13 Oct 2009, 10:07pm
Salmon and other fish
by admin

Diverting Rivers and Dollars

by bear bait

The Oregonian newspaper continues to delude itself and the public regarding the Klamath River, its tributaries, and the water issues therein.  The implication of their coverage is that the PacificCorp dams,  part of the old California Oregon Power Company holdings once controlled by Chicago’s Jay Insull, who was brought to Oregon in chains in the 1930’s by the Oregon Public Utility Commission, are the one limiting factor for salmon survival in the lower Klamath River.

The Oregonian’s claim is that reservoirs hold hot water which is released to make power and in doing so,  heats the river and kills salmon.  But always missing in the discussion is that the Klamath River is, in fact, only half of the watershed. The Trinity River, a 100% a California river, is the other half.

The Trinity and Klamath join 40 odd miles above the ocean.  The major salmon river is the Trinity, and most of the fish that died in the 2002 drought and subsequent die-off were Trinity fish that died below its confluence with the Klamath. The Trinity is a cold water stream with now very restricted flows due to California irrigation withdrawals.

2002 saw strong ocean numbers of chinook and restricted ocean fishing in the Klamath River Protection Zone in the Pacific Ocean. When those fish entered the Klamath, Indian fishing was hot and heavy until they could no longer find markets for the fish.  A large Columbia River run had bloated the net-caught fish market up and down the coast. The summer vacation crowd was now in school, and selling fish out of totes from the back of a pickup was fruitless. SF fish buyers offered a dime a pound and the Indians quit fishing with a river full of fish during a drought.

Too many fish and too little water. The needed cold water of the Trinity had been diverted to Fresno or somewhere south of there. The fish had no claim to cool Trinity River water sucked up by farmers in the Central Valley,  water which might have helped some,   because gill disease from warm water parasites killed more than 35,000 salmon and maybe twice that number.

Instead, Oregon farmers got the blame.  Politics, money, and California spin ruled the day.  An equal die-off happened in the Rogue River,  but there were no Indians with a claim to the fish,  and no ag interests to blame.  Dies-offs happen in trans Coast Range streams in hot, droughty  early fall until the diurnal cycle begins to cool the streams with the sun moving south and  frosts in the highlands of early September.

The North Fork of the Trinity is dammed by Trinity dam high in the watershed, holding 2.4 million acre feet of cold water.  An annual 2.5 million acre feet of water is released to make 140 megawatts of peaking power,  and then the water is diverted downstream by the Lewiston Dam to a canal and tunnels that move the water through the Coast Range to the Sacramento River via penstocks (which produce additional power).

The final destination of the water is  farms way south in the Central Valley that grow government subsidized crops,  all with water from a coastal watershed and not the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed as described in Wikipedia and by the BurRec in their naming of the water projects.  Water diverted from the Trinity River is not part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed,  even though that is where it ends up.

Clinton Interior Secretary Babbitt forced the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Water Authority to limit their take of the total annual stream flow of the North Fork Trinity to 68% of that total flow as stated in pre-dam planning documents.  He made them live up to their agreed upon diversion.  Presently the Babbitt treaty release is 470 cfs average as opposed to the prior 150 cfs annual average.   Most of the water released beyond the level to keep the river flowing is in April and May to make a faux spring runoff for salmon and steelhead. There is a 40 Million egg capacity hatchery at Lewiston Dam.  Before Babbitt’s exercise,  the CVA was taking as much as 98% of the annual flow,  and to ensure water had a place to run after the Babbitt  directive,  track hoes had to excavate trees and brush to re-establish  a river channel below Lewiston Dam.

California is a water hog state run by MegaAg interests,  and Oregon is paying the price with dam removal and loss of clean, cheap hydro power.  Outnumbered by 48 California votes in Congress,  Oregon is being bullied by Cal Ag  interests,  enviros and Big Government.  The Trinity diversion  produces electrical power and removes significant amounts of water  from the watershed.  Those are facts that Oregonians have not been told  by the Oregonian newspaper.

The Oregonian’s self-flagellation of envrio guilt on behalf of Oregon citizens is not productive,  and is shallow at best. The salmon issue on the Klamath is not going to be solved by dam removals.  Not when the major tributary,  the Trinity,   is de-watered to another watershed,  and  not when two of the three largest tributaries of the California stretch of the Klamath are over-subscribed by irrigation.

The Shasta River is a trickle in August and September,  and the Scott River dewatered  except for some ranch well water that BurRec is buying to keep a  semblance of water in some lower pools of the Scott.  The Salmon River tributary runs off newly burned hundreds of thousands of acres of  USFS land that was once mostly in timber that shaded the streams to a degree.

Fish cannot spawn in dry streams, nor can those streams raise smolts. Fall chinook only need water in the creek for an early fall spawning to hatching to spring runoff, when the fingerlings move to the ocean to mature.  Coho, spring chinook, and steelhead all need a year or more of river habitat to grow to smolting size and migration to the ocean. The number of those fish is finitely determined by cubic feet of water flow.

Water is going to the CVA for irrigation and not to rearing habitat in the Klamath watershed.  That water is lost potential salmon. Forever lost potential.

The Oregon power dams have not taken a drop of water out of the watershed.  They have blocked some small tributaries from spawning and rearing,  but the Iron Gate Hatchery has mitigated that loss in fish numbers.  Even Oregon irrigation diversions don’t take the water out of the watershed.  Irrigation tailwater can and does go back into the streams in the Klamath watershed.

