top
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: California | Central Valley | North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Feds release emergency flows after fish parasite found in Klamath
by by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Sep 16th, 2014 3:11 PM
“While there has not been a confirmation that any fish have died as a result of Ich, we are extremely concerned that there could be another fish kill in the coming weeks if additional flows are not released. We appreciate that the Bureau of Reclamation heeded our request to send emergency flows down the Klamath River,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chair of the Yurok Tribe.
800_lewiston_dam_1.jpg
Feds release emergency flows after fish parasite found in Klamath

by Dan Bacher

The Bureau of Reclamation at 10 a.m. today began to release additional water from Trinity Reservoir in response to the discovery of an Ich parasite infection in Chinook salmon in the lower Klamath River and at the request of the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes.

A massive ich infestation among overcrowded fish led to a massive fish die-off in September 2002 in the lower Klamath River. Over 68,000 fish perished in the largest adult salmon die off in U.S. history.

Starting today and for the next seven days, the flow rate from Lewiston Dam on the Trinity river will be increased to a maximum of about 3,400 cubic feet per second (cfs), which will provide a flow rate of approximately 5,000 cfs in the lower Klamath River. This is double the 2,500 cfs flow sustained since August 23.

It will require approximately 35,000-40,000 acre-feet to accomplish the flow doubling, according to a news release from Reclamation. The public is urged to take all necessary precautions on or near the river while flows are high during this period.

"On Monday, Sept. 15, scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish Health Center captured and examined 20 fish from the lower Klamath River mainstem. Of those 20, nine tested positive for Ich parasites, with six of those nine determined to be severe. Ich was the primary pathogen responsible for the fish die-off in 2002," the Bureau stated.

The Fish Health Center’s findings are well above the emergency response criteria described in an August 2013 joint memorandum from USFWS and NOAA Fisheries. The recommended response is an immediate doubling of the flow rate in the lower Klamath River for seven days - and those increased releases began today.

“This is the only possible means of preventing or reducing the severity of a parasite outbreak,” said Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo. “We are greatly concerned about the impact today’s decision may have on already depleted storage levels, particularly the cold water pool in Trinity Reservoir. We must, however, take all reasonable measures to prevent a recurrence of the fish losses experienced in 2002.”

The Yurok Tribe applauded the release of increased flows down the Trinity River to avert a fish kill on the lower Klamath.

“While there has not been a confirmation that any fish have died as a result of Ich, we are extremely concerned that there could be another fish kill in the coming weeks if additional flows are not released. We appreciate that the Bureau of Reclamation heeded our request to send emergency flows down the Klamath River,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chair of the Yurok Tribe.

On Friday, September 12, the Yurok Fisheries Program hand-delivered slides, made from imprints of the gills of salmon believed to be sickened by Ich, to the USFWS Fish Health Center in Anderson, Ca. Over the weekend Fisheries crews continued to collect fish, many of which later tested positive Ich. On Monday, the Fisheries Program and Dr. Scott Foote from the center examined the 26 fish for Ich.

Ich outbreaks are the result of a combination of three factors - low flows, warm water and high fish densities, according to the Tribe. The Klamath River Basin is suffering through three years of extreme drought and is seeing a larger than predicted run of salmon in a relatively low flowing river.

"Prior to this year’s fall run of Chinook salmon, the Yurok Tribe, anticipating unhealthy river conditions that could trigger a fish kill, submitted two formal requests to the Secretary of Interior asking that additional flows be sent down the Klamath River from August 26 to September 21," The Tribe said. "Originally, the BOR declined to implement the Yurok Tribe’s proposal for additional flows to lessen the likelihood of another fish kill. At the Yurok Tribe’s request, the BOR reconsidered its decision to not provide these additional flows from August 23 – mid-September to protect fish."

Chairman O’Rourke said. “We are glad that BOR reconsidered our request and most likely the earlier releases prevented a large-scale fish kill similar to what took place on the Yurok Reservation in 2002."

Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten requested Monday afternoon that the Bureau of Reclamation immediately double the flows released into the Trinity from Lewiston Dam, according to a Hoopa Valley Tribe press release.

"The Hoopa Valley Tribe is very appreciative of the earlier action that Reclamation took by releasing preventative flows," Vigil-Masten stated. “We are in another stage that we did not anticipate and we shouldn’t deviate from what the science tells us to do. We expect that Reclamation will take the right action, which is to release the emergency flows that are called for under the criteria.”

"This year, like in 2002, massive amounts of water have been diverted from the Klamath and Trinity Rivers to agricultural users hit by severe drought, leaving only a small portion of the rivers’ natural flows to sustain their ecosystems," the Tribe noted.

Below are the press releases from the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes regarding the increased flows:

Yurok Tribe Press Release:

At the Tribe’s Request, the BOR is sending emergency flows down the Klamath

Tribal biologists find Ich, the pathogen responsible for the 2002 fish, for the first time in 11 years

Today, following the discovery of a significant number of salmon infected with the deadly parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis or Ich and at the request of the Yurok Tribe, emergency flows will be sent down the Klamath River.

On Monday, September 15, the Yurok Fisheries Program, along with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s California-Nevada Fish Health Center, examined several Klamath River Chinook salmon and confirmed the presence of the deadly parasite, which was responsible for the 2002 fish kill.

