Friday, November 30, 2007

Disappointing Fall Chinook Spawner Run; Coho in trouble too!

Escapement is the term used to describe those salmon which are able to avoid capture by ocean commercial and sport fishers, tribal fishers and in-river sport fishers. For a fishery to be sustainable, spawner escapement must be large enough to produce the fish which will be caught three and four years from now. This year Klamath River Fall Chinook escapement appears to once again be insufficient to produce good future harvests and a sustainable fishery.

Yesterday I ran into one of the biologists who monitor the Chinook and Coho salmon runs in the Klamath River and its main salmon producing tributaries – the Scott, Shasta and Salmon Rivers. I asked him about this year’s spawning runs. Bottom line: the news is both bad and good but mostly bad.

This year the Fall Chinook run in the Klamath River was late. It was also a year when the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) - which sets Chinook harvest rates based on long-term data, predictive models and politics – allocated a larger number of salmon for harvest than we have seen in recent years. This allowed the Yurok Tribe – which has rights to about 40% of the allowable harvest – to schedule the first commercial fishing season in nearly a decade. Cal Fish & Game provided a generous allocation to in-river sport fishers. Ocean sport and commercial fishers also enjoyed solid allocations.

Relatively generous harvest allocations made for lots of happy faces at the mouth of the Klamath this fall. It was great to see Yurok and sport fishers working together at the River’s mouth to make sure everyone had an opportunity. Among the Yurok fishers were several teenagers who fished commercially to finance their college educations. Below are two photos from the height of the harvest at the Mouth. The first shows a sport fishing couple who had caught their daily quota; the second shows tribal fishers at work:

As the Chinook moved up river, however, it became clear that this years spawning run will likely not meet the 35,000 “escapement floor” established by the PFMC. This is not new! With seats for commercial fishermen, tribal interests and state wildlife agencies that favor high sport allocations, the PFMC has often overallocated West Coast Chinook salmon; as a result, the Klamath spawner “floor” is regularly not met. Even when achieved, 35,000 spawners will not produce the maximum number of harvestable salmon. To maximize the Klamath Fall Chinook run the PFMC would have to manage for 41,000 Wild Fall Chinook to escape capture and spawn. (A more complete explanation of Klamath Harvest Allocation by legendary tribal fisheries biologist Ronnie Pierce is available from the Yreka Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service: 1829 South Oregon Street, Yreka, California 96097, Phone (530) 842-5763, Fax (530) 842-4517

In one way the lateness of the Fall Chinook run was a blessing. Flows in the Scott and Shasta Rivers this fall have been so low that a normally timed Chinook run would have resulted in spawners not being able to access most of the habitat in these rivers which produce the bulk of the Klamath’s Fall Chinook run. In the Scott a solid rainstorm resulted in the Chinook being able to pass low flow barriers in the Scott Canyon. It is still unclear, however, how many of these Scott River Fall Chinook spawners were able to make it into major spawning creeks. Spawning survey reports should be available by January and will provide a more complete picture. Scott flows as measured at the USGS flow gage have decreased steadily sine the 1970s when groundwater pumping for irrigation began to increase dramatically.

The situation in the Shasta River appears to be even worse. As a result of flaws in the 1928 Shasta River Water Rights Adjudication, landowners along the Shasta River can and do pump as much water as they desire directly from the river. This year the combination of drought and unlimited pumping has resulted in anemic river flows; Fall Chinook were not able to access most prime spawning grounds.

Coho spawners also appear to be in trouble again this year. Unless the latest storms translates into increased stream flow, it appears that Scott River Coho will only be able to access one of the prime spawning creeks in the Scott Valley. Because of its low gradient, side channels, numerous tributaries and wetlands, the Scott River Valley is believed to have once been the stronghold of Coho in the Klamath River Basin. But the wetlands were drained long ago and have not been restored. Now the Scott River produces one significant run of Coho (1,000 or so spawners) about every three years. This is the year that the one-in-three "good" run (called a "cohort" by fish biologists) was expected. If this cohort fails to spawn adequately, Coho could become even more scarce than they are now in the Klamath River Basin.

