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Old 03-09-2006, 09:31 AM
GrantK GrantK is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: West Coast
Posts: 35
Originally Posted by flytyer

We know those poor suckerfish (which are not native to the basin) in Klamath dam just had to be protected because the Native American Tribe located therein insisted on it, and that the farmers (who eventurally had their irrigation water turned off) needed the water to grow their crops on that desert plateau they a located on. We must also keep in mind that it was the feds who built this dam and the irrigation canals, which they then used to get folks to farm this high desert.

Personally, I wish the feds would have let the river have the water, the heck with the non-native sucker the small tribe of Indians and some other wanted protected and the heck with the farmers who are raising crops in an area that would still be high desert if is wasn't for the irrigation the feds built for them.

The fish lost, the farmers lost, and the tribe lost. Ah but the beauty of the federal beaurocaracy is that the feds lost nothing. Don't you love government make work programs like the Klamath dam or the lower Snake dams?
I don't know where you get your information, but I would find other sources.

First, the two ESA listed sucker species in the Klamath Basin--the Lost River sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris) are in fact both native species. Suggesting otherwise is, well, wrong. There are many non-native species in Upper Klamath Lake, i.e., fathead minnows, yellow perch, etc., but the listed sucker species are not among them. And, while the causes of their demise are debated, there is not much doubt among scientists that it's largely related to water quality issues in Upper Klamath Lake. These conditions can also adversely impact the native trout populations for which the area is famous. The link to the USGS below gives a good overview of the fish in question.

Not only are both fish indigenous to the Klamath Basin, they were once so prolific that they were the historic source of subsistence fishing for the local natives and they provided both commercial and recreational fishing opportunities in the relatively recent past. In fact, the "sucker run" on Oregon's Williamson river was literally one of the state's most popular recreational fishery at one time. The fishery was so popular that the ODFW office in Klamath Falls maintained a mailing list of "mullet" fishers from Los Angeles to Seattle and sent a postcard informing them of the beginning of the run each year. The recreational harvest in 1966 alone was estimated at approximately 12,500 fish. To put that into perspective, that would easily rival the steelhead harvest on any of Oregon's largest rivers. The links below provide good background information as well.

What caused the water quality problems blamed for the demise of the suckers? Well, that too is a point of contention, but there is little denying that the combination of the elimination of riparian and wetland areas, which cleaned the system, as well as the introduction of untreated agricultural effluent--in the form of waste from cattle operations, for example, which is said by some to rival the sewage output of a town of approximately 500,000 people--have been at the very least part of the problem. The governing biological opinion issued in 2001 that now, at least theoretically, impacts water levels in the lake focused upon raising water levels as a means to improve water quality in the lake itself.

Second, completely independent of the ESA issue, the Klamath Tribe–headquartered in Chiloquin, Oregon--has treaty rights that create certain legal obligations. In the simplest terms possible, the tribe has an 1864 treaty with the United States that creates certain trust responsibilities on the part of the federal government. Here the most important of those trust obligations is the preservation and maintenance of traditional subsistence fisheries. As a result, regardless of what may or may not happen to the ESA, the tribe has legal grounds to compel protection efforts for the suckers. Right now, the governing biological opinion indicates that the best way to guarantee the survival of those species, along with the hope of returning them to levels which would allow limited harvest, is through maintaining higher lake levels during the summer months. Because the treaty predates most other water claims, and because the reclamation project itself is operated by the federal government which has the trust obligations to begin with, the Tribe is a major player in this issue. The link below gives an overview of the legal context.

Third, the Klamath Basin is not a “desert plateau”. In fact, the Klamath Basin is home to the largest remaining natural freshwater marsh and wetlands west of the Mississippi (even at an estimated only 20 percent of their former size); it’s home to the largest natural lake in Oregon (over 30 miles long and nearly 8 miles wide); it’s the drainage for the eastern slope of a large portion of the Cascades, including Crater Lake National Park; and it is the headwaters of one of the largest rivers on the West Coast. And despite claims to the contrary, agricultural operations in the Klamath Basin predate the creation of the Klamath Reclamation Project by quite some time. To be sure, there are too many competing claims for what has become an ever decreasing supply of water during summer and fall, but suggesting that the area itself is “desert” is not correct.

Personally, I suggest learning more about the area and its very complex problems. Visiting it would be a big surprise for most. But be sure to bring a fly rod, because it’s home to some of the largest trout found anywhere on the continent. They’re measured in pounds, not inches, in the Klamath Basin, and a double digit fish generally won’t raise too many eyebrows until they weigh in the upper teens.

Of course, none of this addresses the downstream issues associated with the coho–which are listed as threatened under the ESA–or the fall chinook die-off in 2002 which has prompted much of the concern for returning adults this year. It should be noted, however, that 2002 was not the year of the water shut-off for irrigatiors in the upper basin. The shut-off occurred in 2001, and in 2002, the year of the die-off, virtually full irrigation water deliveries were made despite continuing drought conditions. Both lake levels and river flows were affected accordingly. There was an article written by Bob Hunter, staff attorney for Oregon Water Watch, which appeared in Fly Fisherman Magazine a couple years ago which attempted to explain the downstream issues as they relate to the upstream issues. One particularly interesting point he made was that the downstream commercial and recreational fisheries had an estimated economic value of roughly 800 million per year, while upstream agriculture had an estimated economic value of roughly 100 million per year. Interesting stuff if true.

And then there are the dams. But my head already hurts enough for one day.

Last edited by GrantK; 03-09-2006 at 09:37 AM.
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