Biological opinions on lake levels expected
New biological opinions will be released in the coming weeks from two regulatory agencies: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Jon Hicks, planning division chief at the Bureau of Reclamation, said the new opinions could change in-stream flow and lake level requirements.
The last biological opinion was released in 2002, but BOR has been operating in-stream flow levels under a judge’s order since 2006.
This coming biological opinion is part of the judge’s requirement to review the issue.
National Marine Fisheries Services issues the biological opinion for the coho salmon downriver of the Iron Gate Dam. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives the biological opinion for two endangered species of suckers in the Upper Klamath Lake.
Between these two biological opinions, the BOR must provide flows in the Klamath River downstream of the dam for salmon and also sustain the Upper Klamath Lake levels for endangered suckers.
At this time, in-stream flow requirements of the biological opinions at the Iron Gate Dam are 1,450 cubic feet per second. Hicks said current in-stream flow rates were above that. However, at the end of this month lake levels must be at 4,142.4 feet to meet the biological opinion for the suckers.
These two contrary biological opinions don’t mesh well, and create difficulties as officials try to keep water in and release it at the same time, Hicks said. The contrition arises from how the type of water year is gauged. One opinion distinguishes five water years, the other four, and these don’t match up, Hicks said. For this reason, he said, a new biological opinion was requested.