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North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense

10 years after Klamath Fish Kill a County and Tribe Fight to Avoid Another Disaster
by Hoopa Valley Tribe and Humboldt County ( klamathrights [at] gmail.com )
Tuesday Jul 3rd, 2012 12:43 PM
10 years after Klamath Fish Kill a County and Tribe Fight to Avoid Another Disaster

Humboldt’s 50 Year Old Water Right Could be Key for Survival for Record Salmon Run
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Humboldt County Hoopa Valley Tribe

Press Release
For immediate release: July 3, 2012

Contact:
Leonard Masten, Jr. , Hoopa Valley Tribe 530 739-2892
Regina Chichizola, Hoopa Valley Tribe 541 951-0126
Ryan Sundberg, Humboldt County Supervisor 707 599-6382

10 years after Klamath Fish Kill a County and Tribe Fight to Avoid Another Disaster
Humboldt’s 50 Year Old Water Right Could be Key for Survival for Record Salmon Run

Eureka, California - When Central Valley farmers came for the Trinity Rivers’ water in 1955, Humboldt County, a small rural county supported by commercial fishing, saw the writing on the wall. The diversion of the Klamath’s River’s largest tributary could mean that there would not be enough water for Humboldt County needs. In a show of vision for the time, Humboldt County fought the big water interests in the Central Valley and won an entitlement to 50,000 acre feet of water from the Trinity River Division.

“Humboldt County secured this water on top of the language in the 1955 bill that conditioned the diversion of Trinity River water with the need to first protect fish and wildlife. Yet this language, and our water right, were never respected, and soon 90% of the Trinity was going to the Central Valley. This took a huge toll on our fish runs, and our economy.” stated Ryan Sundberg a Humboldt County Board of Supervisor. “We now feel that to use that water for salmon is the best use of water for economic development consistent with California water law requirements to use water for ‘beneficial use’. For us fish equal jobs.”

Diversions continued until 2000 when the Hoopa Tribe, supported by legislation, a 14 year flow study, and multiple court rulings won back 50% of the Trinity’s flows from California’s agribusiness giants and power users.

“The 2000 Record of Decision restored flows to the river and funded a massive, scientifically based restoration project on the Trinity.” stated Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Leonard Masten, Jr. “Unfortunately the decision was still being litigated when the 2002 Klamath fish kill happened. This year we hope that all responsible Californians will unite to support our work to save the fishery and the North Coast jobs it makes possible.”

Fears of a fish kill on the Klamath River arose when Federal, State, and Tribal scientists concluded that a record number of adult salmon, nearly 380,000 fall run salmon alone, will migrate up the river this fall. This number is 2.4 times the run in 2002 when water levels were much too low for the number of fish leading to the stranding and killing of an estimated 30 to 70,000 adult salmon. In 2006, a West Coast fishing disaster was declared as low runs of Klamath Salmon shut down commercial fishing on the West Coast and left California’s two largest tribes, which are located on the Klamath and Trinity River with too little fish.

Ten years later, the Klamath River flows are uncertain as a controversial water sharing and dam removal plan is still in limbo. This is why Humboldt County, supported by the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Fisheries management agencies, are asking that federal dam operators release Klamath and Trinity water to provide safe passage for migrating fish. They have been joined by the Trinity Management Council, who recently released a study calling for much higher fall flows in the Klamath -Trinity River to protect Klamath Salmon, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, several congressmen, and sport fishing groups. Water managers in California have been supportive of these requests so far.

The Hoopa Valley Tribe has been fighting for water for the salmon on the Trinity River for over thirty years. Another fish kill could be catastrophic. “For the Hoopa Tribe the salmon are no less important to us then the air we breathe” explained Chairman Masten. “We are as committed now to the recovery of the Klamath and Trinity salmon as we ever were, and we will support anyone working to find water for their recovery.”

Until then Tribal fishermen, Humboldt County, and fisheries managers are watching the River and waiting for Federal and State agencies to act.