Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Today was the first session of four of the Upper Basin Science Workshop, planned by the Department of the Interior. The objectives are to identify science needs and prioritize. An overview of the National Resource Committee report by Dr. William Lewis, and perspectives of government agencies, Klamath Tribes and water users was on the agenda for today, although the tribal representative did not come.
Hydrologist Dennis Lynch, USGS, emceed the session.
Jason Peltier from the DOI (Department of the Interior) is the advisor of Bennet Raley of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). Peltier came since Sue Ellen Wooldridge could not attend. Her desire is for this conference to help reach goals. From the Washington perspective, they hope that by Friday there will be an increase in understanding and knowledge, and shared goals. Peltier said, "I hope we can get away from the fractured community that we now all see."
When asked, "One of the challenges on the science side has been lack of continuity and funding. Where do you see that going?" Peltier responded, "I see it going away....I see that this program is going to address that."
Rip Shively, USGS, said that science is a progressive process. Consensus will take time, and information is always incomplete. He said that there was not much study on suckers and water quality before listing, and now there are more studies for analysis.
Shannon Cunniff, BOR, said that the Bureau's role is applying science, looking for solutions. They need to prioritize and have an end date. They need consensus and more emphasis on peer review.
John Ritter, OIT (Oregon Institute of Technology) explained that the Klamath Basin is 10 1/2 million acres, and the Klamath River is 2nd largest river in California. 70% is forested, and over 1/2 is publicly owned. Three rivers, Wood, Williamson and Sprague run into the Klamath.
Ritter expressed the need for integrated time series of water flows and water quality assessments. They need a consistent, uniform database of different types of data, and the right data, so they don't keep 'reinventing the wheel.'
***Lewis explained that the suckers were listed since 1988 because of over harvest. They stopped fishing in '87 but they did not recover. The lake has gone from 3' range under natural conditions to experiencing 6' deep in current dry years. With charts and graphs he showed the habitat and water quality, algae and chlorophyll. He said that the committee looked extensively at water levels, and they find 'no hint of a relationship'. He also said that there was no relationship between lower water levels and extreme ph levels. And "the committee cannot support the idea that water levels effect algae growth.' "It can not be achieved by lake levels." '92 was the lowest water year, and they expected it to be the least favorable for fish. 'The lowest water year produced the same amount of larvae as other years."
He said that fish kill information does not support that fish are dying by changing water level. "We need to look at other locations."
He explained that Clear Lake does not have the habitat that scientists are trying to create in the Upper Basin for suckers, yet Clear Lake has stable populations of healthy suckers..."These have all the characteristics we want in recovered population. We have to protect these populations."
He mentioned using Tule Lake and Lake of the Woods for suckers. Government agencies poisoned the suckers to grow game fish, and he recommended poisoning the Lake of the Woods to grow suckers. He said that there are an abundance of estimates, and they NEED more information of populations in UKL (Upper Klamath Lake) and elsewhere.
He summarized the recommendations of the NRC for action: removal of Chiloquin Dam and other blockages, optimize fish screen, protect spawning areas of UK and river spawning areas, fix abandoned spawning areas, oxygenation, wetland vegetation. He said there is a need to review changes in Klamath Project operations.
Lewis was asked about making more wetlands for suckers, and he responded that there are 17,000 acres of restoration already. He cautioned that we shouldn't put too much faith into wetlands regarding the suppression of algae.
Someone tried to compare algae bloom in Lake Washington. Lewis said they got Lake Washington turned around by ceasing to pour 90% of the sewage into it. He added that we should not count on retiring agricultural land land for saving suckers.
Jacob Kann, ecologist and scientist for Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, insisted that timing and flows are related to the ph levels. Lewis responded that the water is always ph loaded, "the increase doesn't matter if it's always been saturated." Finally, to end the constant insistence by Kann to promote lake level/river flow management, Lewis said, "I can see you are thinking about it and that's great."
When asked if it would work to control the significant part of the ph load, Lewis responded that the lake is 140 square miles...that is not feasible to change. It is not like Lake Washington where they had sewage to cut off.
Tribal biologist Larry Dunsmuir felt like lake level management was necessary for emergent vegetation, and Lewis responded that Clear Lake has no emergent vegetation yet production of larvae is not shut off in Clear Lake.
Dunsmuir told Lewis he was premature and not factoring in sucker life span. Lewis reiterated that, looking at the data, water level management just does not line up.
Sabo described the CIP (Conservation Implementation Program,) which will work with agencies, tribes and others. He stressed that we need science based mechanisms, defining goals, prioritizing dollars, act and measure accomplishments.
Curt Mullis, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) described their mission, to conserve, protect, enhance fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. In the upper Klamath Basin, the Service manages six National Wildlife Refuges and they are trying to recover six threatened and endangered species and restore their ecosystems.
Mullis stated that they have done some monitoring but it was not a focus. He expressed that his agency wants water quantity.
Ron Cole, USFWS at Tule Lake refuge, said they don't have information on marshes because of lack of funding.
Mr. Geiger said that we need to know relationship of wetlands to water quality in UKL, like Hawks Marsh. Cole said he needs money.
There may be 6 million dollars available for restoration, land acquisition and removing Chiloquin, however all of the agencies admit that they have not done much monitoring.
Jon Raby, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), told how they administer activities on approximately 215,000 acres in Klamath County. He explained their emphasis on watershed functionality and restoration, culvert removal, road obliteration and closure, stream and wetland restoration. They burned 51,000 acres since 1995 and removed 10,000 acres of junipers. They need research data and collaborative planning efforts.
Question by Dr Doug Whitsett..do you have quantification in water saved by junipers
Answer, "No information. ...we don't study or improve because it's very expensive."
