Wednesday, August 7, 2013

River Rising

Posted By on Wed, Aug 7, 2013 at 3:08 PM

click to enlarge Approximate flows under the plan. - BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Approximate flows under the plan.
The Trinity and Klamath rivers are going to get colder, higher and faster next week when the Bureau of Reclamation increases water flows from the Trinity Reservoir. The release is expected to help another strong run of returning chinook salmon in the Klamath, hopefully preventing the spread of disease that contributed to a fish kill in 2002.

Following the model of a similar release last year, the bureau will open the spouts incrementally starting Aug. 13 so that the Lower Klamath — at Requa — will see the bureau’s goal of 2800 cubic feet of water per second by Aug. 15. The increased flows are planned to continue through at least Sept. 21.

The bureau’s plan has taken some heat from both Central Valley irrigators — who filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue on July 11 — and the Hoopa Valley Tribe, who issued a press release today saying the release was “too little, too late.”

Pete Lucero, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation, said so far no lawsuit has been filed by the irrigators. As for the Hoopa Tribe’s concerns:

“The only thing I can say is we took a similar action last year that did what it had to do relative to the species of concern,” Lucero said. “It remains to be seen whether this year’s action will protect the species. Our information indicates that it will.”

The bureau recommends that anyone recreating on the rivers use caution and wear a life vest.

Read an environmental assessment of the plan here. Press releases below.

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

REDDING, Calif. The Bureau of Reclamation will release additional water from Trinity Reservoir to supplement flows in the Lower Klamath River in 2013 to help protect an expected large returning run of adult Chinook salmon from a disease outbreak and mortality. The target date for augmented flows in the Lower Klamath River is August 15. Because of the two day travel time between Lewiston Dam and the Lower Klamath, the releases from Lewiston Dam will begin in the early morning hours of August 13 and end in the last week of September.

Flows in the Lower Klamath River will be targeted at 2,800 cubic feet per second during this period and Lewiston Dam releases will be adjusted accordingly. Current river flow forecasts indicate that Lewiston Dam releases will increase from the current rate of 450 cubic feet per second on August 13 and will vary between about 1,000 and 1,200 cubic feet per second, prior to dropping to 450 cubic feet per second in late September. Between August 26 and August 27, a pulse flow release from Lewiston Dam could be as high as 2,600 cubic feet per second.

The rate of increasing releases could be as high as 250 cubic feet per second every two hours, and the rate of flow reductions could be as high as 100 cubic feet per second every four hours. The public is urged to take all necessary precautions on or near the river while flows are high.

An Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact were prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and are available online at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_projdetails.cfm?Project_ID=14366. If you encounter problems accessing the documents online, please call 916-978-5100 or email mppublicaffairs@usbr.gov.

From the Hoopa Valley Tribe:

Hoopa, California- The Hoopa Valley Tribe is warning that a Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) plan to supplement Klamath River flows to avoid a fish kill may not be sufficient. “We need more water and we need it sooner,” said Hoopa Fisheries Director Michael Orcutt.

The Klamath River is expecting a large fall run of salmon, yet the river is extremely low and warm. These conditions are similar to those in 2002 when an epidemic killed over 60,000 adult salmon in the Klamath River.

“At every level the Bureau of Reclamation officials have acknowledged that crisis in Klamath basin fisheries has become the new normal” stated Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten in a letter to the Department of Interior. “The urgency with which we request your intervention cannot be overstated. The crisis affecting our fishery implicates irrigation and hydropower generation in southern Oregon and the complex and controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan process in California. “

Vigil-Masten also asked the Secretary for a long-promised permanent plan for operation of both the Central Valley Project and Klamath Irrigation project because both affect Klamath flows.

Last summer the Bureau made flow releases from Trinity River dams and no fish kill occurred. This year a drought throughout California and Oregon, poor water storage due to a decision in 2012 to overdraft Upper Klamath Lake, and the Bureau’s decision not to use Klamath Irrigation Project water for the fishery have created dangerous conditions for a second successive year.

The Law of the Trinity River requires the Secretary of the Interior to give first priority to Klamath basin fish and second priority to water and power users in the rest of California. Since May, however, water and power contractors have twice threatened suit to cut off water for the fishery.

Strengthening the Secretary’s hand against the Central Valley water and power contractors is Humboldt County’s contract priority to a permanent annual allocation of 50,000 acre feet of Trinity Division water. Humboldt County and downstream users have a vested property right to use that allocation for the fishery.

California’s congressional delegation is weighing in as well. Congressmen Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson, and George Miller recently joined the call for the supplemental water releases, and for Humboldt County’s water rights to be honored. In a letter to the Secretary of Interior they wrote, “As you can imagine, a massive fish kill would be devastating for the salmon, and for the businesses that the recreational and commercial fishery support. It would also be disastrous for the tribes who call the region home. Finally, it could severely undermine the prospects of long-term solutions in the Klamath Basin.” The representatives added that “[t]his lack of clarity takes on greater urgency when you consider the planning process for the bay Delta Conservation Plan.” Those three have stepped up to counter calls by members from Central Valley congressional districts to divert water to their constituents.

At the grass roots, more than 6,000 people in the last two weeks have urged the Bureau of reclamation to release water to avoid a fish kill.

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Grant Scott-Goforth

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Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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