Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

California Drought Threatens Salmon as River Water Levels Drop

California Drought Threatens Salmon as River Water Levels Drop

Recalling a disastrous 2002 salmon die-off in the rivers of northern California's Klamath Basin, members of Native tribes in that area, including the Karuk, Yurok and Hoopa, are pressuring the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to act to prevent another kill they say is imminent.

Native tribe members from northern California went to Sacramento to demand the release of water from dams in the Klamath River Basin to prevent salmon die-off. Photo credit: Klamath Riverkeeper

Tribal members are asking for the release of water from the Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River to prevent the spread of a parasite that preys on salmon and thrives in warmer, shallower water. While the bureau says it will release water if salmon start dying, tribal scientists say that that would be too late because the parasite spreads quickly once it takes hold.

Fisheries biologist Nat Pennington of the nonprofit Salmon River Restoration Council, which works to protect the region's ecosystem, said, “Klamath River flows are lower than they were during the 2002 fish kill. River temperatures are consistently higher than the acute stress level for Chinook salmon at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If this trend continues, a large-scale fish kill is likely and the Klamath could loose the entire run.”

While the agency previously denied the request, it said Friday it is reconsidering and is currently consulting with fisheries biologists and others, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

But tribal members aren't sitting back to wait and see what happens. The Chronicle reports that they spoke with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell last week when she was in the area to visit wildfire-fighting facilities, and she agreed to look into the matter. They also took regional Bureau of Reclamation officials on a boat trip on the Trinity River and a visit to the Lewiston Dam reservoir to make their case.

And yesterday, hundreds of tribal members converged on Sacramento to hold a vigil outside the bureau's offices and demand that more water be released from the Lewiston Dam, as well as the Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River.

“Fish are pooled up at cold water tributaries because the water in the river is so warm and polluted,” said Hoopa Valley Tribal member Kayla Brown. “These fish are diseased and dying. Once the disease starts to spread, it can’t be stopped and we will have a fish kill on our hands, courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.”

Tribal members are also concerned that as California suffers from record drought, more of their local water is being diverted for agricultural use in the state's Central Valley. Since the ’60s there have been competing claims for the water, which is shared by farms and fisheries. The Klamath Justice Coalition, which represents local Native tribes in their campaign to un-dam area rivers, said:

Currently, five times more water is diverted to the Sacramento Basin for Central Valley irrigators than is released into the Trinity River. Rally organizers and participants said they support Klamath River fisheries biologists' assertion that a minimum of 2,500 cubic feet per second be maintained near the mouth of the Klamath River. This can be achieved if the Bureau of Reclamation approves preventative releases from the Lewiston Dam reservoir.

“Reclamation says they need the water for Sacramento River salmon, but our rivers are actually being exported to meet the demands of corporate agriculture like the Westland's Water district,” said Karuk tribal member Molli White.

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

The Future of U.S. Fisheries: An Ecosystem-Based Approach

California Drought Forces Fisheries to Truck Salmon Smolts to Sea

The California Drought: Who Gets Water and Who’s Hung Out to Dry?

With restaurants and supermarkets becoming less viable options during the pandemic, there has been a growth in demand and supply of local food. Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County / Flickr

By Robin Scher

Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A technician inspects a bitcoin mining operation at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec on March 19, 2018. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
OR-93 traveled hundreds of miles from Oregon to California. Austin Smith Jr. / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs / California Department of Fish and Wildlife

An Oregon-born wolf named OR-93 has sparked conservation hopes with a historic journey into California.

Read More Show Less
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, was retired the following month. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

By David Drake and Jeffrey York

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The Big Idea

People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.

Read More Show Less