By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
groups more accustomed to battling in courts shared fish and potato salad in a cookout at Beachfront Park on Saturday.
Yurok Tribe members, commercial ocean fishermen, farmers from upriver and government officials from California and Ore-gon spent the morning at the Flynn Center, talking about the river's problems in the first Common Ground Alliance meeting in Del Norte County.
"We're not that much different. We're rural communities up and down the river," said Greg Adding-ton, executive director of the nonprofit Klamath Water User's Association that represents about 1,400 people in upper basin irrigation districts.
The event stressed similarities between the mostly family-owned, up-river ranches and the family-owned, downriver fisheries.
Farmers described how they irrigate crops with water a resource restricted to meet levels on the river and Upper Klamath Lake. Fishermen detailed businesses forced to move along the coast or shut down after fishing season closures, fish kills and stricter catch regulations.
Groups that rely on the river need to understand each others' businesses and agree on plans to rebuild the river's water quality and fish populations in order to keep operating, said Yurok Tribe fisheries manager Troy Fletcher.
"We need to continue to foster that relationship," Fletcher said, adding that radical environmental groups, government intervention and court cases have failed. "It is too easy to sit back and go, It's your fault.'"
The alliance formed over the past year as various groups aim to repair the waterway that has suffered with fish kills and parasites, toxic algae blooms and low flows.
Alliance leaders are drafting by-laws to govern the group and form a nonprofit. They aim to include timber industry representatives and eventually focus on other natural resources.
Part of the plan to revive the river's quality must target the parasites that kill fish, Humboldt State University fisheries biology professor Gary Hendrickson told the crowd. Otherwise, more fish kills will occur.
Hendrickson aims to collect more data on the little known microscopic creatures that, until recent years, have lived peacefully with salmon.
"They've evolved for millions of years with their host," he said. "Somehow, we've upset that balance."
Ceratomyxa shasta and Parvicapsula minibicornis now kill fish by releasing spores that attack their kidneys and intestines. Learning about the parasites' life stages and survival needs could help determine how to flush them from the river by raising flows at certain times of year, for instance, Hendrickson said.
He urged the group to focus on research projects.
"This is where you can fix things," Hendrickson said. "When the river gets better, everybody wins."