The Shasta and Scott are spawning grounds for most of the Fall Chinook produced in the Upper Klamath River watershed; the Scott has the most Coho. If spawners do not reach their natal streams, Klamath River salmon production will be low and the impact on tribal, commercial and sport fishing – and related economic activity – will be great.
Here is flow data for the Shasta from the US Geological Service ~
- Early on October 11th Shasta River flow declined to nearly 6 cubic feel per second. The flow then became too low to measure for several hours. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?site_no=11517500
- The minimum daily flow recorded during the 2008 water year was 14 cfs.
- The lowest minimum mean flow during August for the period of record (1934-2008) was 8.35 in 1939.
THE SHASTA RIVER CURRENTLY IS EXPERIENCING THE LOWEST RECORDED FLOW DURING AUGUST SINCE FLOW RECORDING BEGAN IN 1934!
Precipitation at Yreka in the Shasta River Valley during 2008 was 77% of long-term mean annual precipitation. This is a dry year but not a drought.
The flow situation in the Scott is just as bad or worse ~
- On August 14th flow at the Scott River gauge operated by the USGS was less than 2 cubic feet per second (cfs).
- The lowest mean flow for the period of record during August was 5.52 cfs in 2002. The lowest daily mean flow in August was 3.4 cfs also in 2001.
From this information KlamBlog concludes ~
THE SCOTT RIVER CURRENTLY IS EXPERIENCING THE LOWEST RECORDED FLOW DURING AUGUST SINCE FLOW RECORDING BEGAN!
Here’s a photo of what the Scott River looked like on August 8th ~
This is not the way it is supposed to be. In 1980 the Scott River Adjudication awarded a water right to the US Forest Service for flows to support salmon, other fisheries and recreation. It varies by season; during August the right is 40 cubic feet per second measured at the USGS flow gauge.
USGS gauge records document that the Forest Service water right is not being met during the late summer and fall in most years. Ken Maurer – a member of the Scott River CRMP – used USGS data a decade ago to demonstrate that Scott River flows have been falling decade by decade since World War 2.
A recent peer reviewed study funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that half the reduction in Scott River flows since WW II can not be explained by variation in precipitation and snow pack. A doubling of irrigation water use was identified as the most likely causes for the lower flows. Here’s a quote from the study’s abstract:
Base-flow decline in the Scott River was larger than that in all other streams and larger than predicted by elevation and latitude. Irrigation withdrawal in the Scott watershed has doubled since the 1950s, and the amount of ground water withdrawn has increased from 1 to 50 Mm3/yr. Water use changes have been minimal in the other (5) watersheds. We estimate that half of the observed 10 Mm3 (8000 acre- feet) decline in July 1-22 October discharge in the Scott River is due to changes in irrigation use. Returning to pre-1970 irrigation patterns in the Scott Valley could potentially increase streamflow by an average of 0.5 m3/s (17 cfs) over the July 1-October 22 period.
In recent dry years Fall Chinook salmon have not been able to reach spawning grounds in the Scott watershed due to low flow barriers to migration far down in the Scott River Canyon (Thompkins-Kelsey Reach). Unless there is major precipitation soon, this will occur again this year. Coho migration has also been delayed by low flows in some years and could occur this year.
Meanwhile the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) joined other agencies responsible for Klamath Salmon in announcing a new program to restore Klamath Coho. Along with PacifiCorp the agencies will spend $500,000 per year to “restore” Coho. Two of the four projects announced in July are located in the Scott; the other two are in Seiad Creek – another dewatered stream. The Scott projects will screen an irrigation ditch and fund other “diversion improvements”. There are no projects to improve flows in either the Scott or the Shasta Rivers. Apparently CDFG and the others want to protect farmers and ranchers – not fish or flows.
The flow situation in the Scott and Shasta and the likely impacts to Klamath Salmon should be big news in the region. But KlamBlog is breaking the story. We were already planning to write about the Scott after a recent visit there. These conditions are, after all, out there to be seen.
We learned about the situation on the Shasta via an anonymous whistleblower. Apparently the agencies responsible for Klamath Salmon are not concerned enough to approach the media. Or is this yet another instance of the approach to Klamath River Basin issues promoted in recent years by the self-styled Klamath Settlement Group (KSG). The KSG has demonstrated it’s preference for keeping issues and information away from the public and for making decisions that should be public behind closed doors. CDFG is a major KSG player.
KlamBlog has a few questions about this situation:
• WHY IS THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME – THE AGENCY RESPONSIBLE FOR CARING FOR OUR SALMON AND OTHER FISHERIES - NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THE UNPRECEDENTED LOW FLOWS WE ARE CURRENTLY SEEING IN THE SHASTA AND SCOTT?
• HOW LONG WILL FALL CHINOOK SURVIVE UNDER THESE CONDITIONS?
• WHY DOESN’T THE FOREST SERVICE DEMAND ITS SCOTT RIVER IN-STREAM WATER RIGHT?
• WHY DON’T THOSE GROUPS WHICH SUE THE FOREST SERVICE ALL THE TIME OVER LOGGING ALSO SUE THEM FOR NOT TAKING CARE OF THE SALMON?
• WHY ARE THE SELF-STYLED “CHAMPIONS” OF KLAMATH SALMON – THE MEMBERS OF THE KLAMATH SETTLEMENT GROUP - NOT TAKING ACTION TO STOP THE DEWATERING OF THE SCOTT AND SHASTA? ARE THEY TOO BUSY NEGOTIATING WITH PACIFICORP? OR IS IT THAT THEY ARE SO IN BED WITH AG INTERESTS AND THE AGENCIES THAT THEY WILL NOT CHALLENGE ANYTHING WHICH AG DOES NO MATTER HOW BAD FOR SALMON?
The flow situation in the Shasta and Scott – and especially the failure of state and federal agencies, tribes, fishermen and environmental organizations to do anything about it - or even to take notice publicly – is bound to spur on those who are preparing a petition to list Upper Klamath-Trinity Chinook Salmon under provision of the federal Endangered Species Act. But frankly, more than that is needed. Recent years have seen direct action on Klamath issues come down from the trees and extend to Iowa and even Scotland. The Shasta and Scott are not that far upstream. Do any direct action Klamath folk know the way?