The State of California is responsible for protecting Scott and Shasta River salmon spawning runs and the Fish & Game Code provides the tools to do the job. Unfortunately, although Governor Schwarzenegger has jumped on the dam removal bandwagon, so far he has not directed those who work for him to help salmon in the Shasta and Scott Rivers. (for more on Cal Fish & Game's failure to protect salmon in the the Shasta and Scott see:

Those who want to encourage Governor Schwarzenegger to step up on the Shasta and Scott can contact the governor’s chief adviser on Klamath River issues: Drew Bohan, Deputy Director of the California Resources Agency. Mr. bowen can be reached at 916- 651-8738 or by e-mail:


The photo below is of the Scott River at Serpa Lane near Fort Jones. It was taken this July. In addition to low flow, you can see the tracks of cattle in the bed of the stream. Scott River farmers have received funding to exclude livestock from the Scott River. However, it is still very common there to see livestock or their tracks in the bed of the river as well as in tributary streams. The riparian vegetation visible in this picture is the result of a government funded bank stabilization project.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Comment Period Extended - Northcoast-Klamath Draft Action Plan to Control Excessive Sediment

As noted in the November 23rd post on this topic (see below), excessive sediment is a huge problem in almost every Klamath and Northcoast watershed. That's why it is essential that the North Coast Water Quality Board adopt an Action Plan to address excessive sediment that will be effective where past standards and actions have not.

The main culprits in our pervasive sediment problem are related to logging - including the many thousand miles of logging road that receive little to no annual maintenance. Roads which are not maintained are not only chronic sediment sources they also fail sooner or later often resulting in catastrophic sediment torrents that scour streams and fill deep pools with sediment.

By removing the rooted vegetation which holds steep, unstable slopes in place, clearcuts also lead to chronic and catastrophic sediment delivery to streams. And studies by Forest Service researchers have consistently found that the combination of roads and clearcuts increases landsliding rates 50 to 100 times above natural background rates.

The Board has extended the time period for comment until December 14.

The Regional Water Board will now consider Resolution No. R1-2007-0095 at its January 17, 2008, meeting in Santa Rosa. The Resolution directs staff to execute the sediment control tasks described in the Work Plan. Also during the January Board Meeting, staff will present a summary of written comments received and the public will have another opportunity to give oral comments.

The Work Plan to Control Excess Sediment in Sediment-Impaired Watersheds (the Work Plan) is available for public review at .

Those who comment should insist that the Waterboard:
1. Require that timber companies, the Forest Service and other large landowners conduct annual and post-major-storm road inspections and fix the road drainage and road failure problems these inspections uncover.
2. Prohibit clearcutting on those landforms - including steep slopes, inner gorges and earthflows - which experience and research indicate are likely to produce landslides during major storms if they are clearcut. Lands with the potential to generate large landslides which deliver sediment to streams should be protected in the same ways that we protect streamside riparian areas.

If you have questions or comments on the Work Plan, contact Rebecca Fitzgerald of the Waterboard's staff: 707-576-2650 or

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Scott River Groundwater Study Plan Politics

Next to the PacifiCorp’s dams, the greatest impediment to restoring salmon, steelhead and a healthy Klamath River Basin may be the progressive dewatering of the Scott River. Unregulated groundwater pumping in the Scott Valley bottoms is likely directly connected to the steady decrease in Scott River flows (check here for a peer review study on this topic due out soon). Groundwater pumping in Scott Valley has increased dramatically with 99 irrigation pumps in 1976 and 228 in 2006. Irrigation pumps generally pump between 100 and 1,000 gallons per minute. Groundwater pumping now accounts for more than half of irrigation in the Scott River Basin.

