already, said Buettner, two suckers tagged a couple of years ago below the dam have migrated into Upper Klamath Lake. He expects the migration to upper watershed spawning grounds will pick up speed as fish discover the new facility.

Klamath Project celebrates 100 years with promise

Tam Moore
Oregon Staff Writer

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Celebration of the centennial of the Klamath Reclamation Project began Oct. 11 with homage to cooperation that fixed an 84-year-old fish passage problem. There was also a reminder from three American Indian tribes that if the United States had honored terms of an 1864 treaty, the fish wouldn’t be in trouble.

“This is a recognition that the federal government is finally beginning to live up to its trust responsibility to the Klamath tribes,” said Allen Foreman, chairman of the tribal council that includes Klamath, Modoc and the Yahooskin band of Paiute Indians.

U.S. Reclamation Commissioner John Keys joined Foreman on the podium next to the Link River Dam. The first thing he said was “We know these fish are sacred to your tribe.”

BuRec came late to the issue of fish passage for the Lost River and shortnosed sucker fish, native to several of the Klamath Lakes and once a significant fishery for the tribes. In the 1864 treaty they were promised “hunting, fishing and gathering” rights as they existed in pre-treaty times.

This month in 1905, less than one mile from where Keys and Foreman spoke, BuRec’s predecessor agency turned the first shovelful of dirt for what is now known as the “A Canal” of a project that brings water to about 200,000 acres of cropland on both sides of the California-Oregon border.

The sucker fish went on the Endangered Species List in 1988. In 2001, a drought year, the national spotlight shifted briefly to the Klamath Project when, under orders from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and what is now NOAA Fisheries, BuRec refused to honor its irrigation delivery contract to about 1,400 farmers; the government found the scarce water needed as habitat for the sucker fish and endangered coho salmon downstream in the main Klamath River.

For all the recent problems, said Merrill farmer Steve Kandra, president of the Klamath Water Users Association, the project has benefited the community.

“We need to acknowledge what a good thing this project is; the Bureau of Reclamation has been good to this community for all these years.”

Kandra, like Foreman, also celebrated the partnership between tribes, farmers, government agencies and others that resolved the fish ladder problem.





Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2005, All Rights Reserved