Rep. Jared Huffman insists federal agencies act to prevent Klamath River fish kill
WASHINGTON—Congressman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, has called on the U.S. Department of the Interior to act quickly to prevent a repeat of a massive fish kill on the lower Klamath River as extreme drought conditions threaten struggling salmon.
The deadly parasite that killed up to 68,000 salmon in 2002, commonly known as ich, is infecting this year’s run of salmon as they try to survive hot, warm water by crowding into the lower Klamath tributary Blue Creek. The largest portion of the fall run of salmon is likely to begin within the next two or three weeks, and could drastically increase crowding and the spread of the disease.
“I have asked Secretary Sally Jewell to work closely with the Yurok and Hoopa tribes and Humboldt County on a plan to release additional water from the Trinity River, which will boost flows on the Klamath,” Huffman said. “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation must preserve cold water in Trinity Lake to prevent a repeat of the tragic 2002 salmon run disaster.”
The 2002 fish kill caused severe damage to tribal trust resources and commercial and sport fisheries for years to come, undermining the regional economy.
In a letter to Secretary Jewell, Huffman asked for up-to-date information on water diversions, temperature, and the incidence of disease on the Klamath and Trinity rivers. He also asked that the bureau minimize any additional export of water from Trinity Lake and to reexamine its future operations on the rivers in light of the unprecedented California drought. Huffman also asked that Reclamation draw on Humboldt County’s contractual right to 50,000 acre feet of water from the Trinity River as well as additional flows the tribes, county and agencies have requested to improve conditions on the Klamath.
“Humboldt County’s allocation of 50,000 acre feet should be used to protect the fisheries our region depends on,” said Humboldt County Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg. “We hope the Interior Department recognizes this as an available resource and used that and other sources of water to avoid another horrible fish kill this year.”
“We take this threat to our fish very seriously, and we’re looking at every option to protect our fish,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “We don’t want to go through another catastrophe like the fish kill in 2002, and we will do anything we can to avoid that outcome this year.”
“The Hoopa Valley Tribe and North Coast communities remain concerned about the health of Klamath and Trinity rivers,” said Hoopa Valley Tribe Fisheries Director Mike Orcutt. “We hope and pray that the Interior Department will take appropriate actions to prevent a fish kill this year.”