The real loss on that river system is the 2.5 million acre feet of water taken from the Trinity watershed each year.  No fish benefit from that.

And don’t tell me that Sacramento salmon get to use that water.  The 2008 return for that whole watershed,  filled with hatcheries and waterless tributaries,  the once mighty rivers feeding San Francisco Bay,   hosted less than 50,000 returning adults,  while the Columbia River had over 1.5 million salmon and steelhead over Bonneville fish ladders, and another half million in the lower River  tributaries like the Willamette, Clackamas, Cowlitz, Lewis, and the smaller streams on both sides.  The difference is significant.

California is the problem when it comes to water and fish.  California does not allow the Colorado River to reach Mexico or the Sea of Cortez, nor does it now allow the Sacramento or the San Joaquin to reach San Francisco Bay and the ocean.  All the water is diverted and used,  Federal law and common sense being out the door.

The Columbia  River puts 198 million acre feet of water in the ocean each year, and  west coast salmon feed in that plume of water-borne  nutrients and bring them back in their bodies to feed our streams.  Only the Klamath’s 12 million acre feet of water now enters the ocean from California.

If Cal Ag interests had their way with the once proposed Ah Pah Dam that would have put 40 miles of the Trinity under reservoir with an 890 feet tall dam holding it back,  and a reservoir of 15 million acre feet,  a third of the size of Lake Mead,  Klamath  salmon demise would still be blamed on Oregon dams and farmers.

The hidden issue is that California will again try to divert the Snake River to the upper Sacramento in the future.  And who knows where the Oregonian will land on that issue?  The paper hasn’t  examined deep enough to find out the truth of the issues.  Nor does the paper (nor the Governor, nor the Legislature) defend our State’s interests.

If Oregon’s salmon fishermen are to  again fish in the ocean for chinook salmon,  the whole  of the Trinity  Reservoir needs to be in the Trinity and Klamath Rivers to raise salmon instead of cotton in Bakersfield or corn in some other farm town in the desert.  To add insult to injury,  that irrigation has resulted is so much salt in the soil they now have to use two acre feet of water per acre just to suppress salts in order to grow a crop that takes at least three acre feet of water to raise in the very evaporative desert.  Add to that the loss to evaporation as the water travels hundreds of miles of canals and ditches and the waste is significant.

Harmful as well.  A crime against nature,  really.  Bad public policy and bad use of resources.   Dead salmon,  wasted water, all to employ illegal aliens to grow and harvest subsidized crops we have too much of.  Insane.  And by implied consent due to benign neglect of inquiry,  evidently supported by the Oregonian newspaper.

The crux of the salmon issue is not being addressed. Only the opportunity to beat up on a billionaire’s utility is given support,  which in the end means that this writer,  living in the Willamette Valley of Oregon,  will pay PacifiCorp each month for the dam removal buy paying the power bill from the PacifiCorp’s electrical monopoly in this town.

I don’t get to fish chinook salmon in the ocean,  profit from California irrigation, or get the cheap power from the Trinity and Lewiston power plants and the penstocks feeding the water into the Sacramento River. Oregon residents do get to pay inflated electric bills to benefit California ag interests, however.

Nobody in California is paying, and there has been no action by California to step up to the plate to pay for the dam removal.  Just the usual green suspects and the Oregonian trumpeting this big ya-hoo to blast out dams while dummies like me pay and urban greenies dance by the fountain.

Government can’t give you a thing that they haven’t first taken from somebody.  Nothing they do is free.  And nothing they do is revenue neutral because they have to have their cut which somehow always shows up at 50% of the cost of the job or more.  I will never forget reading the blueprints for the Yaquina Bay South Jetty Extension.  Big set of blueprints with three views,  all on one sheet.  And at least 10% of the blueprint was a drawing and instructions on how to erect a 4×16 sign out of marine plywood to announce the project, with the Army Corps of Engineers furnishing the two decals of the castles.  Brand and type  of paint, color,  lettering size, all the bells and  whistles.  For a multi million dollar project explained by a pretty  simple blueprint which told you the three sizes of acceptable stone
and how to place it and what direction.

We sometimes lose sight of the goal.  Or overlook the obvious.  The goal is more salmon and the obvious is that 2,500,000 acre feet of water missing from the Trinity River system. Cold alpine snow field water,  all being sold by the same government that is supposed to recover salmon,   to farmers far out of the watershed who benefit by a water subsidy and a crop subsidy.

Milo Minderbinder is alive and well,  has aged well,  and is again serving his country.    Thank you,  Mr. Heller,  for giving him to us.

15 Oct 2009, 6:04am
by Tom F.


your are partialy right closer than most. Where the tall Dam is needed is at Irongate, Chinnok need to be wet, w/cool water not the hot 2000fps surface water being released now in the middle of July, spreading disease all the way to the ocean.ad as much as possible on top of the existing dam , then save the run of and 34-38 degree water cold be released in the hot months and 178 miles of the Klamath River in less than 5 yrs. would look like the Smith river or better, remooving the dams will not do what is promised, it will not lower river temps, raise dissolved oxygen, or bring back more fish or restore anything.

15 Oct 2009, 11:17am
by Mike


Tom, while we appreciate and encourage your participation in this discussion, some courteous attention to spell checking and sentence structure would aid your attempts to communicate.

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