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Increased flows from lake expected for Klamath River

May 14, 2017 by Holly Dillemuth, Herald and News

Link River

More than 7000 acre feet per second of water flows from Link River Dam in this photo taken March 2017. Increased flows to flush out a parasite on the Klamath River are expected in the next few weeks.

Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office is anticipating the need to release 50,000 of the Klamath Project’s 390,000 acre feet of water for “emergency dilution flows” from Upper Klamath Lake into the Klamath River within the next couple weeks.

The reason for the release will be if concentration of “spores” from a parasite known as C shasta continues to rise in the river.

The action, if taken, could spur short-term impacts to Upper Klamath Lake elevations and long-term impacts to the Lower Klamath Refuge later in the year, according to Jason Cameron, deputy area manager of the Klamath Basin Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation.

A court order issued March 24 caps emergency dilution flows from the Upper Klamath Lake into the Klamath River at 50,000 acre feet of water.

“Those flows could begin as early as next Thursday or within the next few weeks,” said Jared Bottcher, acting water operations chief for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office.

“(Once issued) Those flows could remain in effect till June 15.”

Emergency dilution flows are required when C. shasta — a type of parasite native to the Klamath River Basin that can infect fish — is found in the amount of more than five per liter of water sampled, or more than 20 percent of out-migrating Chinook salmon found to infected with C. shasta, according to BOR officials.

“We’ve seen water samples close to that trigger,” said Bottcher.

Refuge may be affected

The BOR is trying to minimize the impact to project irrigators and Upper Klamath Lake levels by pumping water from water stored on Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, north of Agency Lake, into Upper Klamath Lake.

“If the full 50,000 is needed, we would have 340,000 available (acre feet of water) to deliver to the Klamath Project,” Cameron said.

“We believe that 340,000 acre feet will be more than adequate to meet the whole project demand from Upper Klamath Lake. The impact will most likely be to the (Lower Klamath National Wildlife) Refuge because the refuge can get a portion of the remaining project supply at the end of the year,” he said.

“If that 50,000 acre feet is used for dilution flows, then the remaining project supply would be 50,000 acre feet smaller, thereby restricting the ability to get water to the refuge.”

Cameron said water rights regulation is always an option for the Klamath Project if the district believes there will be a shortage at the end of the year.

Weekly testing

Karuk Tribe and Oregon State University researchers take samples from four different sites along the Klamath River on a weekly basis to determine the number of parasites per liter, according to Bottcher.

Bottcher said the occurrence of reaching the parasite threshold tends to happen each year between April and June.

The parasite lives within a worm in the bottom of the river that acts as an intermediate host, according to Bottcher.

“These worms are about the size of a grain of rice,” Bottcher said.

The worm releases a “spore” about the size of a droplet, Bottcher said.

“Those are actually what attach to fish and infect fish,” he said. “The parasite actually infects their intestinal tract and so if you see a fish with a distended belly, that’s a clinical sign that they have been diseased by C. shasta.”


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