The North Coast Water Board suspects that groundwater pumping is an important factor in low flows which are directly related to river water temperatures that are out of compliance with established water quality standards and which, in the Scott River, are much too warm to support salmon and other cold water fishes.

For this reason, the Water Board has provided funding to Siskiyou County – which has first jurisdiction over groundwater pumping – to complete a groundwater study designed to determine the impact of the pumping on river water temperature. But the draft study plan which has been prepared in response will unnecessarily delay finding the answer and is loaded with many other study objectives that are not necessary to determine the impact of pumping on river water temperature.

Klamath River restoration advocates are urging a more focused study that will provide an answer soon – before Chinook salmon are extirpated from most of the watershed as a result of dewatering and high water temperatures.

The Scott River Watershed Council – which along with Siskiyou County has resisted dealing with groundwater pumping impacts – has scheduled a meeting to get input on the groundwater study plan. Here are the details:

Scott River Watershed Council Meeting

November 27, 2007 @ 7:00 p.m.

Fort Jones Community Center

Topic: Scott Valley Groundwater Study Plan

Public Comment Encouraged

The Scott River Groundwater Study Plan is available as a 2 Mb .pdf document at the following address:

KlamBlog encourages those who desire a healthy Scott and Klamath River to attend the meeting and to contact the Northcoast Water Board which is funding the study. Please make the following points:

· The salmon can’t wait for a long-term groundwater study and such a study is not needed to provide the information which the Northcoast Waterboard needs to determine the impact of groundwater pumping on Scott River water temperature.

· The study must be narrowly focused on the information the Waterboard – which is providing 100% of the funding for the study – needs. If Siskiyou County wants additional information, they should seek it in a separate study and not delay addressing the problems that must be addressed to restore salmon and the Scott River.

· If Siskiyou County refuses to focus the study and shorten it to a reasonable amount of time, the Northcoast Waterboard should take back the funding and do the study themselves.

Send comments on the Scott River groundwater Study Plan to:

Please copy your comments to: and stay tuned - in the months ahead KlamBlog will review restoration efforts in the Scott River Watershed and attempt to answer the question: Should California Department of Fish & Game give Scott Valley ranchers and farmers a permit to "Take" Coho salmon?

Friday, November 23, 2007

While we wait!

Many Klamath watchers are anxiously awaiting the Klamath "Settlement" Proposal which has been in confidential development for well over a year and which is said to be nearing completion. KlamBlog has commented previously on some of the sticky issues, including the potentially prohibitive cost to taxpayers (see the November 6th post).

This package of proposals is definitely not going to solve all of the Basin’s biggest problems. For example, the water management problems resulting in the progressive dewatering of the Scott River are not “on the table”. And we must retain skepticism about proposals put together under the watchful eye of a Bush Administration Interior Department that has rarely if ever taken sufficient care of the environment. It is also disconcerting that the Klamath Water Users Association and the Karuk Tribe have heavily promoted the Settlement Proposal before key provisions were negotiated.

Whatever is in the final package, however, it will have been the product of many long hours of work by many dedicated people; therefore it will be deserving of close study and careful consideration. But the proposals should not be considered either a unified whole or a done deal that can not be altered. Rather we should consider them just what they are – a set of proposals negotiated by a sub-set of Klamath Basin interests which deserve study and consideration but not blind allegiance.

It is likely that, as these proposals work their way through community meetings and consideration by the state legislatures and Congress, alternatives will be explored and positive improvements in some of the proposals will be made. Above all we are going to have to be careful that proposals do not advantage one group, tribe, industry, interest or geographical area above others and that eager politicians do not run ahead with legislation before the proposals can be thoroughly vetted in our communities and within our organizations. That is what is needed as the circle of consideration expands to include all the Basin’s communities and interests.

What we will not need is more media promotion of what will definitely be a complex and costly set of proposals. Another spin campaign would not help move these proposals forward; on the contrary, spin and hype will likely create unnecessary confusion about the proposals and heightened conflict among Klamath River Basin interests.

