Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Date:  September 17, 2009

To:  Mr. Fimrite, Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle

From:  Carolyn Pimentel, Interim Scott River Watershed Council Coordinator
P. O. Box 268
Etna, CA  96027
(530) 467-3975

RE:  Sunday, September 13, 2009 “DROUGHT Parched river endanger fabled Klamath salmon run”

Attachments:  photo and graph

Message:  The Scott River Watershed Council would like corrections made to the inaccuracies stated about the Scott River in the above referenced article.  We would appreciate a follow-up article given the same front page attention as the original article with the attached photo and graph, and the following corrections and pertinent additional information:
  • 2009 is a "Critically Dry" water year (40-50% of normal precipitation, similar to 2001), following 2 previous "Dry" water years in '07 and '08. The very low snowpack helped reduce streamflows earlier than in a normal or wet water year. Nothing in the article describes the extremely low precipitation experienced by this region. 
  • An ad hoc committee to the Scott River Watershed Council is currently working on a Critically Dry and Dry Year Plan.  Classifications of “Critically Dry” and “Dry” water years are based on hydrological data.
  • Coho salmon in the Klamath Basin are listed as “threatened” under ESA and CESA, not “endangered” (as stated in article). The Scott River supported 1,622 coho salmon spawners in 2007, possibly the largest natural coho run in any river that year. Coho salmon are closer to going "extinct" in Santa Cruz County through Sonoma County (where they are listed as "endangered") than they are in Siskiyou County.
  • Coho salmon spawners do not enter the Scott River until November, with their peak usually around Thanksgiving. Much can change in increased runoff conditions by then, based on many years of experience. The present condition of these tributaries does not reflect the condition that the coho will experience in 2 months.
  • Fall Chinook salmon spawners are in the lower Klamath River in early September, and 2009 is expected to be a good run. They usually do not enter the Scott before early October and peak about early November. The run in the Scott is about 2 weeks later than the Shasta's.
  • Water releases from Irongate Dam on the Klamath and Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River are timed to invite the fish up into the lower Klamath River to celebrate Labor Day sport fishing and various Tribal ceremonies. However, in this dry year, such flow schedules invite stranding or harmful flow and temperatures before natural seasonal changes create favorable migration conditions for spawners.
  • The USGS Gage for the Scott River is at River Mile 21 which is @ 7cfs today. We know from experience that we need about 23-25 cfs at the Gage to get the spawners past some rocky flow barriers into the lower Scott Valley, where good spawning gravels are located. Spawning also occurs in the lower river within the canyon reaches.
  • The Scott River's lower 23.5 miles (from the Scott's mouth at the Klamath up to Shackleford Creek's confluence) are connected by streamflow. Chinook spawning can occur in this lower river reach below Scott Valley.
  • No adult coho, Chinook, or steelhead are "stranded" in "shallow, disconnected pools of water" since they have not migrated upstream yet and are not in these dry reaches. The flows have bottomed out and will gradually increase as days get shorter, trees and vegetation go dormant, and fall rains come.
  • Various reaches in the Scott River above Shackleford Creek are either dry between standing pools (especially the sandy reaches, where the newspaper photo was taken) or low flowing. We've had similar flow situations in the valley during at least 1989-1991, 1992, 1994, 2001, 2002, and 2007 -- all drought years.
  • The pool of water pictured on the front page of your Sunday edition article indicates that the water table is not far below the streambed surface, indicating that not much surface flow will be needed to connect the isolated pools in this reach of the middle Scott River.  Photo taken at river mile 35.
  • Attached photo taken today at river mile 44.  This photo indicates a reach that is connected upstream of that site in the Sunday article. Water use by all plants is declining now with cool temps and shorter days, so streamflow will be coming up.
  • Chinook and coho spawners were able to come up to spawn in Scott Valley after flow naturally increased due to rain each year except for 1994, when the gage was only 13 cfs on Dec. 1st (our worst case scenario with no rain for months).
  • The Chinook salmon run has fluctuated on the Scott River since records began in 1978, as can be seen on the attached graph. Recent runs have averaged about 4,600 adult salmon, with as many as 12,000 fish as recently as 2003.
  • Fishing (commercial) was curtailed on the ocean off the North Coast for a few years due to low spawner return numbers in the Klamath, but was allowed again in 2008 and 2009 due to higher returns, while ocean fishing off San Francisco was closed these past two years due to the Sacramento's low return numbers. The article did not get this difference correct.
  • Since 2007, the Scott River Water Trust has been seeking to increase fall flow conditions in the mainstem Scott River.  Leasing water from ranchers' ditches in October helped reconnect the dry reaches in 2007 and we'll try again this year. In 2008, there were no long dry reaches but several water leases again helped get the gage past 25 cfs earlier than if nothing had been tried. The Scott River Water Trust is the first active water trust in California.  See the Water Trust's website for more information: www.scottwatertrust.org
  • The Sunday article stated that our two rivers (Scott and Shasta) are a main source of cold water for the Klamath.  The Scott contributes about 5% on average to the Klamath River's average flow this time of year, and the Shasta less.  This amount of water contribution cannot significantly "cool" the Klamath's water in comparison with the Klamath River.  Also, if the flow contribution from the Scott could be increased (predominantly predicated on Mother Nature), it would not be contributing cool water this time of year. See the Scott River Temperature TMDL report by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
  • Total Irrigation acreage and water demand have not increased in the Scott Valley over the past 50 years, based on Calif. Dept. of Water Resources (DWR) data. Water demand varies year by year, however, depending upon soil moisture conditions, crop prices, and other factors.
  • By October 1st irrigation is done in Scott Valley, especially this year with a very long and cool spring the first cutting of hay was delayed, and with hay prices low, irrigation costs high, farmers are just finishing their 3rd cutting of hay.  In the Scott Valley on a good haying year some may get 4 cuttings here.  By late September, everyone has their last cutting up as haying conditions into October are not predictable or favorable for hay production.
  • After October 1st or 15th, depending on which adjudicated water right the surface diversion falls under; it's stockwater that is being diverted.  The Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD) (for the Scott Valley area) has a successful alternative stock water program to assist ranchers in changing over from surface diversions for stock water to efficient water-saving stock watering systems allowing for more water to stay in the stream. 


Home Contact


              Page Updated: Saturday September 19, 2009 02:24 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2009, All Rights Reserved