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Hoopa fear salmon die-off; Jewell meets with tribe over water shortages
Jewell met with firefighters battling the thousands of acres burning across the north state and toured facilities at the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center in Redding.Tribal protest
While Jewell was in town, members of the Hoopa Tribe protested at the operations center against U.S. Bureau of Reclamation policies affecting the Klamath River.About 20 members of the tribe held signs and asked the secretary to authorize more water to be released from Trinity Dam down the Trinity River to benefit salmon swimming upstream to spawn in the Klamath River. The cooler water and higher flows help prevent disease that kills the fish.
Hoopa Tribe Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten said salmon are already dying in the river because the water is getting too warm and there is too little water in the stream. The tribe and other groups have asked for more water to be sent down the Trinity River, which flows into the Klamath River, to provide higher stream flows and cooler water.“The fish are our livelihood, just as the water is our life blood,” Vigil-Masten said.
A flushing flow of water was sent down the river last summer, but only after the Westlands Water District of Fresno unsuccessfully sued the bureau to stop the higher water release.Jewell told Vigil-Masten that the drought has worsened, but she said there is still a chance that there could be higher flows sent down the Trinity River this year.
Vigil-Masten said that she was happy that Jewell took the time to stop and talk with the protesters. The tribe said it was worried about repeating a fish die-off in the Klamath similar to the one in 2002, when 30,550 salmon died under circumstances similar to this year’s low water levels.“Although she met with us and promised to send someone, we are not sure she will act to stop a fish kill. Hopefully we were loud enough for her to hear us,” said Dania Colegrove, a Hoopa Tribal member.
Firefighting FundsDuring her tour, Jewell said federal officials are caught in a downward spiral of taking money from fire prevention and using it for fire suppression. Two bills in Congress, which the Obama administration supports, would change how firefighting is funded and prevent taking money from prevention, she said.
“It’s been a problem for decades,” Jewell said.California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott, who accompanied Jewell on part of her tour, said the lack of fire prevention work of forest thinning has made wildland fires more intense.
“We’ve got a significant fuel buildup all over the state contributing to fire intensity,” Pimlott said.The proposed legislation would fund wildfires similar to how other emergency disasters are paid for, and agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management would not have to use money set aside for fire prevention for fighting fires, Jewell said.
“We need a better way to fund escalating wildfire suppression costs,” Jewell said.“The president’s budget proposal — and similar bipartisan legislation before Congress — gives the flexibility to accommodate peak fire seasons, without adding to the deficit or cutting important interior and Forest Service missions such as forest and rangeland restoration, fuels management and proactive community protection.”
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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell talks with Danielle Vigil-Masten, chairwoman for the Hoopa Valley Tribe. Vigil-Masten and others were there to encourage the Bureau of Land
Management to send more water down the Trinity River to benefit fish.
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