Says Irrigation Did Not Kill Salmon (washingtonpost.com)
Study Says Irrigation Did Not Kill Salmon
Wednesday, October 22, 2003; Page A11
GRANTS PASS, Ore., Oct. 21 -- Voluntary steps to
restore habitat, including removing dams, might be
more effective in saving Klamath Basin fish than
taking water from farmers, a federal report released
The report also says that funneling irrigation water
to farmers in 2002 -- which decreased Klamath River
flows -- was not clearly responsible for the deaths
of thousands of salmon later that year.
In 2001, Klamath Basin farmers pried open irrigation
gates and formed a bucket brigade to dump water into
irrigation ditches after the government cut off
water to benefit salmon and other fish.
Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton's subsequent
decision to divert water from the Klamath River to
1,400 farms was criticized by environmentalists and
tribal leaders, who said it was the reason 33,000
salmon died last September.
The report commissioned by Norton raised the
possibility of removing Irongate Dam on the Klamath
to restore salmon spawning in tributaries, but also
urged a three-year moratorium on hatchery releases,
to see if that would help wild fish rebound.
Hatchery fish make up the bulk of salmon harvested
by tribal, commercial and sport fishermen. Irongate
Dam is one of a series of hydroelectric projects on
the upper Klamath.
Scientists also found that the greatest threat to
coho salmon comes from warm water in tributaries,
such as the Scott and Shasta rivers, not flows in
the main Klamath.
"We were told not to think about politics and
economic issues, but think about what species need
for recovery, and that is what we did," said William
M. Lewis Jr., chairman of the National Research
Council panel that issued the report.
The report estimated the cost of following its
recommendations would be $25 million to $35 million
over five years.
On Monday, the federal government and a northern
California Indian tribe rejected a deal that would
have ended a three-year legal fight over restoring
water to the Trinity River, which flows into the
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