A federal agency said Friday it is taking another look at releasing water in the Klamath Basin to prevent the spread of disease among salmon returning to spawn in drought conditions.
A decision is likely next week following discussions with fisheries biologists and others, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Janet Sierztutowski said from Sacramento. The bureau previously denied a request from the Hoopa Valley Tribe to release water from Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River, which flows in the Klamath River, to prevent the spread of a parasite that attacks salmon in stagnant water, though the bureau said it would release some water if significant numbers of fish started dying.
Tribal scientists have said it would be too late by then. The idea is that higher flows make it more difficult for the parasite to swim. Once a significant number of fish are attacked, there is no stopping the parasite, known as Ich, short for Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, scientists said.
Tens of thousands of adult salmon died in 2002 in the Klamath and Trinity rivers from disease in low water conditions.
The tribe took their case to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this week when she was in Redding visiting wildfire-fighting facilities, and she agreed to review the situation.
On Thursday, the tribe took bureau Regional Director David Murillo and Deputy Regional Director Pablo Arroyave on a tour of the reservation. The outing included a jet boat ride on the Trinity River and a visit to the reservoir behind Lewiston Dam, said Tribal Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten. No dead fish were seen but there were lots of algae in the warm, stagnant water.
“I think they got an eye-opener,” she said.
The announcement comes just as the Yurok Tribe, Hoopa Tribe and other river advocates are organizing protests at the bureau’s Sacramento office on Tuesday. A bus providing transportation from Klamath to Sacramento is being provided.
Since the 1960s, some water from the Trinity has been pumped over the mountains to the Central Valley for irrigation. Sierztutowski said some of those irrigation districts have been denied water this year due to the drought.
The Trinity flows into the Klamath River, which also shares water between farms and fish.