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RESCUE in the REFUGE, Botulism outbreak: 100 birds
a day found ill or dead


  By LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 8/31/14
     Other area animals are also falling sick  

   TULE LAKE — Waterfowl at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge are suffering from another avian botulism outbreak amid the Basin’s second consecutive year of drought.

   Since mid-July, U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff and volunteers have plucked nearly 5,000 dead or sick ducks out of the refuge’s two sumps.

   According to refuge wildlife biologist John Beckstrand, three-quarters of the fowl affected by the Type C avian botulism outbreak are mallards — mostly male drakes — but birds such as grebes and ibis, and mammals such as muskrats and raccoons, also are falling ill. “We’re picking up about 100 birds a day, sick and dead,” said biological technician Tracy Albro.

   The actual losses are likely much greater. Beckstrand estimates agency staff and volunteers are finding only about 40 to 50 percent of the birds.

   “The actual death from botulism could be 2 to 2.5 times that 4,800 at this point,” he said.

   On Wednesday, Beckstrand pointed out that 46 days had passed since the outbreak started and 38 days are left before the threat fades. He estimates the refuge could have as many as 22,000 dead or dying birds by early October.  

   Tightly packed together

   Albro and volunteer Jim Rhodes focus most of their bird recovery efforts in the 3,500-acre Sump 1B where the outbreak first took hold. Beckstrand said the sump depth ranges from about 3 inches to 5 feet deep.

   “We’re still picking up more birds in the shallow stuff. Usually there are three or four birds in close proximity,” Albro said.

   According to Beckstrand, in addition to migrating birds, the Tule Lake sumps provide habitat for endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The protections guarantee a minimum amount of water for the fish. Other sump water is provided by agricultural return flows from land leased to farmers.  

   In wet years, migrating birds also fan out over the neighboring 53,000-acre Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Some used to move to Upper Klamath Lake, but many of the grain fields that attracted them have disappeared.

   “We’d have them on Lower Klamath refuge as well, but it’s completely dry right now, for the second consecutive year since the 1940s. We’ve got more birds than normal at Tule Lake because it’s such a dry year.”

   This year, the birds are forced to concentrate in Tule Lake’s two sumps, which only total about 13,000 acres. Beckstrand said botulism is a concern every year, but more birds clustered in the same area puts more at-risk.  

   According to documents from the Klamath Water Users Association, the refuges were allotted roughly 6,000 acrefeet for the 2013 water year. An avian botulism outbreak and massive bird die-off, similar to the one underway now, occurred last fall.

   According to Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Klamath Basin Area Office Manager Sheryl Franklin, about 9,800 acre-feet was diverted to agricultural lease-lands in the Lower Klamath refuge in October 2013. Another 6,200 acre-feet was split between two more diversions — one in fall of 2013 and one in June.

   Since then, the refuges have not received any additional water.  

   Franklin explained that under current federal laws and agreements, before the BOR can divert water to Lower Klamath refuge, ESA requirements and water contract obligations held with Klamath Project irrigators must first be satisfied. She said because the BOR anticipates Project water users’ contract obligations will not be fully met during the 2014 water year, no water or delivery schedule is available at this time for Lower Klamath.

   “Reclamation understands that both Tule Lake and Lower Klamath national wildlife refuges are among the most important refuges for migratory waterfowl and is committed to continue ongoing coordination efforts with U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge staff, water   users, and other stakeholders to thoroughly examine opportunities to maximize deliveries to the refuge,” Franklin said.

   Bad timing

   Each day, Albro and Rhodes spend hours in an airboat, skiffing across the marsh in search of dead or sick birds paralyzed by botulism.

   According to Beckstrand, botulism usually strikes the legs and neck muscles first, causing birds to stumble on land or become immobile in the water.

   “Sometimes you’ll come up on the sick ones and they’ll have their head dipped in the water — they can’t keep their head up and they end up drowning,” Beckstrand said.  

   Mallard ducks are flightless for three or four weeks each year while they molt and grow new flight feathers, according to Beckstrand. He said the process begins in late June when mallards — typically drakes — move north from the California’s Central Valley. Hens follow a few weeks later, after their brood is grown and flighted.

   “The thing that’s bad is that by the time the hen mallards are molting, that’s when the botulism is usually the hottest,” Beckstrand said. “It hits the breeding population really hard.”