Ich was found in 11 of the 26 fish that the Yurok Fisheries Program sampled yesterday. Six of the salmon were severely infected with the ciliated protozoan parasite. This is the first time Ich has been detected since the Yurok Fisheries Program began monitoring for it in 2003, following the 2002 fish kill.

The prevalence of Ich exceeded a threshold identified by USFWS/NMFS during 2013 for releasing emergency flows to prevent a major disease outbreak. BOR’s decision today to double the flow in the Lower Klamath will help minimize the risk of a major fish kill.

“While there has not been a confirmation that any fish have died as a result of Ich, we are extremely concerned that there could be another fish kill in the coming weeks if additional flows are not released. We appreciate that the Bureau of Reclamation heeded our request to send emergency flows down the Klamath River,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr.

If the additional flows were not released back in August, it is highly likely there would have already been a massive fish kill on the Klamath River.

Last Friday, the Yurok Fisheries Program hand-delivered slides, made from imprints of the gills of salmon believed to be sickened by Ich, to the USFWS Fish Health Center in Anderson, Ca. Over the weekend Fisheries crews continued to collect fish, many of which later tested positive Ich. On Monday, the Fisheries Program and Dr. Scott Foote from the center examined the 26 fish for Ich.

“This quick response from the BOR and USFWS Fish Health Center will greatly lessen the chance of another fish kill,” Chairman O’Rourke said.

The Yurok Tribe will continue to monitor fish health in the Lower Klamath River until the fall run has subsided.

Ich outbreaks are the result of a combination of three factors, which consist of low flows, warm water and high fish densities. The Klamath River Basin is suffering through three years of extreme drought and is seeing a larger than predicted run of salmon in a relatively low flowing river.

Prior to this year’s fall run of Chinook salmon, the Yurok Tribe, anticipating unhealthy river conditions that could trigger a fish kill, submitted two formal requests to the Secretary of Interior asking that additional flows be sent down the Klamath River from August 26 to September 21. Originally, the BOR declined to implement the Yurok Tribe’s proposal for additional flows to lessen the likelihood of another fish kill. At the Yurok Tribe’s request, the BOR reconsidered its decision to not provide these additional flows from August 23 – mid-September to protect fish.

“We are glad that BOR reconsidered our request and most likely the earlier releases prevented a large-scale fish kill similar to what took place on the Yurok Reservation in 2002,” Chairman O’Rourke said.

Based on the observations of Yurok fisheries biologists and tribal fishers, it is likely that this year’s run of Chinook salmon was substantially under predicted. During crowded conditions, such as during a large escapement year, Ich is more readily passed from one fish to the next. In order to reduce fish densities and the chance of another catastrophic fish kill, the Yurok Tribe plans reopen the subsistence fishery for two weeks, with a 2-day closure each week for the protection of Coho.

Hoopa Valley Tribe Press Release:

The Hoopa Valley Tribe took swift action responding to the Klamath River fish kill and contacted the Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director, Dave Murillo. A potentially catastrophic outbreak of disease among fall Chinook salmon has today commenced in the lower Klamath River. Samples examined by Dr. Scott Foott show infection with ich of at least nine fish, including six with “severe” infestations.

Consequently, an emergency doubling of flows at the USGS “KNK’ gage from pre-existing levels for a period of 7 consecutive days, will be required in an attempt to avoid a massive fish kill. They asked Mr. Murillo to please take action immediately to release emergency flows. Our leadership is currently in discussion with Mr. Murillo on the proposed action.

Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten stated that, “The Hoopa Valley Tribe is very appreciative of the earlier action that Reclamation took by releasing preventative flows. We are in another stage that we did not anticipate and we shouldn’t deviate from what the science tells us to do. We expect that Reclamation will take the right action which is to release the emergency flows that are called for under the criteria.”

Dr. Scott Foott, a pathologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, discovered severe ich (ichthyophthirius multifiliis) infestations in fall run Chinook salmon taken from the Lower Klamath River.

Massive ich infestations among overcrowded fish led to a massive fish die-off in 2002, which left tens of thousands of fish dead and dying along the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.

Robert Franklin, senior hydrologist with Hoopa Tribal Fisheries, said, “The fear is that all the fish might die in the Lower Klamath like they did in 2002.”

This year, like in 2002, massive amounts of water have been diverted from the Klamath and Trinity Rivers to agricultural users hit by severe drought, leaving only a small portion of the rivers’ natural flows to sustain their ecosystems.

As more water is diverted away from local rivers, lower water flow leads to higher temperatures in the water, and diseases and parasites spread among fish crowded into the few deep pools along the river.

Franklin said only an immediate doubling of flows on the Trinity could prevent the infection from spreading rapidly. “It needs to take place immediately because the water will take several days to reach the Lower Klamath.”

Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairwoman Danielle Vigil-Masten requested this afternoon that the Bureau of Reclamation immediately double the flows released into the Trinity from Lewiston Dam.

“We expect that the Bureau of Reclamation will take the right action and release the emergency flows that are called for,” Vigil-Masten said.
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
All's Well that Ends Well.JREThursday Sep 18th, 2014 5:38 PM