News on Feds end preventative fish kill water releases to Trinity-Klamath rivers

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No flow boost for Trinity - The Trinity Journal : Environment 8/6/14 8:12 AM Page 1 of 3

No flow boost for Trinity

By AMY GITTELSOHN The Trinity Journal | Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 6:15 am

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has decided not to raise Trinity River flows as a preventative measure

against a die-off of fall run chinook salmon in the lower Klamath River.

There is a backup plan to release more water if the Ich parasite that caused a die-off in 2002 is found

among the fish, but the decision has drawn fire from fisheries advocates who fear that will be too late. In

2002, tens of thousands of Chinook died before spawning in the lower Klamath. Many were bound for

the Trinity River, which flows into the Klamath.

However, the decision was applauded by those in Trinity County concerned with the rapidly dropping

Trinity Lake and lost power generation.

Since the salmon die-off in 2002, Reclamation has in several years released water beyond that regularly

scheduled in late summer/early fall to prevent the overcrowding that helps the parasite to spread. Of

course, that leaves less water in the Trinity reservoir available to be diverted for farming and other

purposes, and last year Central Valley Project contractors sued Reclamation to prevent the higher flow

but were unsuccessful.

This year, it’s a different story, said Brian Person, area manager of the northern California Bureau of

Reclamation Office.

Person said the decision not to do a preventative flow, was “primarily driven by very, very low storage

levels in the Trinity reservoir and the projection for even lower storage levels by the end of this season.”

The diminished cold water pool makes it more difficult to meet temperature targets for fish in the Trinity

River in the fall, Person said.

As of Monday, Trinity Lake held 842,845 acre feet of water, 44 percent of the historic average for this

time of year. The release to the Trinity River was 455 cubic feet per second, while the diversion through

the tunnels for CVP uses was 2,457 cfs. Inflow was 73 cfs.

The diversion is due to “overall water demand,” including “temperature concerns on the Sacramento

Basin as well,” Person said, noting that Shasta Lake is also low.

The diversion raised concerns of Rep. Jared Huffman, who wrote Reclamation officials that “operations

of the Trinity River Division are required by law to first protect Trinity River fisheries, yet with ongoing

diversions of Trinity water out of basin to the Central Valley Project there may be neither enough water,

No flow boost for Trinity - The Trinity Journal : Environment 8/6/14 8:12 AM Page 2 of 3

nor cold enough water, available for needed supplemental flows.”

While the preventative flow is not happening, Person said there is a plan that provides for close

monitoring of fish health in the lower Klamath.

If monitoring by the Hoopa and Yurok tribes and fish regulatory organizations determines fish are

stressed or dying they will notify the Fish Health Center of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which will

determine if Ich is present in the fish, Person said.

If that’s the case, he said, “We’ll be set to provide emergency augmentation releases from Trinity.”

The releases will be the amount needed to double whatever the flow is on the lower Klamath at the time,

he said.

The front wave of the higher flow from Lewiston Dam would reach the lower Klamath in a little less than

two days, he said.

The approach has its detractors, and the two-day estimate has been challenged.

Interior Secretary Jewell has decided to roll the dice, according to the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

“The Secretary is betting that if fish start dying she can make an emergency release of water to provide

relief,” said Mike Orcutt, Hoopa Valley Tribe Fisheries director. “But our scientists say that water won’t

reach the fish for 4.5 days, and once disease appeared in 2002, up to 70,000 adult salmon were dead

within days.”

Fish kills did not occur in years when the higher Trinity releases were made for the fall run, the Hoopa

tribe noted.

From the California Water Impact Network, Tom Stokely said, “C-WIN supports a proactive flow to

prevent a fish kill.”

Exports through the tunnels are higher than they should be and will be higher than the inflow to the lake

this year, he said.

Solutions include prioritizing Trinity River water for use in the Trinity basin, fixing a “plumbing” issue

that allows water to warm too much for fish when it flows slowly through Lewiston Lake and

establishing an enforceable minimum pool for Trinity Lake, Stokely said.

From the Trinity Lake Revitalization Alliance, Kelli Gant said Reclamation’s decision was a good one

looking at the lake’s current and projected fall storage levels.

Another augmented fall flow would strengthen the precedent being set, Gant said, and “we believe those

releases have no scientific proof they’ve actually prevented fish from dying.”

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However, in light of the amount of water being diverted through the tunnels, Gant is not celebrating. One

reason for the high diversion is to reduce salinity levels in the Sacramento Delta.

“I think in the end it’s really sad the Trinity Lake water is being used to salvage the mismanagement of

the Klamath and the Sacramento River,” Gant said.

From the Trinity Public Utilities District which pays higher power costs when less water is diverted

through the tunnels, General Manager Paul Hauser said, “We support the decision not to do augmented

flows in the fall.”

“We don’t have any problem with fall flows,” he said, but that water needs to come out of the annual

amount of water allocated to the river under the Trinity River Record of Decision instead of on top of it.

A pending court decision should clarify that, he said.