   The avian botulism cycle starts when non-toxic spores, which are always present in marsh sediment, heat up, germinate and begin producing the neurotoxin botulinum. Outbreaks tend to peak in August and September because water and sediment temperatures heat up and can stay warmer more consistently, Beckstrand said.

   Aquatic invertebrates are often the first protein host botulinum finds before being ingested up the food chain. Ducks then eat the bugs, get   sick and die, setting in motion the maggot cycle and accelerating the spread of the fatal toxin.

   The maggot cycle starts with a carcass floating on the water. After flies land on it and lay eggs, emerging maggots consume the decaying flesh; ducks often eat maggots that accidentally fall off the carcass. Albro and Rhodes are collecting deceased birds from the marsh to try to slow the cycle.

   “One or two maggots will kill a duck because they’ve concentrated that toxin by consuming the dead bird,” Beckstrand said.  

   About five to 10 percent of the birds picked up each day are sick, he added. When sick birds that have a chance of recovering are captured, they are given a shot of fresh water, caged, and transported to a duck “hospital.”

   “With shade and fresh water, about two out of three of them will recover,” Beckstrand said.

   Two incinerators behind the hospital are the last stop for animals that have died from botulism or paralysis-related circumstances.

   Beckstrand said it’s likely the sickness will persist through September.  

   “We’re a little over halfway through the season. It doesn’t really end until you get a good frost or hunting season starts and disperses the birds.”

   Water certainty touted

   According to BOR area manager Franklin, a component of the Klamath Basin Settlement Agreements, which are currently stalled in Congress, could change the water situation at the refuges. The 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), one portion of the three-part legislation, by most accounts, could create water certainty for refuges and farmers alike.  

   Franklin said unlike this year, in which no water was allocated for the refuges, if the bill passed, Tule Lake and Lower Klamath would be allocated 48,000 acre-feet.

   According to Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, in the KBRA, a block of water is allocated for the Klamath Project and for the Klamath refuge complex. According to Addington, the KBRA allocates 48,000 acrefeet for the refuges in the driest years, and 60,000 acre-feet in the wettest years.

   “It’s really focused on Lower Klamath because Tule Lake has both sumps,” Addington said. “The timing and amount is on a sliding scale. The refuge manager gets to decide when, how, and where that water goes.”

   “All the problems we’re seeing in the community related to water can be resolved with the Klamath Settlement Agreements,” Addington said. “We need a resolution.”

   According to WaterWatch of Oregon spokesman Jim McCarthy, figures for the KBRA’s guaranteed water deliveries numbers don’t add up. He believes the extra water will have to come from downstream flows into the Klamath River.

   “The only way to deliver the water promised under the KBRA is to kill off the salmon in the Klamath River,” McCarthy said.

   In 1908, Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge became the first refuge in the United States established solely for the protection of waterfowl. Beckstrand said the irony of the lack of birds at the nation’s first waterfowl refuge and the struggle birds face at neighboring Tule Lake is not lost on him.

   ljarrell@heraldandnews.com; @LMJatHandN  

  H&N photos by Lacey Jarrell

   DUCK RESCUE: Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge biologist John Beckstrand holds a sick duck’s mouth open while biological technician Tracy Albro gets ready to give the bird a drink of fresh water.


   Tracy Albro, a Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge biological technician, lifts dead ducks out of the water in Sump 1B, where the botulism outbreak first surfaced.

  LEFT: John Beckstrand, a biologist at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, transfers birds sick with botulism to a recovery pen. The birds are kept shaded and given fresh water to help them overcome the illness.
  H&N photos by Lacey Jarrell



KBC News Response

Lets look back to the agenda of John Beckstrand, the KBRA blackmail for refuges, and Klamath Water User director Greg Addington's comment: “All the problems we’re seeing in the community related to water can be resolved with the Klamath Settlement Agreements,”

Tule Lake Migratory Bird Festival a Success. FWS wildlife biologist/tour guide John Beckstrand feels solution is farmer buy-out. FWS manager commends farmers on outstanding work, by KBC editor 5/22/04. "FWS tour guide Beckstrand told us that the Klamath Project was "too big".  He said that the line-up for water was first the ESA (Endangered Species Act) water, then Tribal Trust, agriculture, and last, refuges. When asked what his solution was, he said he felt that the farmers should be bought out."

