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State OKs salmon plan

July 18, 2008, Herald and News
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Gentlemen display their catch while salmon fishing on the rapids of the Link River in 1891.
SISTERS (AP) — The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved restoration of chinook salmon to the area now blocked by dams on the Klamath River.

The vote Friday in Sisters amended Oregon’s fisheries management plan for the Upper Klamath Basin to allow biologists to prepare for the day — years down the road — when salmon will be able to reach some 300 miles of habitat blocked the past century by a series of small hydroelectric dams.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said commission Chairwoman Marla Rae. “We have to start somewhere.”

The dam owner, Portland-based utility PacifiCorp, has applied for a federal license to continue operating the dams another 50 years, but federal biologists have imposed a mandatory condition that salmon must be able to swim past the dams on their own.

PacifiCorp withdrew a water quality certification application for three Klamath River dams in California this week. Water quality certification is necessary to continue using the dams.

Faced with the prospect of having to spend millions of dollars on making the dams more fish friendly, PacifiCorp is in talks with state and federal agencies over a proposal to remove the dams.

“What we are doing is basically getting ahead of the curve to learn some information how (salmon) function in the system,” said Chip Dale, regional director for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Expectations are that adult salmon, steelhead and lamprey will begin swimming upstream throughout the length of the Klamath River on their own, but no one knows how they will react when they hit Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon’s largest lake and the source of the river, said Dale.

Biologists will figure out which stock of fish, whether wild or hatchery, local or from another watershed, will do best in the area, and develop plans to reintroduce salmon eggs, or young salmon to the lake and the tributaries flowing into it and see what they do, Dale added.

Spring chinook

Because spring chinook generally are the fish that swim farthest into the headwaters to spawn, biologists expect the upper Basin fish would have been a strain that returns in the spring to spawn, Dale said.

However, the Klamath’s spring chinook run is practically extinct. A related strain can be found in the Trinity River, the Klamath’s primary tributary, he added.

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