Tribes, conservationists call for action to save salmon – Times-Standard
Klamath River tribes and conservationists have called on the State Water Resources Control Board to establish permanent flow-through requirements for the Scott and Shasta Rivers, two of the Klamath River’s largest tributaries. , with the aim of saving endangered salmon species.
If immediate action is not taken, the signatories of the letter – Karuk and Yurok Tribes, Save California Salmon, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Friends of the Shasta River , Climate Water Trust, Coast Action Group, Friends of the River, Native Fish Society, California Coastkeepers Alliance, Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, Sacramento River Council and Sustainable Northwest – fear that flows along the Klamath River may be reduced to a trickle next year.
“Action is urgently needed to save coho salmon, which are listed as threatened on California and federal lists of endangered species,” the November 1 letter said. “Action is needed not only to protect endangered fish, but also to protect declining fall chinook populations before they are also listed as endangered. Currently, fall Chinook populations are insufficient to meet tribal subsistence needs or support California’s commercial salmon fishing industry.
Frankie Myers, vice chairman of the Yurok tribe, said north coast tribes have seen salmon populations in the Scott and Shasta rivers plummet “due to excessive water diversion and mismanagement” for decades. decades.
“For millennia, these streams have supported a significant portion of the Yurok tribe’s subsistence harvest, but over the past six years, we have not been able to harvest enough fish to feed our elders. , not to mention the tribe, ”Myers said in a prepared statement. “We call on the National Water Board to restore balance in the management of the Scott and Shasta before it is too late. The board has a legal and ethical obligation to quickly establish and enforce a flow schedule that supports the recovery of these critically important salmon runs. “
Although the Shasta River contributes less than 1% of the overall flow of the Klamath River, it produces about 50% of the wild chinook salmon in the Klamath Basin, according to Andy Marx, chairman of the board of Friends of the Shasta River.
Craig Tucker, natural resources consultant for the Karuk Tribe, said the Scott River is particularly important for coho salmon.
“It’s just optimal habitat for coho salmon,” Tucker told The Times-Standard. “We believe the majority of the coho salmon that remain in this southern Oregon / Northern California (unit of environmental importance) use the Scott River at some point in their life cycle.”
Tucker said the Shasta and Scott rivers are “mission critical” for chinook and coho, but are systematically drained by ranchers and alfalfa growers upstream.
“There is no real regulatory oversight that ensures a minimum flow rate for fish. They literally suck these rivers dry – even for a normal year – with no consequences, ”he said. “We want the state water board to basically enact regulated minimum flow requirements. In other words, if you can’t meet the minimum reserve flow, the Water Board should start restricting people’s water use.
For the first time in California history, thanks to a drought emergency declaration issued by Governor Gavin Newsom over the summer, the water board reduced the use of groundwater along the Scott and Shasta rivers.
“It was a big deal that they took action, but again, they don’t just pump rivers dry during drought years,” Tucker said. “They finalized the rules very late in the year, so even when they started to cut back on people’s water use, a lot of the damage to salmon had already been done. We don’t want that to happen next year, whether or not these historic drought conditions persist.
Regina Chichizola, co-director of Save California Salmon, added that emergency restrictions make it difficult for farmers to plan for the season.
“One of the things I brought up is not having a plan and only dealing with flow issues in an emergency way that farmers can’t plan as well”, a- she declared. “They find they are downsized at the end of the summer, but in the spring they didn’t realize they would have to deal with regulation. This makes it very difficult to plan your year, it is very difficult to get any relief, and it is difficult to know what you want to plant.
While “the rain really saved us” this time around, Chichizola said that better management and planning through a reserved flow requirement “is a way for everyone to understand how to plan for the year.”
“We had reductions in September and in the Shasta River which immediately led to more water in the river, but because the Scott River aquifers are so exposed, we did not see any immediate flows from the river. reductions, ”she said. “That’s why we can no longer have this kind of emergency regulation on a piecemeal basis. In fact, we have to anticipate that there will be water in the rivers when the salmon need to spawn, because we cannot just pray for rain. It worked this year, but most years it hasn’t.
When adult chinook salmon arrive at the mouths of tributaries like the Shasta and Scott Rivers to spawn after moving up the Klamath River, Tucker said, “They literally swim in circles waiting for rain and the river to rise.
“If the rains come late, they don’t,” he said. “The rains came in handy this year, we were really lucky to have this rain when we did. It looks like a lot of these chinook will be able to spawn this year, but these fish are now endangered every fall. “
While Tucker said he had not received any reports of adult fish kills in the Klamath River this year, there were record juvenile kills earlier this year.
“We have lost a lot of fish and we will suffer the consequences of these four years when these fish are adults,” he said.
The state’s Water Resources Control Board will likely review and discuss the letter at a future meeting.
Isabella Vanderheiden can be reached at 707-441-0504.