A little background:

Klamath Basin has 6 refuges encompassing 190,000 acres. "Tulelake refuge is 40,000 acres, Clear Lake 35,000, Bear Valley 5000, Klamath marsh 40,000, and Upper Klamath 30,000 acres. The two active colonies of pelicans that exist in California are on Lower Klamath and Clear Lake...Farmers have been setting aside much of their crops for almost a century for waterfowl food...Ph. D. Robert McLandress, UC Davis ecology. has stated that the farms in the basin provide food for 50% of the waterfowl in the basin, over 70 million tons. "There are 433 species of wildlife in the basin, and the biological opinion deals with 3." He also explains that the natural systems could not even provide half of that food. Go HERE FOR AUDIO" Here for Capital Press article: Bird hunters flock to Basin; Farms offer critical food source for migrating waterfowl

KBC NOTE: Tule Lake refuge is downhill at the bottom of the Klamath Project. When the water from the Project comes to the last fields, it ends up in Tule Lake refuge. Then it must be pumped, at the farmers' expense, into Lower Klamath refuge. Pacific Power rate for Klamath irrigators has increased over 2000% in the past few years:


KBRA/Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement

KBC NEWS editor: There have been dozens of articles blaming irrigators for recent bird deaths on our wildlife refuges. Read Klamath Basin Fish and Wildlife / FWS refuge manager Ron Cole's letter rallying Audubon Society to petition Obama administration to obtain a water right. He did say the REASON for the low flows: "Mandated ESA flows in the Klamath River and water levels in Upper Klamath Lake have reduced water allocations to the Project. Escalating power costs mean these limited supplies of water are too expensive for irrigators to pay pumping costs, causing them to reuse water many more times, rather than send return flow to LKNWR. From 1981- 2009, LKNWR averaged about 74K ac.ft. of return flow delivered through D-Plant. From 2009-2011, return flow has averaged about 15K ac.ft., a reduction of about 80%."

KBC - Tule Lake was a closed basin, and the water historically had NO WAY to reach Lower Klamath / LK or Klamath River. To grow food, farmers rerouted the water, blasted a tunnel in Sheepy Ridge to put water into LK and the River. The farmers PAY TOTAL PUMPING COSTS. FWS refuses to pay to receive this water. Since the tribes and enviro groups sued to force our power rates to raise more than 2000%, we can not afford to pump and divert water into the refuges entirely at our expense. Part of the KBRA blackmail is, groups sued to raise our power rate, so if we agree to their KBRA, FWS might contribute to the cost of pumping this water out of the Tule Lake basin.

Solution: Fish and Wildlife Service could pay the power cost and have full water deliveries.
Cole details a solution:
Geothermal energy plant planned for Klamath wildlife refuge, SBO, posted to KBC 3/29/12. "Take, for example, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge. The complex has been perpetually short on water in recent years and a jump in power costs in 2004 has made pumping water to replenish wetlands prohibitively expensive....(Manager Ron Cole) estimates that in 2001 it cost 33 cents to pump an acre-foot of water onto the refuge. The cost to do the same to day is $9.20.

The following is one example of KBRA spinning bird cholera to gather support for the KBRA / dam removal deal. Sustainable NW is a voting member of the KBRA.

Klamath bird crisis just one more avoidable tragedy if we pass water-sharing agreements, by Martin Goebel, Oregonian OpEd April 16, 2012. Martin Goebel is the president of Sustainable Northwest in Portland. Writer Toni Thayer writes on KBC discussion forum: SNW "founder and president, Martin Goebel, has previous ties to The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. Goebel is a trustee of the Summit Charitable Foundation which has assets of nearly $75 million. This foundation belongs to the Mormon Roger Sant and his money from Applied Energy Services Corp, AES, “worldwide developer of power projects”, “a global power company operating in 29 countries”. Most of the power for global AES comes from “unsustainable” and “non-renewable” coal and natural gas. But, hey, that’s OK if his donation money comes from dirty industries, just as long as it keeps coming, right? That dirty money, no doubt, pays your dirty salary...I wonder if he/his foundation/his global power company could have a conflict of interest related to power generated by those “renewable” Klamath dams they want removed?" See KBC's Whose Who page.

