releases water from the refuge
and News by Holly Dillemuth 3/29/18
of Reclamation personnel burned away weeds Wednesday morning
at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge along the
banks of a gated water way, through which water from the
refuge is being discharged to the Klamath River.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with
Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office, started releasing
water this week from the refuge in what will total roughly
7,000 acre feet over the next three to four weeks.
release is part of a proposal issued in U.S. District Court
for the Northern District of California on Monday by
Reclamation that asks for a reduced allocation — 65 percent
of a normal 390,000 acre feet — of water for Klamath Project
irrigators beginning April 19. A hearing on the bureau’s
proposed 2018 Klamath Project operations plan is scheduled
for April 11 in San Francisco. Reclamation’s proposal also
includes implementing a flushing flow of water to the
Klamath River, augmented with non-Project water, to mitigate
disease concerns impacting endangered coho salmon.
refuge’s contribution, which is slated to benefit the
Project, will be joined by 4,000 acre feet from the Upper
Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge and 10,500 from
refuge is working to recoup the water later this year from
Reclamation in time for fall migration. The refuge has also
stored excess water to ensure it can contribute the full
amount for the flushing flow, according to John Vradenburg,
supervisory biologist for the refuge.
“Generally, we don’t release water because we’ll recirculate
that water around the refuge,” Vradenburg said. “We haven’t
got a lot of water in most years. Last year was the best
water deliveries in 10 years, I think.”
impact of the lower refuge’s contribution isn’t anticipated
to affect bird habitat long-term, though, some short-term
impacts to nesting of colonial birds such as white-faced
ibis sometimes abandon their nests if there’s not enough
though it’s not the greatest thing to be happening – none of
us are overly excited about it – we can make it work to our
advantage to make sure to continue to benefit water birds,”
Vradenburg said, referencing the release. “The water would
definitely have been used on the refuge, you know, and it
wouldn’t have went to waste. We just feel like we can still
meet our establishment purpose and benefit the larger
community, and benefit the things that are happening
downstream and still make it work for us.”
Vradenburg sees potential for positives in the meantime for
birds, many who seem fond of shallow water.
of the cool things about waterfowl is they love the shallow
water,” Vradenburg said. “So even with the draw down, we’re
going to get benefit out of it.
hard for us to convey to the public how we’re making this
work for us as well,” he added. “The needs of all these
water bird species, we have to have a diversity of things
going on. We need permanent wetlands, we need seasonal
wetlands, but we also need mud flats and we need places that
are going dry to grow the food.”
Vradenburg also emphasized peak migration for species such
as shorebirds isn’t for another six weeks or so, mitigating
some impact from the water release.
some Canada geese may be nesting now, the majority hasn’t
occurred yet, which means the release of water likely won’t
impact nesting in the short or long term.
of these birds are paired for nesting season, but they’re
not quite ready for nesting,” Vradenburg said. “They’re
still in the process of getting their reserves. Some of them
are still migrating. Lower Klamath is a migratory
destination for most (bird) species. We’re a migration and
staging area in the fall and in the spring.
it’s wet, we get a lot of nesting birds,” he added. “When
it’s dry, they’ll pass us by.”
the breeding and nesting period, Vradenburg said the refuge
prioritizes wetlands that hold water the longest, to
mitigate any impacts on nesting colonies.
the continental scale, we believe at this time, our biggest
benefit is making sure we have habitat during the migration
and staging periods, so that’d be the fall through the
winter, through the spring,” Vradenburg said about birds
migrating from around the globe. “That’s where from the
waterfowl standpoint, we have the biggest continental
water expected to be repaid to the refuge this fall, the
wildlife habitat is expected to be ready for season changes,
and the birds that fly with them.
Pacific Flyway’s really challenging because it’s been so
highly modified,” Vradenburg said. “We’ve lost much wetland
habitat ... so there’s only a few remaining big wetlands.
Klamath is one of those big, last remaining wetlands and
wetland habitats, and so it’s key to that migration and
staging. Even historically, that was the role it played.”
Driving a pickup along the ditch banks of the refuge on
Wednesday, Vradenburg pointed out numerous waterfowl that
call the refuge their home during peak times of the
refuge is the nation’s first waterfowl refuge, established
in 1908. The roughly 50,000-acre wildlife habitat is a prime
spot along the Pacific Flyway for birds of all sorts,
including tundra swan, golden eagles, cinnamon teal, gadwall
and diving ducks to name more than a few.
have six refuges in the complex, Lower Klamath being the
most significant for water birds, historically and today,”
Vradenburg has worked in wetland management for two decades,
for refuges for 14 years, and has been at Lower Klamath for
three years. The refuge was a destination for Vradenburg in
his career, he said, and continues to be for the birds on
the Pacific Flyway, as well as for visitors who also flock
to see them.
Vradenburg also added that the refuge works extensively with
it’s partners at Reclamation, and project ag producers
through collaborative farming, which allows farmers to farm
and provides nutrients for birds on the refuge.
feel like there’s a huge urgency and desire for
collaboration and moving forward,” Vradenburg said. “I’m
hopeful that all of this – we’re all working toward a common
goal and common desire for collaboration in finding balance.
There has to be balance. We can’t continue to go to our
corners and fight.”
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