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Study recommends massive effort to restore Klamath
By John Driscoll The Times-Standard
National Research Council report suggests major
restoration work to save salmon; goes easy on
Threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River can't be
helped by focusing on an upstream federal irrigation
project alone, and removal of dams and other means
of restoring their populations should be considered.
That's the main thrust of a voluminous National
Research Council report released Tuesday, which
recommends some $25 million to $30 million be spent
to improve conditions for coho in the river and
endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake. Protection
for the fish was the flash point of a bitter
controversy over use of water for the irrigation
project, which was mostly cut off in the summer of
The report also found that low flows and temperature
couldn't conclusively be blamed for last summer's
massive fish kill, which wiped out nearly a quarter
of a large run of chinook salmon. That appears in
contrast to a draft U.S. Fish and Wildlife report
obtained by the Times-Standard that suggests low
flows led to the conditions that caused the fish
The long-awaited research council report follows a
draft released in 2002, which found that Fish and
Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service
weren't justified in recommending the shut-off of
water to farms. The council also found the U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation didn't provide any scientific
backing for its plan to operate the project, which
serves about 220,000 acres.
Yurok Tribe Executive Director Troy Fletcher said
the tribe is still digesting the lengthy report.
"We're not prepared to make any comment until we can
review the report in its entirety," Fletcher said.
The research council report, commissioned by the
U.S. Interior Department, recommends removing
Dwindell Dam on the Shasta River and looking into
removing Iron Gate Dam, the lowermost on the Klamath
that blocks access to spawning areas for coho.
The report also backs restoration of the Trinity
River, a federal effort being blocked by Central
Valley irrigation giant Westlands Water District and
some water and power users.
Planting trees for shade, removing old logging roads
and other measures are recommended to provide shade
and stem sedimentation of the river.
Peter Moyle, a professor of fish, wildlife and
conservation biology at the University of California
at Davis and one of 12 scientists who wrote the
report, said getting all parties in the Klamath
Basin together to determine priorities for
restoration would be an ideal arrangement.
While a watershed-wide approach is clearly
necessary, Moyle said some measures can be taken
sooner than others, including changing the way the
Klamath Project is operated to some degree.
"There are certainly changes in operations that will
benefit fish more," he said.
Irrigators in the Upper Klamath Basin who rely on
the federal project hailed the report, saying it may
act as a catalyst for change on a large-scale level.
Dan Keppen of the Klamath Water Users Association
said that the basin stakeholders need to start
working on solutions together.
"If we wait and allow the government to come up with
something it will divide us," Keppen said.
One of the key recommendations in the report was to
put in place the congressionally backed restoration
of the Trinity River, the Klamath's main tributary.
Blocked by litigation from Westlands Water District
and others, the case is now before the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe just rejected a settlement
proposal by Westlands, saying no science backed up
Humboldt County 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith
said he had not read the research council report
yet, but supported the recommendation about the
"I think it is absolutely consistent with everything
else the science has indicated over the past two
decades," Smith said.
Rep. Mike Thompson, who has drafted legislation to
spur efforts to restore the Klamath, said proactive
efforts need to be taken to improve habitat,
increase flows and return cooler water to the
The Napa Democrat's bill, HR 1760, would allocate
$200 million to landowners and tribes who
participate in water conservation projects; merge
upper and lower basin working groups; implement the
Trinity River restoration and require Reclamation to
report quarterly to Congress on the progress of
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