When the proposals are finally publicly released, KlamBlog hopes to serve as a forum where a serious conversation about the merits and demerits of the proposals can take place. At that point we will invite submissions from all Klamath River Basin communities and interests.

Water Board considers action plan for sediment impaired watersheds

The Northcoast Water Quality Board has developed a Draft Action Plan to control sediment in watersheds listed by the State Board as impaired by excessive sediment. This will mostly apply to those watersheds which are listed as "impaired" by excessive sediment but do not have a specific TMDL "action plan" to control that sediment.

In the Klamath River Basin the Scott is listed as sediment-impaired but it has a specific action plan. Newly listed as sediment-impaired is the Lower Klamath (below Weitchpec). The majority of the land base in this part of the Klamath is controlled by Green Diamond Resources (aka Simpson) which – like other big timber corporations - still practices clearcutting on steep, unstable slopes. However, since some of the excessive sediment in this part of the Klamath originates upstream, the Action Plan may have implications for forest, road and watershed management upstream on the Trinity and Klamath, including on national forest and industrial forest lands.

On December 6, 2007, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board will consider Resolution No. R1-2007-0095, directing staff to execute the sediment control tasks described in the Work Plan. The agenda for the December 6th Board Meeting in Eureka is available at .

The Work Plan itself is available at .

Questions or comments on the Work Plan should be directed to Rebecca Fitzgerald at 707-576-2650 or

KlamBlog has not yet reviewed the Work Plan. However, Alan Levine of Coast Action Group is concerned about the ability of the Board to implement the Action Plan given work load and staff resources. Also, in previous sediment plans produced by the Northcoast Board key issues including logging road maintenance and clearcutting on steep, unstable slopes have been all but ignored.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Debunking One (or two) Klamath Myth

There is a common misunderstanding about the Klamath River Dams that is repeated regularly in press accounts. The dams - and there owner PacifiCorp - do not divert any Klamath River water other than for the powerhouses - a non-consumptive use; the 4 dams many of us want decommissioned have no role in agriculture, their only public benefit is power generation.

Agriculture consumes over 80% of Klamath River base flows (base flow = dry season flow). Here's how it breaks out:
  • Klamath Project irrigators: subsidized water supplied by the US Bureau of Reclamation. This is approximately 40% of total Klamath River Basin irrigation.
  • Other/non-federal Upper Basin irrigators (above the dams; most in Oregon). This is about 35% of total ag water use.
  • Shasta and Scott River irrigators: These represent about 35% of ag consumptive water use. It does not include extensive groundwater pumping for irrigation which is widely believed to have an impact on surface flows.
The confidential negotiations that are going on involve the first two uses only; the Klamath Project Irrigators have publicly declared what they want from these negotiations:
1. A guaranteed allocation of water which they would have first priority to use as they see fit, i.e. for irrigation, to sell back to the feds to meet in stream flows, to sell to someone else.
2. A power subsidy: they had one under a contract with PacifiCorp that ran out; they lost claims before the Oregon and California PUCs that asked for a continuation of the subsidy. A phase out of the subsidy is in process.
3. Protection from any new Endangered Species Act-related regulation. Another common Klamath myth is that it was tribal rights and tribal legal action that reallocated Klamath River Water for in-stream flows. In reality, it was the ESA and a fisherman-environmental group lawsuit to force ESA compliance that reallocated Klamath water from irrigators to in-stream use.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Letter to EcoNews and NEC members

In his “At the Center” commentary in the November edition of EcoNews Northcoast Environmental Center Executive Director Greg King makes it clear that decision time is near in Klamath Settlement Negotiations. King and NEC’s Klamath Coordinator Erica Terrence deserve praise for raising the funds for a peer review of the water supply and flow models that the negotiators are using to formulate recommendations on a water deal involving mainly those irrigators who get subsidized irrigation water from the Federal Klamath Project.

