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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Klamath lake system and water quality.

 by Werner F. Hoyt, P.E., Lake Shastina, California, October 8, 2018

For any nutrient inflow analysis and comparison an estimated baseline of avian biological loading of migratory waterfowl transiting the lake area in the spring and the fall to establish the probable baseline of nitrogen and biological fertilizer coming from the migratory populations.   Migratory populations of ducks, geese, swans were likely on the order of 100+times todays avian populations.  I highly suspect that this number is much higher than anyone realizes.  Once a comparative analysis is accomplished then an actual plan can be developed.  The current assumption is that agriculture is responsible for the the water quality in the upper and lower Klamath lakes.   The discussions are about cleaning up/removing nutrients from the water.  Best find out what the pre agricultural nutrient loading was before any decisions are made.

While we are at it what was the historical un regulated level in the lakes before the regulating gates were installed in the last century.

There is the possibility that the lakes may not be nutrient rich enough and the water too deep for the optimized environment for the short nosed sucker.

Although we will never have the water quality analytical from the mid 1800ís we need to review carefully the initial survey and study records to approximate a baseline condition.

I have to fall back on the quote from the early explorers who paused at the junction of the Klamath and Shasta Rivers.  The water is fit for neither man nor beast, horses refused to drink from the River.

This statement is very telling and alludes to the conditions upstream on the Klamath watershed.

1.       Runoffs were very low

2.       Suspect little to no water passing out of the Klamath lakes as no water was held back by retaining wiers regulating the lake levels.

3.       Water temperatures would have been much warmer in the lakes.

4.       The Klamath river water temperatures were significantly higher, the water levels very low an sluggish

5.       High levels of algae in the water

6.       The river reeked.


Questions to be asking -       are there any records of the likely population levels of the fish of concern during these years?,

-          how do those levels compare to todays populations?

-          What were likely nutrient levels then?

-          What are nutrient levels now?

 Are these conditions that we want to go back to in the basin?  I am certain the upper and lower lake water quality with water levels at minimum natural level and essential no our flow with the avian populations passing through had very high levels of nutrients in the water particularly in the fall migratory runs before the fall rains & winter storms set in to replenish the lake levels. 

Werner Hoyt,

Lake Shastina



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