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Coalition challenges state's proposal on key Klamath River streams

The Trinity Journal October 28, 2009

A coalition of tribes, conservationists and commercial fishing groups filed suit Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court to block what it calls a precedent-setting agency proposal to strip endangered species protections from threatened coho salmon in Northern California's Klamath River watershed.

The groups, represented by Earthjustice, oppose a plan by the California Department of Fish and Game to issue a blanket permit for agricultural practices that may kill salmon or destroy habitat in the Shasta and Scott rivers, two of the Klamath's key salmon spawning tributaries.

"These proposed permits are essentially licenses to kill salmon," said Erica Terence of Klamath Riverkeeper, lead plaintiff on the case. "With conditions deteriorating for fish every year on the Scott and Shasta, CDFG should be proposing programs that expand protections for fish, not destroy them as these watershed-wide permits would do."

This summer, the Scott and Shasta garnered headlines statewide after irrigation withdrawals caused record low flows and dewatered stretches of both rivers as thousands of salmon swam upriver to spawn.

While local officials blame lack of rain for this year's record low flows, environmental groups say steadily increasing irrigation withdrawals are largely to blame for no-flow and record low-flow conditions in these rivers.

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