These NEC leaders have also promised to meet with NEC members before deciding whether or not to endorse the final Settlement Proposal they and 26 other agencies, tribes and private interests have negotiated. Bravo again!

In his commentary Greg King asks: “Can the two goals coexist?” He is referring to the demand by Klamath Project Irrigators for a guaranteed allocation of Klamath River water and whether that is compatible with healthy Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges and sufficient water for fish.

It is clear that in past drought years these “goals” have not been compatible. Before the fishermen/enviro Klamath Coalition won injunctions reallocated Klamath River water, federal irrigators regularly dewatered the Refuges (which host 80% of Pacific Flyway birds) and cut flows in the River in order to give the federal irrigation elite all the water they desired.

But the question about whether the water models being used to develop the Negotiators’ water division proposals are “realistic” – especially in light of global warming impacts – is only one critical question. NEC members should also wrestle with other important questions as we consider whether to endorse the Settlement Proposals. Those other questions include:

¨ Should we support a Settlement Proposal that relies on leasing water from irrigators during drought years? Paying irrigators for water which by Public and Tribal Trust ought to be left in the River would be a significant precedent. Does it make sense to do this and is it sustainable?

¨ Should we support a Settlement Proposal that depends on pumping unregulated groundwater that the US Geological Service has stated clearly in a report is “not sustainable” and which is dewatering municipal and domestic wells?

¨ Should we support a Settlement Proposal that restores the Klamath Project Irrigators (who represent 40% of ag water use in the Basin) to the position of a privileged elite who enjoy water supply guarantees and a power subsidy at the expense of other Basin interests including the 60% of farmers and ranchers who do not enjoy guarantees and subsidies?

¨ Should we support a Settlement Proposal that is silent on the Shasta and Scott Rivers where the State of California – a party to Settlement Negotiations – is complicit in “take’ of Coho salmon and is allowing the progressive dewatering of these rivers which – according to the National Research Council – are key to the survival and restoration of Coho salmon in the Klamath River Basin?

And there is the most important question of all: Is such a deal necessary in order to get the dams removed?

The gag order that the Negotiators imposed on themselves was probably necessary but it has also stifled debate about what is really in the Settlement Proposal being negotiated. The veil will soon be lifted. NEC members and the People of the Klamath River Basin need at least two months of open education and study to explore what are guaranteed to be complex proposals.

Taking out the dams is an important goal but it is not sufficient to restore the Klamath River. NEC staff and members should remain vigilant to assure that in our push to remove the dams we do not agree to deals that create unintended consequences not in the interest of the Klamath River, Klamath Refuges and the People of the Klamath River Basin.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mercury Contamination in Dwinnell and other reservoirs

Here's a letter I sent off today. You can find a copy of the study at

From the desk of Felice Pace
28 Maple Road Klamath, Ca 95548 707-482-0354

November 5, 2007

Bob Klamt and Members
North Coast Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd.,Suite A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403 via e-mail:

SUBJECT: 1. Mercury pollution in Dwinnell Reservoir/Shasta River – request for investigation of source and extent.

2. Request for information: polluted sediments in Beaughton Creek

Dear Mr. Klamt:

1. Mercury pollution in Dwinnell Reservoir/Shasta River – request for investigation.

I recently received a copy of the report Mercury Contamination in Fish from Northern California.

Lakes and Reservoirs, California DWR, July 2007 from a member of your staff. The report makes it clear that larger sized fish from Dwinnell Reservoir (aka lake Shastina) have levels of mercury that are far beyond the EPA and State of California levels for health advisories. However, the report also makes it clear that more extensive testing is needed before the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) will issue an advisory:

The number of samples from individual lakes or reservoirs is not sufficient for OEHHA to issue consumption advisories, but this study does provide information to focus future efforts to determine the need for advisories.”