Lets go to Jarrell's article to the left regarding "Water certainty touted" by Greg Addington regarding the controversial KBRA

"According to Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association / KWUA, in the KBRA, a block of water is allocated for the Klamath Project and for the Klamath refuge complex. According to Addington, the KBRA allocates 48,000 acre feet for the refuges in the driest years, and 60,000 acre-feet in the wettest years...'All the problems we’re seeing in the community related to water can be resolved with the Klamath Settlement Agreements,' "

KBC RESPONSE: Quick review: all the water at the end of the irrigation Project ends up in Tule Lake. FWS won't pay to pump it out unless (the blackmail) the farmers sign on to the controversial KBRA. So, with the Project being 90 some percent efficient, if farmers get water, the refuge gets the runoff which, according to past refuge manager, has no harmful pesticides effecting the wildlife. So presently the water sits in the Tule Lake refuge because farmers can't afford the 2000%+ power rate increase, 100's of thousands of dollars, to pump it uphill out of our closed basin through a mountain where it never went historically.

The KBRA would put water directly into the refuge, bypassing farms.

Are "'All the problems we’re seeing in the community related to water can be resolved with the Klamath Settlement Agreements,' as stated by Addington?

Read below:

The Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement, by Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett, posted to KBC 5/16/14:

Joint county groups decry water pact; Mallams calls it ‘blackmail,’ H&N  5/7/14.

With the KBRA:

* 4 hydropower dams come out which supply power to 70,000 households because of wishes of tribes, environmentalists and our administration, contrary to scientific studies on benefits (all the scientist whistleblowers have been fired), and contrary to the unanimous wishes of elected Siskiyou Supervisors and Klamath County Commissioners, Klamath County Senator and Representative, and Modoc/Siskiyou Congressman

* Tribes are given a forest that they previously sold and over $147 million

*Refuges get a new water right, bypassing farms.

* Endangered fish predators, lamprey, will be introduced into Klamath Lake. Already fish predators, caspian terns, have been lured into Klamath and Tule Lake refuges.

* KBRA (not elected officials) will control Oregon and California use of groundwater

* KWUA has promised their constituents less expensive power rates in the KBRA. Here is the latest INCREASE on federal power: Plan stalls: PacifiCorp fee halts talks. Power transition for local irrigators at standstill, H&N, posted to KBC 7/3/14.
* "
I think you guys are taking a windfall off the irrigators’ backs,” said board member Gary Wright."
* "
The fee could mean a 2- to 3-cent per kilowatt increase for Basin farmers, according to Dean Brockbank, vice president and general counsel of PacifiCorp." "
* "
Cannon (KWAPA director) said he estimates that for every penny the power rate goes up, PacifiCorp collects an additional $1.3 million. Since 2006, PacifiCorp has taken an extra $13 million per year out of the Basin, he said."
* " 'It’s a giant crapshoot. I think a lot more of this information should have been brought forward in good faith a long, long time ago,' (Matt) Walter (Upper Klamath Water Users Association leader)said."
* "The federal power program is part of the 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Basin Hydroelectric Settlement. The agreements seek to establish reliable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, restore fish habitat, help the Klamath Tribes acquire the 92,000-acre Mazama Tree Farm and remove four dams on the Klamath River."

Letter from disillusioned Upper Klamath Water Users Association leader and KBRA/KHSA proponent regarding PacifiCorp and KBRA, posted to KBC 7/1/14. "I do not believe PC has bargained in good faith as implied in the KHSA. We have been working on the federal power delivery concept (Interconnect Study) for more then 4 years. We have spent 1000's of man hours and 100k"s of tax payer dollars to get to where we are today. The conclusion of 3/4 to 1 cent benefit which in the words of the consultant "is in the margin of error" is a poor result for all the work...."

PacifiCorp responds to KWAPA/Klamath Water and Power questions regarding KBRA-promised power rates, transitioning to federal power, consequences if people leave PacifiCorp, posted to KBC 7/1/14. "...Responses to specific KWAPA questions: 1. What is the cost for an irrigator to leave PAC energy? Answer: PacifiCorp does not intend to propose an exit fee for an irrigator to leave PAC energy.  However, the OPUC and other customers will be concerned about shifting costs to other Oregon customers as a result of irrigators moving to federal power.  As discussed above, the OPUC may impose a transition charge on irrigator loads switching to federal power.  This transition charge could be as high as 6-8 cents/kwh...."

* Nowhere in the KBRA document does it promise certainty for water deliveries to farmers and ranchers. It caps the maximum amount, even on wet years, a farmer can use, it demands signatories support: taking out dams, downsizing agriculture, ESA and water quality requirements, but nowhere does it promise water. It only promises that in the spring you will be told if, and how much, water the feds might allow you to use that season.




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