Klamath Agreements can Restore Our Salmon and Sucker Fisheries

The Klamath River once nourished the third largest salmon runs in the nation.  Today those runs number less than 10% of their historic abundance.  Dams blocking access to historic spawning habitat, plus diminished water flows and resulting poor water quality, have greatly diminished these valuable fisheries, destroying thousands of fishing-dependent jobs in the process.  Fisheries disasters like the complete closure of 2006, costing more $100 million in losses, are now common.

Implementation of the Klamath Agreements is surest path to dam removal

537sl033c1Above the dams, in Upper Klamath Lake and the Williamson, Sprague, and Wood Rivers, Lost River and shortnose suckers once constituted a prolific and vital resource to the Klamath and Modoc Tribes. As cattle grazing impacted riparian areas, irrigation depleted the rivers, and wetlands were converted to farmland, suckers (c'waam) moved to the brink of extinction.

The new flow regimes and unprecedented habitat restoraition provided for by the Klamath Agreements will allow suckers and salmon to be restored to harvestable levels.

 

The importance of Dam Removal to the Klamath River System

Fisheries scientists overwhelmingly agree that dam removal provides fisheries benefits far greater than relicensing the project with fish ladders.

Dam removal improves water quality for fish by allowing salmon, steelhead, and lamprey access to over 600 stream-miles of historic spawning habitat, removing the negative thermal impacts of reservoirs which dramatically alter run timing and breed toxic algae, and alleviating habitat conditions downstream of the dams that promote the spread of fish diseases.

The dams being considered for removal, some more than 90 years old, provide virtually no irrigation or flood control, and on average, generate about 88 MW of power.

Because of the unprecedented magnitude of this effort, dam removal must first be evaluated by the Secretary of the Interior who will confirm the settlement parties'  preliminary view that dam removal is appropriate. The secretary's evaluation will  based on a thorough NEPA analysis to ensure that dam removal is safe, affordable, and clearly in the public interest. Going beyond the traditional requirement to comply with NEPA, the Secretary has also called for an additional Secretarial Determination Overview Report which exceeds the legal requirements for making such a decision. These analyses were completed in 2012 and they can be found at www.klamathrestoration.gov.

The Secretary cannot issue a determination until congress grants this decision making authority legislatively.

A Community based approach to Reintroducing Salmon, Steelhead, Suckers and Lamprey to Historic Range

The KBRA calls for over $350 million dollars to be spent on restoring and reintroducing salmon, steelhead, and lamprey to over 600 stream-miles of historic habitat upstream of the dams.

Settlement parties will form a Technical Advisory Team to recommend spending priorities and specific actions to maximize restoration benefits.

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