The study also makes it clear that the source of mercury contamination in Dwinnell is unclear. There are no mercury or gold mines upstream of the reservoir and the volcanic soil is not a likely source. The DWR study does suggest that – in watersheds where gold and/or mercury mining did not take place other anthropocentric activities should be investigated:

“Anthropogenic sources of mercury include use in many manufacturing industries and products, such as thermometers, electrical equipment, lamps, dental amalgams,
pharmaceuticals, and fungicides.”

This leads me to wonder if fungicides are in use at upstream manufacturing plants and/or were present in the contamination for the Baxter-Roseburg Superfund site which is also upstream. So, I am asking the NCWQCB to develop and implement a plan that will:

1. Collect and test sufficient samples from Dwinnell to make a determination whether a fish consumption health advisory should be issued for Dwinnell/Shastina.

2. Determine likely sources of the mercury contamination and take appropriate action, if the contamination is ongoing, to end the contamination.

If the staff intends to take these or similar actions please inform me of the details – including the time-line for completion of the needed work. If you do not intend to take these or similar actions then I am asking you to schedule an agenda space at the December Board Meeting in Eureka so that I can present a petition asking the Board to address the issue of mercury contamination at Dwinnell.

I have one more request: Could you have staff who have access to the Baxter-Roseburg Superfund Site files inform me concerning whether mercury contamination was found in the investigations of that site?

As I have informed the Board previously, the area around Dwinnell Reservoir has been developed and there are many children and adults who recreate in, on or on the shores of the Reservoir. I am concerned in particular that some of the children fish in the Reservoir and that they eat the fish. Of great concern is that neither the children nor their parents are likely aware that mercury far in excess of the warning level has been found in fish taken from Dwinnell.

Please let me know if you share my concern and, if so, what you and your staff will do to inform those who may be at risk.

2. Request for information: polluted sediments in Beaughton Creek

On June 4, 2007 I made a request to your predecessor, Ms. Kuhlman, concerning the fate of polluted sediments containing dioxins and other toxic chemicals known to have been in sediments in Beaughton Creek and to have originated at the Baxter-Roseburg Superfund Site. I suggested that it was likely that these sediments had moved downstream to Dwinnell Reservoir. Ms. Kuhlman requested that those responsible for the site perform the tests of the Dwinnell sediments. The responsible parties refused. Subsequently Ms. Kuhlman issued an order for the testing to be done.

I am requesting a written update on the status of that order.

Please share this communication with the board members. Thanks.


(via e-mail)
Felice Pace

Cc: Steve Perlman and Terry Barber (Siskiyou County Health), Alexis Strauss and Kathryn Kuhlman (US EPA), Andy Baker and Matt St. John (NCWQCB), tribal and other interested parties.


Welcome to KlamBlog. The purpose of this blog is to keep the People of the Klamath River Basin and others who are interested in the Basin informed about what is going on in the politics of the Basin that is not making it into the mainstream media, is not available in "in-Basin" media or that is being spun by the media or others.

What you will get here, however, is mainly what is happening as seen by me. In other words, it's a perspective, one which I hope will enlighten, inspire, inform, outrage, surprise and motivate you to take action. Sometimes you will find an action alert; sometimes I'll share what others have written or press clips.

This blog is dedicated to the Politics of Truth which teaches that one must strive to speak the truth as one sees the truth. All of us have the capacity to know and speak the truth as we see it. None of us has a corner on the market. Underlying the Politics of Truth is the belief that we can not get to a good outcome by choosing to mislead, to revise the facts as we would like them to be, to lie.

Recently there are too many lies - to much false and misleading propaganda - being spread around about the Klamath and its politics. I am not speaking here about unintentional falsehoods; we all from time to time get things wrong. I am speaking about information and statements that intentionally misstate the facts, what happened in the past and current events. I am also speaking about actions that present themselves as one thing but are really quite different. Examples of the sort of actions I'll debunk include "fire risk reduction projects" that will actually increase fire risk and "stream restoration" projects that won't result in restoration and are actually more about benefits for some interest or other. This blog will pay special attention to unmasking these falsehoods; to debunking the propaganda.