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KWUA taps fish biologist for deputy director

By HOLLY DILLEMUTH H&N Staff Reporter  Dec 19, 2017

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) has hired a former U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) fish biologist as its deputy director.

Mark Johnson, who served a number of years with USGS, started in the KWUA deputy role Nov. 6. Johnson previously served on the Lost River and shortnose sucker monitoring program for both adult and juvenile fish with USGS.

“Scott (White) has wanted to bring on a biologist for a while now, and he brought it up to the board members and the board members were receptive to the idea. Plus, he needed somebody to help him out,” Johnson said about the KWUA executive director’s focus.

Johnson has made it his goal to learn the nuances of the Klamath Project in 2018, and plans to serve as both a resource for Klamath Basin irrigators on species of fish, the Endangered Species Act as well as the new biological opinion underway. He also hopes to boost discussions between the KWUA and Klamath Tribes.

Johnson, a graduate of Oregon State University and father of two, will also bring a love for the outdoors and depth of knowledge of fisheries to the deputy role.

“I’ve worked with native species essentially my whole career,” Johnson said. “The competing endangered species – you have the suckers in Klamath Lake, coho down in lower river, that is the biggest obstacle that the irrigators face in terms of, they’re the ones who ultimately have to give up their water for three species.”

Fisheries focus

White is happy to have Johnson on board to provide scientific insight and analysis.

“With such a focus on fisheries,” White said. “It’s going to be really beneficial for us to have somebody on the inside who understands it … and helps us think of it from the right perspective.”

Johnson has also been directed to help revive a water users fisheries committee – which he did in November. Another meeting is tentatively planned for January.

“That was one of my roles when I first started here was to get that up and running,” Johnson said.

“Originally, it was just the board members who were interested in fisheries were on the committee. Now my role to bring biologists from other agencies here.”

Johnson also expressed hope to hold more discussions between KWUA officials and members of the Klamath Tribes.

“We want to incorporate the Klamath Tribes into more of our discussions,” Johnson said. “We’ve started to collaborate more with the Yuroks and the Hoopa and the Karuks down on the lower river.”

‘Unbiased science’

Johnson, who is a 1997 Mazama High School graduate, said his philosophy for the assistant role is to bring “unbiased science,” as well as to learn as much as he can about the Klamath Project.

He also aims to alleviate some of the work load from White, who oversees the KWUA.

“I’m still trying to learn all the water delivery systems in the Basin for the (Klamath) Project,” Johnson said.

“One of my biggest priorities in the next few months is to go out and actually go to all the district board meetings,” Johnson added. “I need to do a tour of the Project so that will give me more insight.”



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