Klamath water supply: Talk of long term solutions
By TAM MOORE Oregon Staff Writer
irrigation season is drawing to a close in the
Klamath Basin, but the talking season has just
begun. Stakeholders are wrestling with solutions
to a variety of water supply and water quality
issues in the 10-million-acre watershed shared by
California and Oregon.
Some irrigators are concerned that water supply
could be restricted as they near harvest of
water-sensitive onion and potato crops.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D.-Calif., hosted an Aug. 30
forum in Eureka where downriver interests repeated
their messages revolving around a dependable water
supply for a salmon fishery that’s been in trouble
Far upstream in Klamath Falls Aug. 25, key federal
officials briefed the Klamath Water Users
Association on efforts to coordinate upper and
lower basin management, and avoid a September
crisis for irrigators.
In Washington, D.C., Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif.,
chairman of the House Resources Committee, sent
off letters to key Bush administration officials
urging a change in handling Endangered Species Act
status review of two sucker fish listed as in
danger of extinction since 1988, and speedier
consideration of increased water storage in the
At several law offices, attorneys for the
government, lower river tribes, the water users
and other stakeholders are getting ready for a
Sept. 20 trial in federal court at Oakland, Calif.
At issue are claims by the Yurok and Hoopa Valley
American Indian tribes that the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation violated 1864 treaty rights when it
allocated downstream flows in 2002. The trial is a
side issue to a larger lawsuit challenging the
NOAA Fisheries biological opinion that authorizes
Klamath Project operations from 2002 through 2012.
“We heard from both sides,” Thompson told the
Associated Press after the Eureka meeting.
“Everybody was singing from the same sheet of
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mike Long, an
area supervisor, said the combination of habitat
improvement and release of more water in the
Trinity River, the Klamath’s major tributary, has
improved things for fish.
Upper basin water district managers say there are
critical concerns in getting through September,
historically a time of low flow, this year made
more difficult by a dry spring and early melt of
the winter’s snowpack.
Inflows to Upper Klamath Lake, the largest project
reservoir, were 48 percent of average for late
On the Trinity, BuRec ramped up discharge from
Lewiston Reservoir to 1,650 cubic feet per second,
almost four times the summer flow of 450 cfs. Ryan
Broddrick, director of the California Department
of Fish and Game called it an example of
cooperation to avoid a repeat of the 2002 fish
kill on the lower Klamath. Biologists estimate
100,000 chinook salmon are headed up the Trinity
BuRec turned 1,300 cfs down the main Klamath from
Iron Gate Dam for 60 hours this week to augment
the Trinity discharge as it reaches the lower
Looking ahead, Pombo’s letters wrapped up two
issues raised at a July 17 field hearing in
Klamath Falls. All six of the congressmen who
attended the hearing signed both letters.
One urges USFWS to seek outside scientific review
of its conclusions on the status of the Lost River
and shortnosed sucker fish. The review will
determine if ESA protection is still needed.
Scientists have repeatedly testified in recent
years that the long-lived suckers are in trouble,
but there’s dispute over numbers needed to assure
The second letter tells BuRec to get with it on a
study of more Klamath water storage authorized in
2000, the year before the agency cut off water
delivery to 90 percent of Klamath project farms to
meet habitat needs of sucker fish and Klamath coho
salmon in the face of a drought-shortened water
Outside peer review is a plank of the ESA reform
bill that passed the Resources Committee in July.
Like many other efforts to reshape the 1974 law,
the peer review notion is given little chance of
clearing the House where the Republican majority
is divided on ESA reform.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail
address is email@example.com.