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Klamath Irrigation District Board President Ty Kliewer believes there is more that the Lost River and shortnose suckers need in the long term than just “more water,” and he would like to discuss possible solutions for the endangered species’ plight with the Klamath Tribes.
Kliewer responded Thursday to a 60-day notice of the Klamath Tribes’ intent to file suit against the United States Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and National Marine Fisheries Service NMSF) for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. The notice references the Bureau’s management of the Klamath Project as well as alleged deficiencies in the USFWS and NMFS 2013 Biological Opinion related to operation of the Klamath Project.
The notice was filed Feb. 9 by Rosette, LLP, a Folsom, Calif., based firm representing the Klamath Tribes, and can be viewed with this story at heraldandnews.com.
Kliewer expressed a desire to meet with the Tribes to talk about solutions he believes could benefit agriculture producers, Tribes members, and the endangered sucker species.
“There is a major problem with the sucker population,” Kliewer said. “For 25 years, the answer has been more water, more water, more water.
“That’s not the right answer,” Kliewer added. “There are right answers and we need to find them.”
Kliewer hopes agriculture producers and the Tribes can find common ground in creating long-term solutions to benefit the sucker, known as the C’waam and Koptu to the Klamath Tribes.
Kliewer finds it “indisputable” that there’s a problem with the two sucker species, including their ability to survive their juvenile year in the summer.
“With the amount of algae in the lake (Upper Klamath), that leaves particularly very delicate juvenile species that live in that water in a state of severe oxygen deprevation,” he said. “It makes them very vulnerable to opportunistic diseases and there’s a huge predation problem from introduced species, particularly perch.
“There comes a time where you go, what you’ve done here has not worked,” Kliewer added. “And it’s time to move on to something else that hopefully will work.”
Kliewer said he hopes it’s never too late to meet and discuss solutions.
“We would love to work with the Tribes,” Kliewer said.
“You look at where people were headed when people were working together, that was way more productive and a way better use of resources than returning to litigation and making attorneys wealthy.”
Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry, back from a trip to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. last week, said he is always willing to have the General Council consider talks with irrigators and their representatives, but emphasized the Klamath Tribes is “well-versed” in the issues regarding environmental concerns with Upper Klamath Lake.
“Basically it’s the nutrients coming in to the lake from agricultural practices and ongoing cultural practices that have significantly changed the condition of the lake in the last 100 years,” Gentry said. “So we do know it’s the nutrient input in the lake that’s causing the problem, and that’s certainly something that needs to be looked at right away. There’s real comprehensive restoration and projects that need to be put in place to reduce those nutrients. We really believe it’s necessary to consider what we have control of this year – lake level management.
“There’s been no invitation directly to me so I guess if they want to provide that invitation and give us an idea of what they want to talk about, we could consider it at the council level.”
In the 60-day notice of the intent to file suit the Klamath Tribes state they “remain open to collaborating with the Bureau, USFWS, and NMFS” to ensure the continued existence of the Lost River and shortnose sucker as well as the Oregon Spotted Frog.
Gentry also emphasized a willingness to consider meeting with representatives of the agriculture community.
Immediate, long term
“The notice was focused on this immediate year, and the focus was on protecting the fish in the immediate irrigation season,” Gentry added. “Certainly we could talk about longterm-strategies year-round for the fish.”
Gentry said he was uncertain of the “next steps” following the 60-day notice, but said the document stating the Tribes’ intentions initiates further consultation.
“There’s no formal contact back from the entities involved,” Gentry said. “We’re always willing to meet. We’re just not sure what the appropriate time is.”
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Page Updated: Saturday February 17, 2018 12:13 PM Pacific
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