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Science conference scheduled

Water issues discussion to be Feb. 1-5 in Medford

by Lee Juillerat, Herald and News 1/8/10

A science conference to determine what is known and what should be studied related to Klamath River Basin water issues is scheduled from Feb. 1 to 5 in Medford.

The Klamath River Basin Science Conference is being organized by the U.S. Geological Survey — the science information arm for the U.S. Department of the Interior — and is expected to draw more than 300 people, according to Dr. Leslie Dierauf, the agency’s Northwest regional executive. It is open to the public.

“It will speak to the science. It is not a political session,” she said. “My hope is at the end of the conference is to come out with real specific needs, some priority orders of what to look at first, second, third, fourth and fifth.”

Salazar invited

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been invited as keynote speaker for Feb. 2, although it’s not yet known if he is available.

Dierauf said one conference goal is to determine what information Salazar needs to make a decision in 2012 on whether to implement the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

The final draft of the agreement, which outlines a series of steps to improve water quality and fisheries along the Klamath River from Upper Klamath Lake to the Pacific Ocean, is expected to be released shortly. A key element calls for the removal of four Klamath River dams.

‘Unbiased science’

“I know the secretary is going to need some unbiased science to make his decision,” Dierauf said of why the USGS is taking the lead in organizing the conference.

The USGS is a nonregulatory agency that conducts scientific research, she said. In the Klamath Basin, the agency has a field office with a staff of 25 involved in studying, for example, the impact of Upper Klamath Lake algae blooms on fish and how the distribution of algae blooms affects fish movements.

“We do work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but we do not regulate the Endangered Species Act or set river management policy,” Dierauf said.

The pending conference, Dierauf said, will be unusual because it involves the entire Upper a nd L ower K la mat h River basins and focuses on the region as a single unit. Previous conferences have focused on either the Upper or Lower basins.

Lyman Thorsteinson of the USGS, who is helping to organize the conference, expects a strong turnout.

“The Klamath is really in the national focus and has been for some time,” Thorsteinson said. “It’s going to remain in the spotlight. The issues are huge.”

Side Bar

Stakeholders to participate

Representatives of Upper Klamath Basin tribes and agencies will be among participants at the upcoming Klamath River Basin Science Conference.

Among those participating will be Jeff Mitchell of the Klamath Tribes, who will give a tribal invocation at the Feb. 2 session. Klamath Tribes aquatic biologist Larry Dunsmoor will participate in a pane on tribal Perspectives and Science Needs while Becky Hyde of the Upper Klamath Water Users Association and Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users will be panelists on Non-Governmental Organization Perspectives.

Others will include Oregon Institute of Technology history professor Mark Clark, who will discuss historical development of the Klamath Basin; Michael Hughes of the Klamath Tribes, who will moderate a Watershed Processes Plenary Session; and Scott VanderKooi of the Klamath Falls U.S. Geological Survey, who will give a talk on Fishes and Aquatic Communities of the Upper Klamath Basin.

A draft agenda is available at the conference Web site.

About the conference

The Klamath River Basin Science Conference will be Feb. 1 through Feb. 5 at the Red Lion Motel in Medford.

Dr. Leslie Dieraf, U.S. Geological Survey Northwest Area regional executive, said Klamath Falls, Medford and Redding were considers as conference sites. Medford was selected because of cost factors and availability of space to handle the expected 300 to 400 attendees.

The theme for the Klamath River Basin Science Conference is Klamath Basin Aquatic Systems.

According to the conference Web site, it will focus on the current understanding of the Klamath River Basin ecosystem with an emphasis on water resources availability, quality and aquatic ecosystems.

The conference goal, according to the Web site, is to identify needs and science priorities, discuss possible dam removals, potential climate change effects, endangered species management, salmon reintroduction and recovery, invasive species, and the need to provide water for agricultural and other human uses.

Information about the conference can be found online at Homepage KBSC2010 or http://wfrc.usgs.gov/klamath_conference_website/kbsc2010/home.htm.

For just the most recent agenda see: http://wfrc.usgs.gov/klamath_conference_website/pdf/agenda_kbsc_121709_05.26.pdf
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