Feds, tribes react to Trinity water releases
The Bureau of Reclamation released water from the Trinity Reservoir early Thursday morning to the lower Klamath River to help prevent the spread a parasitic fish disease, within Chinook salmon.
Supplemental flows from the Lewiston Dam will also extend into late September to protect the fall salmon run.
Mike Belchik of the Yurok Tribe said more flows from the Trinity Reservoir are planned though Sept. 21.
“Flows were increased at Lewiston Dam starting at 6 a.m. (Thursday) morning for the purpose of reducing the risk of an ich outbreak,” Belchick said in a statement. “They will increase so that the flow at the lowermost gage on the Klamath River will go from about 2,100 cfs to 2,800 cfs through September 21. We believe this is a necessary and proactive step to reduce the risk of a catastrophic ich outbreak in the Klamath River. ... The water will take approximately 48 hours to reach the mouth of the river. Boaters, anglers and other river recreationalists should exercise extra caution and be aware that the river will rise approximately one foot and water temperatures will fall about 3-5 degrees.”
Last week, ich was detected on the mouth of Blue Creek on the Yurok Reservation. The risk of another fish kill was something that remains a concern for the Klamath and surrounding areas.
Sheri Harral of the Bureau of Reclamation for the Northern California Office near the Shasta Dam said the water released from the Trinity Reservoir is one of three preventative actions they are prepared to take over the late summer months. The bureau planned to release 1200 cfs by 2 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re trying to stop further outbreaks,” Harral said. “With this additional water, there’s a very strong hope that we can contain this before it spreads. The ich is here and that is what pushed this action to go through. We don’t want another repeat of the 2002 fish die-off.”
Both the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes are working together with the bureau to prevent another salmon kill on the Klamath River, according to a statement by North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman.
"This quick federal action is exemplary, and shows how federal agencies and tribes should work together to make sure we protect salmon resources that are so precious to the tribes and sport and commercial fishermen,” Huffman said. “We also need to be working hard to make sure long-term solutions — like removing the Klamath River’s dams — move forward so we are not reacting to one crisis after another.”
Mike Orcutt of the Hoopa Valley Tribe said there are several disagreements with the methods of solving the ich problem and said that there is an alternative solution to prevent the parasite from spreading.
“Ich is in the system. It’s infecting the fish already. This is strong evidence that we should do the pulse flow to flush the system,” Orrcut said, referring to methods mentioned in a call letter sent to the Bureau of Reclamation that said “a combination of minimum base flows and larger pulse flows during primary migration seasons ... disrupts and flushes any infectious organisms” that align with the fall Chinook salmon migration and previous ich outbreaks.
Conversely, Harral said that after more than 10 years the biologists are well informed on how to treat and contain the ich.
“There’s a positive and negative to every action,” Harral said, “We understand the impacts of peoples’ live and we truly try to use the water supply as efficiently as we possibly can.”
According to Harral, the Bureau of Reclamation is monitoring real-time environmental conditions and those conditions will determine the implantation of their actions.
Orcutt, on the other hand, doesn’t think that sort of monitoring will be as effective in stopping the ich. He said, “It’s a little late in the game to play real-time management. This kind of thing can get out of hand pretty quickly and the flows that they’re releasing take about 48 hours to actually reach the mouth of the Klamath.”