Judge Lifts Temporary Restraining Order on Trinity Augmentation Flows to Prevent Lower Klamath Fish Kill!


Judge Lawrence R. O'Neill removed his temporary restraining order that extended his original temporary restraining order on Trinity River flows intended to prevent a repeat of the 2002 Lower Klamath River fish kill.  This is great news for the Trinity River, its salmon, its people and the rule of law and science.  Kudos go to the Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and Earthjustice for defending the ability of the Bureau of Reclamation to release additional water from Trinity Lake to keep this huge salmon run alive.


The originally estimated 62,000 af was just an estimate, which it turns out was an over-estimate based on a prior projected flow level that fortunate weather and flow conditions made less necessary- flows in the lower Klamath River are higher than predicted.  See Belchik Declarationhere.
Also, we are 10 days into the originally proposed flows, so that cuts 10 days off right there, as a further proportional reduction.  The end result leaves only a 21,000 af gap to meet the 2800 cfs estuary target.
And whatever adjustments would be made for an actual outbreak or rising temperatures in the original program proposal are now still in operation.  The TRO is simply lifted and a motion for Injunction denied.  So the program goes forward.  The reduction to 21,000 was from the agency recalculation based on actual flow conditions (as opposed to a weeks old projection) and does not come from the Court or Westlands.   That means if additional flows are needed to reduce an outbreak of ich or to reduce Lower Klamath River tributaries, they can occur.
Check out the articles on it below:

Redding Record Searchlight: Federal judge OKs higher water flows into Trinity River

Rafters ride the current in the Trinity River in this 2010 file photo. A federal judge this afternoon reversed an earlier ban and approved sending more water down the Trinity River to help spawning Chinook salmon.

Rafters ride the current in the Trinity River in this 2010 file photo. A federal judge this afternoon reversed an earlier ban and approved sending more water down the Trinity River to help spawning Chinook salmon.
A federal judge this afternoon reversed his earlier ruling and approved sending more water down the Trinity River to help spawning Chinook salmon.
After two days of hearings in U.S. District Court in Fresno pitting powerful San Joaquin Valley agricultural interests against Northern California Indian tribes and fishing groups, Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill ruled that higher flows out of Lewiston Dam were needed to prevent a die-off in the Klamath River.
"It's a victory for the Klamath River and its fishery-dependent community," said Glen Spain, Northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.
The ruling came after the Westlands Water District and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to stop sending more water down the river to prevent fall-run Chinook salmon from becoming sick and dying due to crowded and warm water conditions.
The judge had earlier this month ruled in favor of the water agencies and banned higher flows in the river until hearings Wednesday and today.
"Neither side holds veto power over the other," O'Neill said in his ruling, referring to the competing agricultural and fishing interests.
"Nevertheless, on balance, considering the significantly lower volume of water now projected to be involved and the potential and enormous risk to the fishery of doing nothing, the court finds it in the public interest to permit the augmentation to proceed."
The bureau planned on Aug. 7 to raise releases from Lewiston Dam from 450 cubic-feet per second to 1,100 CFS until the last week in September, but the water agencies claimed that would harm them by reducing the amount of water available to them from Trinity Lake in coming years.
Water from Lewiston and Trinity lakes is part of the Central Valley Water Project, and some of it is piped over the mountains and into the Sacramento River, where it is sent south to the Delta and eventually the San Joaquin Valley.
The water agencies contended the bureau didn’t adequately address the impacts of the higher flows on San Joaquin Valley farmers and that higher flows out of Lewiston Dam violated the Department of the Interior’s “record of decision” regulating the amount of water in the river.
O'Neill agreed that the bureau's environmental analysis "gives little attention" to how the higher flows would affect farmers, but continuing to prohibit sending more water to help the fish would "cause more environmental harm that it would prevent."
Spain said it is likely the bureau would have to do a more thorough environmental analysis to prevent a repeat of this year's lawsuit.
The fishermen's association and Hoopa Valley Tribe both filed court papers in support of increasing river flows.
"The Trinity River is our vessel of life and the salmon are our lifeblood. We applaud the decision to release this water to avert a fish disaster, however this lawsuit demonstrates the need for long-term solutions to the fisheries crisis in the Klamath and Trinity rivers" Hoopa Valley Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten said in a written statement.
Fisheries biologists claim that water from the Trinity, which flows into the Klamath, would prevent a repeat of a fish die-off similar to one that happened in 2002, when more than 30,500 salmon and steelhead died.
Fish experts say that because of low flows, a large run of salmon and warm water temperatures in the Klamath, another fish die-off is imminent this year. About 272,400 Chinook are expected to return to the Klamath this year, compared to the 170,000 in the river in 2002, officials said.
Flushing higher flows down the Trinity reduces fish crowding, washes pathogens out of the water and cools the river, reducing the likelihood of fish disease and death, officials said.
Associated Press- Star-Telegram



Judge says Calif. water can be released for salmon

Posted Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

A U.S. District judge ruled late Thursday that water can be released from Northern California's Trinity Reservoir to prevent a salmon kill in the lower Klamath River, but the amount of water involved will be far less than the federal government initially asked for.
The ruling from Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill comes after farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley sued the federal government over the releases of water, saying they would be illegal and would further decrease the little water available to them for irrigation.
The judge had ordered the water releases temporarily stopped last week while he made a long-term decision.
He said in Thursday's ruling that in the week since, a change in environmental conditions and the federal position has meant that two-thirds less water than expected was required, making the decision easier and less harmful to farmers.
Environmental groups, fishing organizations and Indian tribes supported the release of the water, and the judge said the modified decision should leave both sides happy.
"All parties have prevailed in a significant, responsible way," O'Neill said in the ruling. "All is being done that can reasonably occur to prevent a major fish kill."
Advocates for the two sides, for the most part, agreed.
"The Trinity River is our vessel of life, and the salmon are our lifeblood," said Danielle Vigil-Masten, chairwoman of the Hoopa Valley tribe. "We applaud the decision to release this water to avert a fish disaster."
However, Vigil-Masten also emphasized the need for longer-term solutions to the water and salmon problems.
The San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, one of the groups that sued, declared victory over federal officials in the reduced water amount in the judge's order.
"Clearly the scientific justification they provided last week just couldn't hold up," the group said in a statement.
The water authority said it appreciated the decision but also cited the need for long-term answers for the fate of Klamath water and salmon.
The Trinity River is the main tributary of the Klamath. A large portion of Trinity water usually is sent south into the Sacramento River and is piped to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley through the Central Valley Project.
This year, officials expect a large fall run of salmon. But they also expect low water levels, leading to fears that tens of thousands of salmon in the Klamath could die before they spawn, as happened in 2002.
Next year, unless a very wet winter restores nearly empty reservoirs, farmers predict they might get little or no water — and the lack of Trinity River water would further reduce their deliveries.