The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will consider a petition to list spring run chinook salmon on the Upper Klamath-Trinity River as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the Fish and Game commission accepts the petition, which was submitted by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in July 2018, according to the commission’s staff report. If the commission determines listing may be warranted, a one-year review of the run’s status will be conducted before a final decision is made, according to the report.

“UKTR Spring Chinook used to be abundant in the Klamath Watershed and are important to the culture, health and economy of the Karuk Tribe,” the petition’s author, Karuna Greenberg writes. “Their survival as a species in California is threatened due to the destruction of their habitat or range, construction of dams and water diversions, disease, predation, non-existent or limited regulations and other cases.”

According to the CDFW’s report to the commission, the amount of available habitat to spring chinook salmon in the upper Klamath and Trinity watersheds has been severely restricted by dam construction. The report notes upper Klamath River dams considered for removal in 2021 would reopen historical habitat.

According to CDFW’s report, the spring chinook population has declined in the upper Klamath-Trinity watersheds, particularly on the South Fork Trinity River and the Salmon River. According to the report, run estimates have ranged between 1,945 and 69,007, averaging 21,339, between 1980 and 2017. Most upper Klamath-Trinity River spring chinook salmon spawn in the upper Trinity River and at the Trinity River Hatchery, according to the report.

Major threats to the salmon run include mainstem dams, water withdrawals, disease, past logging and suction dredging practices, according to the report.

Though most letters to the Fish and Game Commission support the Karuk Tribe’s petition to list Upper Klamath-Trinity spring run chinook as threatened or endangered, the Del Norte and Siskiyou County boards of supervisors oppose the proposed listing.

In a Dec. 11, 2018 letter to California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar, Del Norte County Board of Supervisors Chairman Chris Howard notes the county has been at the forefront of state policies and decisions to eliminate sport fisheries “further eroding Del Norte County’s ability to provide for its businesses and residents.”

Howard’s letter states a previous listing petition made by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2012 was deemed not warranted by the National Marine Fisheries Service. His letter states that through proper management and policy decisions at the tribal, state and federal level would address disease and other aspects of Klamath-Trinity River health.

“We estimate that the spring run fishery, from the end of April to the end of June, generates close to $521,000 in revenue to our communities,” Howard writes. “A listing of the UKTR Spring Chinook would result in losses at local hospitality, restaurant, hotel and service sector industry, not to mention those in our community who operate as licensed full-time guides on our rivers.”

In his letter to Sklar, Brandon A. Criss, chairman of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, also points out several fishing guide services in his county conduct business on the Klamath River. He also notes recreational and commercial fishing is economically important for communities throughout Northern California, pointing out that the per capita median income is $40,884, well below the state average.

Criss also states a group of stakeholders, including Siskiyou County, are part of a coalition to address water quality and habitat for endangered coho salmon, which would also benefit spring chinook.

The California Fish and Game Commission will meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in the auditorium of the California Natural Resources Building, 1416 Ninth Street in Sacramento. Meeting agendas, staff reports and a live stream of the proceedings will be available at www.fgc.ca.gov.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

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