and News: Klamath Falls, Oregon
It's final: No basis for cutoff
Published October 22, 2003
By DYLAN DARLING
The National Research Council is sticking by its
story: There was no good scientific basis for the
water shutoff of 2001.
In its final report about coho salmon in the Klamath
River and suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, the Council
reaffirmed preliminary findings from January 2002
and made numerous recommendations for helping to
restore suckers and salmon and get them off the list
of endangered species.
The council released its final report Tuesday, and
the chairman of its study committee, William Lewis,
held a press conference about it.
The panel reiterated that there is no evidence of a
"causal connection" between water levels in Up-per
Klamath Lake and the welfare of its suckers, or that
higher flows on the river help salmon.
It also found that there was no scientific evidence
to support lowering the bar for the lake level and
flow targets set in the biological opinions by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National
Marine Fisheries Service in 2002.
To help the fish, there needs to be more
organization and cohesive plans for projects in the
Basin, Lewis said.
He also called for more consistent financial support
from the federal government. Funding for projects in
the Basin has been erratic and "crisis-based," he
He said the report's recommendations for studies and
actions could lead to a better Basin for fish.
"The environment hasn't been good in the past, and I
hope our report makes the environment better in the
future," Lewis said.
Restoration of wetland vegetation in the Williamson
River estuary and northern parts of Upper Klamath
Screening intakes at the Link River Dam.
Ridding Lake of the Woods of exotic game fishes and
replacing them with native suckers.
The council also called for recovery plans for the
suckers and salmon within the next two years and for
many other studies. Things the council proposes for
Removing Iron Gate Dam, the main flow-regulating dam
on the Klamath River, and other blockages on the
streams and rivers that lead into the river.
Shutting down the hatchery at Iron Gate Dam for
three years to see how coho salmon respond to the
reduced competition with chinook salmon.
Detailed comparisons of sucker populations in Upper
Klamath Lake with those in Gerber Reservoir and
Clear Lake, where sucker populations have been
The council estimated that the research, monitoring
and remediation called for in its report would cost
about $25 million to $35 million over the next five
years, not including the cost of major projects such
as dam removal.
The committee also addressed the issue of last
fall's fish kill of about 33,000 salmon, mostly
chinook, on the lower reaches of the Klamath River.
According to the report "neither the flows nor
temperatures that occurred during the fish kill were
unprecedented, and the committee agreed that neither
flow nor temperature conditions alone can explain
the fish kill."
This conclusion clashes with the analysis of
California officials. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service has yet to issue its findings.
The committee said the fish kill could have been
caused by changes in the river's channel that caused
blockages and by hot nights that led to warm water
temperatures, but there is not enough data available
to make definitive conclusions.
On Tuesday, environmental groups, federal agencies
and agricultural groups started picking and combing
through the report.
Many of the groups were quick to flag and tout the
parts of the report that support their actions or
Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water
Users Association, said Basin water users are
"The report shows that recovery of endangered cohos
and suckers cannot be achieved solely by actions
focused on the Klamath Reclamation Project," he
He said the water users could use the report as a
"hammer" to go after other groups, down the Klamath
River and above Upper Klamath Lake, but he would
rather work with the groups to get them online with
Glen Spain, spokesman for the Pacific Coast
Federation of Fisherman Associations, said the
report has something for everyone.
He liked the long-term studies and recommendations
for the river offered by the Council, but wanted to
see more things that could be done right away. He
said the Council's view that restoration needs to be
done basinwide could lead to bickering about who
needs to do what.
"My fear is that this will lead to circular finger
pointing. My hope is that this will give something
for everyone to work on together," he said.
He said the report doesn't relieve the Klamath
Reclamation Project from responsibility for the
"It doesn't get them off the hook, it just puts
everyone else on the same hook," he said.
One thing all the groups agree on, and the report
recommends as an action is the removal of Chiloquin
Lewis said the dam blocks suckers from 90 percent of
their spawning habitat on the Sprague River and it
should be taken out.
"It could be the first step toward restoring sucker
habitat that has been blocked out for several
years," he said.
The release of the report was important all the way
to the top of the Bush administration.
Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton said:
"We agree with the council that the recovery of coho
salmon and the two suckers cannot be achieved
through actions primarily focused on the Klamath
project, but require a broader approach that
includes the participation of a wide range of
stakeholders in the Basin."
Bill Hogarth, director of the National Marine
Fisheries Service, echoed Norton's sentiments in a
"We are also pleased that the Council report praised
the collaborative process among the agencies in
developing the 2002 biological opinions and
validated the approach to protecting species under
the ESA," he said.
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