Question by Edward Bartell, "My understanding of Wood River is that the water quality is the same or worse regarding PH loading. We need clear assessment if they improve or degrade quality."
A "I agree, we need to take a look at that."
Lunchtime...I (KBC) spoke with a USGS man from Virginia. He seemed interested in the impacts that this confusion and disconnect in science and agency actions are having on our community. I explained that it was hard for us irrigators to understand how, when we are farming where a deep lake used to be, in a closed basin where most of the water did not go down the river until the diversions were built...how we feel when we are told that water is being diverted to us irrigators when in reality our lake and now our aquifer are being diverted down the river to create artificially-high levels. He seemed to understand. I preceded to tell him how hard it was when the long-awaited NRC committee report came out saying lake level management, like Dr Lewis explained, has nothing to do with fish survival and recruitment, and land retirement will not save fish either or fix the ph level, yet we are expected to downsize the Klamath Project up to 100,000 acre feet of water using false science when it will not help the fish. Then USGS Dennis Lynch approached and told me that the NRC is not necessarily the best available science. He did not tell me whose science he felt was better.
share science. He said we haven't done a very good job of putting the science together to justify breaching dikes to make more wetland. We need to address water quality/quantity, and the effects when we breach the dikes. We need to keep the same people in the NAS and other studies engaged in the process. There is a need to put reports together so groups know what to believe to be the best science.
Steve Kandra, board member of Klamath Water Users Association, asked everyone to stand up. Then he asked those from government agencies to sit down. Of the 150-200 guests, about 80% sat down. He asked the educators to sit down, and about 15 people were left standing. He told those sitting that their work will benefit those left standing.
He expressed concern with the process...so far people come up with a non-peer-reviewed science, tell us that it is their agenda, their conclusions, and here is what they want and we are told to deal with it. "I want to be a collaborator and I want to be a part of the conclusions. I want to give it credibility. There are no solutions because nothing is credible. I know soils, terrestrial plants, and have a personal knowledge and history on the ground. You have a lot of processes and need some sort of consolidation. I don't trust you.....And don't ignore what we have already. I want to see the states and feds talking. I want to see stuff done, a collaboration, then create economic viability.
Question: Has dialogue gotten better or worse...Lynch
A. It peaks. April 6 2001 was the peak. It was good before and getting better, and now, since 2001, we are just beginning to build some trust again. We want to participate. We want to help test the water and the soil.
Dr Whitsett Question, : Many times people from the ODEQ science advisory team met and put in a great deal of effort. After years of participation, ODA wrote what they wanted and did not consider our efforts and decisions. Agencies need to incorporate the local input and allow for timely meaningful input.
Barry Norris, OWRD (Oregon Water Resources Department) said that we need certainty in water supply. He said that they have 104 gauging sites, and only 11 long-term sites in the Klamath Basin. We need to complete the adjudication, map water rights, need pump test data and diversion inventory.
Chuck Dale of Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife said they need an index of productivity. They need assessment of whether sucker population is replenishing itself, how does age respond to habitat. They need to know results of studies to make sound recommendations.
Dick Nichols of the DEQ spoke of TMDLs and the need too study water quality and quantity. If we increase the flow with poor warm water, it may not help the fish. Gail Hildreth was concerned that 12 people met often, all argued against loading water into the lake, there are no records of their advisory team, and they were told that there was no money to implement any projects. Nichols did not respond..
Wedge Watkins of BLM repeated the concept of accurately measuring water to promote conservation and trust.
Doug Whitsett said that apathy results when people put time and energy into helping find a solution if their efforts are ignored. Failure to implement recommendations causes apathy and mistrust.
Richard Ford of the US Forest Service began by saying that the forest was ours. That was the first mention all day of public lands belonging to us, the public. He described their management and restoration activities, accomplishments and needs. They constantly deal with ESA, Healthy Forests Restoration, they have a fire and forest plan, and have made great improvements in firefighter preparedness, reducing fuels, restoring degraded ecosystems, working with the community and ensuring agency accountability. They have to address the Clean Water Act. Ford's power point of their activities and forest management was impressive.
Ford expressed a detailed list of needs and goals, especially the need for a database with easy access, and analysis of collected information.
Mike Cocke, civil engineer with USDA and NRCS, helps manage conservation on private lands. He said that when the government says you spend 12 million in the basin, we will spend it, but we need to quantify what we're doing. We need to look at unintended consequences. Our agency is not positive whether practices will be good or not. Like juniper management, we aren't sure what it will do to water quantity. We don't know. We are doing the best we can with the knowledge we have. NRCS doesn't do a lot of monitoring. We are good at doing stuff and not monitoring. Last year we spent $12 million. This year $13 million.
Tomorrow and Thursday are sucker and hydrology workshops running at the same time, and Friday morning is the conclusion.
From our conclusion of the day by KBC (jdk), the agencies, like they all said this spring on the Upper Basin tour, need to monitor extensively, evaluate the results of their actions, coordinate with the other agencies and groups to maximize their efforts and learning, share information, and most of all have a clue if and how their actions might benefit or harm the fish. In their enthusiasm to retire agricultural land and downsize the Klamath Project, there is no science or proof that this will benefit fish, in fact the NRC says that it will not. Unlike this spring, there was mention by the agencies of the concept of peer review and deciding what science to believe. It was apparent today that some were not willing to set aside their agendas of expanding wetlands and retiring ag lands, in spite of the science, however most felt the need to use peer-reviewed science and find real proven science to pursue solutions and not just pour more millions into projects that are not even proven to be beneficial to man or fish.
Page Updated: Wednesday March 03, 2021 12:07 PM Pacific
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