U.S. Water News Online
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Conservation groups seeking removal of
four aging Klamath River dams near the California border welcomed a
report by the National Research Council confirming studies indicating
that salmon and other fish need more water.
"This report is a major victory for salmon, commercial fishermen,
Native Americans, and everyone else who cares about the health of the
Klamath River," said Steve Pedery, conservation director for Oregon
Wild, based in Portland.
The report comes as federal agencies prepare a new evaluation of
salmon and endangered stocks of the Klamath fish known as suckers, as
interest groups try to negotiate a settlement of water issues, and as
federal regulators decide the fate of the four dams on the river,
which runs through Southern Oregon and Northern California.
The battle over water management in the high desert basin has
pitted farmers and irrigators against Indian tribes, fishermen and
A leader of the National Research Council study said it agreed
with recommendations from Utah State University researchers led by
Thomas Hardy that more water would help increase salmon runs.
"That conclusion is based partly on -- frankly -- scientific
judgment," said William Graf, a University of South Carolina
geography professor and chairman of the committee of scientists who
wrote the report. "But it's also based on more data that's become
available in the last, say, two to four years."
The council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences,
reviewed two separate water studies on the Klamath River Basin.
One study was the Utah State study, on the lower part of the
river. The other was by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, on the upper
The council praised both studies but found flaws. It criticized
the Bureau of Reclamation study for basing its water flow models of
the upper Klamath on monthly averages instead of daily flows, and
elimination of Klamath tributaries from the modeling.
The council praised the Utah study for its detailed measurements
of stream beds and fish habitat simulation but found it suffered from
the same flaws as the government study because it also lacked daily
flow and tributary analysis.
Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association, which
represents farmers who irrigate in the basin, had jury duty and did
not get a chance to thoroughly examine the report. Addington,
however, said he agrees with the council that the tributaries need to
be part of the analysis. He said the report appears to emphasize the
need for a watershed-wide approach to fish issues, and farmers agree
"We know we're part of the system, but it's a big system," he
Cecil Lesley, chief of the water and lands division for the Bureau
of Reclamation in Klamath Falls, said both studies will be considered
by federal fish agencies in their evaluation of salmon and endangered
Klamath sucker stocks, called a biological opinion, expected to be
released next spring.
Pedery, however, and Glen Spain, Northwest regional director of
the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said the
Bush administration tried to delay the Hardy report because it could
represent the "best available science" requirement for completing the
"The science speaks for itself and confirms what we've all known
-- and that is fish need more water than they've gotten
historically," Spain said.
The report was released while talks continue over whether to
remove four dams from the lower Klamath owned by PacifiCorp, a
Portland utility owned by a company that is controlled by billionaire
investor Warren Buffett.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has suggested the dams
could remain in place if fish are transported around them, while
other federal agencies have recommended construction of costly fish
Low water flows on the Klamath were partly blamed for dramatic
cutbacks last year in commercial ocean salmon fishing.
Craig Tucker, spokesman for the Karuk Tribe of California, said
the talks on the fate of the dams may lead to a decision before the
end of the year on what could become one of the largest dam removal
projects in U.S. history.
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