Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Groundwater Planning comes to the Klamath River Basin: Are You Ready?

Groundwater planning is getting underway in the Scott Valley, Shasta Valley, Butte Valley and Tule Lake Basin. The groundwater management plans developed for these groundwater basins may well determine the future of the Klamath River and whether Klamath Salmon, and in particular Klamath River Coho Salmon, will survive. Because this planning is critical, all those who care about the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon should participate in developing at least one of the four groundwater management plans.

The Scott River's dewatered bed near Fort Jones with irrigation via groundwater extraction
in view. If done properly, groundwater management plans should end stream dewatering. 

The plans are being developed pursuant to California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). As is its right under SGMA, Siskiyou County Government has taken the lead in developing the plans and the agencies that will do the planning. Other potential players (including tribes which manage water) have apparently not chosen to seek seats on the planning bodies, known as Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs).

Because of the work of clean water, streamflow and river advocates, including the work of Klamath Riverkeeper, SGMA includes provisions which, if properly implemented through locally-developed groundwater management plans, will protect streamflows and fisheries from the "undesirable results" of groundwater extraction. But Siskiyou County can not be counted on to protect these Public and Tribal Trust Resources. Therefore it will be up to citizens to assure that the provisions of SGMA are properly implemented in and through the groundwater management plans for Scott Valley, Shasta Valley, Butte Valley and Tule Lake Basin. Especially if the tribes do not get seats at the planning table, citizens must be involved if Public and Tribal Trust Resources are going to be protected and sustained. 

While organizing and coordination by Klamath Riverkeeper and others is expected, KlamBlog urges all those who care about the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon to prepare to participate in at least one of these planning efforts. A good way to begin is to attend the webinar titled:

Beginner's Guide to Groundwater Planning

Sponsored by the Clean Water Fund and conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the webinar is being offered first on Thursday May 18th from noon until one PM. Register at this link:
SGMA contains strong provisions assuring the public's right to participate. To recieve notices about the Siskiyou County led SGMA plans you want to track as they are developed, send an email message to Siskiyou County's Resource Specialist Elizabeth Nielsen <>. Tell Elizabeth which groundwater plans you would like to be informed about and ask her to notify you of all opportunities for public input. You do not need to be a Siskiyou County resident to participate in these planning efforts. 
The recent history of the Klamath River demonstrates once again that, while tribal governments and salmon fishermen will do some of the work, independent river citizens must be vigilant and involved if we are going to be sure our River and Klamath Salmon survive and recover. All governments need citizen oversight to keep them on the right road and none more than Siskiyou County Government. Please decide now that you are going to participate in at least one of these groundwater planning efforts. And to prepare please register for and attend the webinar.
The dewatered mouth of Shakleford Creek. If done properly, groundwater 
management plans should make it possible for salmon to access 
spawning grounds in creeks like this each and every year. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Klamath's Salmon Disaster: Why it happened, who's responsible and what's needed now

In his recent Indy Media report, Record Low Klamath Salmon Run Spurs Tribal,Commercial and Sport Fishery Closures, reporter Dan Bacher claims that projected low salmon returns to the Klamath River are "due to a combination of several years of drought, water diversions in the Klamath Basin and to the Sacramento River and the continued presence of the PacifiCorp dams." Dan's claims repeat talking points and press releases from tribal and fishing leaders who seek to advance their own agendas, including Klamath Dam removal and federal disaster relief payments. But those claims are not the reason there will be record low returns of salmon to the Klamath River and severely curtailed salmon fishing this year.

To find the real reasons for the Klamath's current salmon disaster we should look not to the statements of tribal political leaders but to the findings of fish scientists. Those findings are clear: projected low returns of adult salmon to the Klamath River this year are a direct result of a 2013 Biological Opinion on federal water management in the Upper Klamath River Basin. That opinion allowed the US Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the 220,000 acre Klamath Irrigation Project, to cut Klamath River flows in winter and spring in order to maximize the amount of water available for diversion and delivery to irrigators the following summer.

Scientists confirm that low winter and spring river flows are the main reason why, since 2013, between 48 and 90% of the young salmon born in the Klamath River Basin have died before they could reach the Pacific Ocean. The low flows are a direct result of the 2013 Biological Opinion, not dams, drought or Trinity River diversions.

Most salmon born in the Klamath River die before they can reach the Pacific Ocean because
unnaturally low winter and spring river flows cause salmon diseases to become epidemic. 

Why are tribal and commercial fishing leaders not talking about the real reason for low ocean salmon abundance and expected disastrous Klamath salmon returns? I suspect the main reason is the failure of those very leaders to challenge the 2013 Biological Opinion which resulted in up to 90% of young salmon dying before they could reach the ocean.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Felice Pace: It's another court victory for Klamath Salmon but disease flushing flows are not assured

The Hoopa Valley Tribe, with a strong assist from a coalition led by the Yurok Tribe, won an important victory for Coho salmon and the Klamath River recently. If faithfully and properly implemented, the order issued by federal Judge William H. Orrick will provide larger river flows during winter, springtime and, if needed, early summer. Those flows won't heal the Klamath River's ills; but they will mitigate them and help Klamath Salmon survive.

Unfortunately, initial actions taken by the US Bureau of Reclamation, which controls flows from the Upper Klamath River Basin, raises concerns that Reclamation's irrigation bias may already be impacting how much help the River will actually get. The judge's order, why the flushing flows are needed, the roll of tribal fish biologists, ESA corruption and concerns about Reclamation's good faith implementation are explored and explained below.