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Toxic Algae Threaten Human Health in PacifiCorp's Klamath Reservoirs
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Aug 8th, 2006 4:31 PM
Besides killing fish, the Klamath River dams threaten human health by creating ideal growth conditions for toxic blue-green algae.
Karuk Tribe of California


For Immediate Release: August 8, 2006

For more information:
Craig Tucker, Spokesperson Karuk Tribe 530-627-3446 x27

Blooms worse than last year, little response from Company or County

Happy Camp, CA – A recent analysis of water samples from Copco and Iron Gate Reservoirs reveal extremely high levels of the toxic blue-green algae Microcystis aeruginosa which produces a compound known to cause liver failure and promote tumor growth. Samples taken from areas frequented by recreational users of the reservoirs contained cell counts as much as 3,900 times greater than what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers to be a ‘moderate health risk’. The observation of blue-green scum on the water’s surface by water quality specialists indicate that toxin levels fall into the WHO’s high risk category.

The reservoirs are located on the Klamath River near the Oregon border between Ashland, OR and Yreka, CA.

According to Karuk Tribe Water Quality Coordinator Susan Corum, “It’s worse than last year. The responsible thing for PacifiCorp and Siskiyou County to do is to close these reservoirs immediately.”

Karuk water quality technicians discovered the presence of the highly toxic algae Microcystis aeruginosa last year while performing water quality tests. Until then no one knew that the algae was toxic.

Although county and PacifiCorp officials have had a year to prepare for the blooms, it appears that little action is being taken to protect the public. “While taking these samples, we observed swimmers and water skiers,” stated Corum.

World Health Organization (WHO) reports indicate that exposure to high levels of microcystin can produce symptoms such as eye and skin irritation, vomiting and stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, headache, pains in muscles and joints, and weakness. However, chronic long term exposure can be more dangerous as symptoms may not develop until much damage has been done.

There are two aspects of chronic microcystin damage to the liver—progressive active liver injury and the potential for promotion of tumor growth. Tumor formation has been induced in laboratory studies in mice. Thus liver failure or cancer could result if someone is exposed often over the course of years.

Children are at the greatest risk because of their small size and propensity to accidentally swallow water while swimming. If a swimming child swallowed half a cup of water from the reservoir, they would be exposed toxin levels almost 400 times the WHO allowable Total Daily Intake.

The dams that create the ideal growth conditions for toxic algae are currently being relicensed. For years, Tribes, fishermen, and environmentalists have been calling for the removal of the lower four Klamath dams to help restore what was once the third most productive salmon river in America.

“Now we know that these dams are not only hazardous to fish, they’re hazardous to people as well,” according to Karuk Vice Chairman Leaf Hillman. Hillman goes on to state, “These dams create horrific water quality problems. We expect this will make it difficult for PacifiCorp to get a clean water permit from the state of California.”

Under authority of the Clean Water Act, states have the authority to grant or deny dam owners a permit to relicense hydropower dams.

Concludes Hillman, “PacifiCorp’s lower four dams generate very little power, provide no flood control, and provide no irrigation diversions. All they do well is kill fish and create toxic algae blooms.”

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Editors’ notes: Pictures of the sampling sites and a copy of lab results are available online at

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by La Sangre de Madre Tierra
Wednesday Aug 9th, 2006 10:52 AM
Young salmon are also suceptible to the combination of toxic algae, higher temps and slower water velocity. Restoration of the Klamath river requires the removal of the dams on the Klamath river. Isn't it high time for solar/wind/bio energy already, having solar panels on rooftops and windmills can be safer alternatives to energy overconsumption. Regulating corporate energy overuse at underpriced rates could also help with energy conservation. The little old ladies heating their dinners on the stove, etc.. (average household consumption) use small amounts of energy, though the 24 hour spotlights at the Wal-mart, suburban sprawl, etc.. uses large amounts of energy..

Calpine, Halliburton, Bechtel, etc.. encourage massive overconsumption of energy by corporations while discouraging attempts at regulation by utilities of corporate energy waste. Pacificorp under billionaire Warren Buffet could be taking the same method as the other energy giants mentioned above, bilking taxpayers for the maintenance and upkeep of outdated hydroelectric dams like the 50+ year old dams on the Klamath, then claiming they benefit consumers by offering free energy. The construction of massive concrete dams on rivers was not meant to be (nor will they be see 'seismic event') permanent fixtures blocking the veins flowing with la Sangre de Madre Tierra..

Am guessing that ecosystems like the Klamath Rio could recover over decades of time and witness increasing salmon runs yearly once their ancestral habitat is rendered accessible and healthy (cooler water temps, faster velocity, etc..) to the migratory fish following Klamath River dams removal and restoration..

Green sturgeon, eel and other species of migratory/anadromous fish would also return, provided that the Klamath dams are removed and ecological restoration begins withing the next year (end of 2006)..

by celebrate indigenous autonomy
Thursday Aug 10th, 2006 11:35 AM
August 11-13 is the Hupa (or Hoopa) nation's celebration of indigenous autonomy and sovereignty, a nation within a nation. Public transit from Arcata to Willow Creek via RTS, then transfer to Klamath/Trinity-Net for ride to Hoopa village. With carpool/hitchhiking, 299 east from Arcata to Willow Creek, then north along the 96 to Hoopa village..

This from the calendar of events at Hoopa's community radio station, KIDE FM @;

Date: Aug 11, 2006
Time: 9:00 am to 2:00 am
Sovereign Days!

Sovereign Day Celebration, Friday, August 11th, "A Country Fair" Events take place On Stage: Front Lawn of Tribal Office, at the Hoopa Rodeo Grounds and along the Trinity River watching the fireworks at 9:30p:

9:00a Opening Prayer

9:10a Color Guard by Native American Veteran Society

9:20a Welcoming Address

9:30a Grand Marshall Presentation

10:15a Traditional Dress Show

11a Chili Cook-Off

11:15a Introduction of Reigning Ms. NCAI & Ms. Na:tini-xwe

11:45a Native American Idol Contest

12:05p Elder's Luncheon

1p Coronation of Miss. Na:tini-xwe

1:10p Watermelon Eating Contest

1:45p Crowning of the 2006 Rodeo Queen

2:45 IDA Graduation Ceremony

Hoopa Rodeo Grounds: Pine Creek Road:

7p Rodeo Begins with children events

8p Grand Entry

9p Dance


If unable to make it inland to Hoopa, there's also an anti-war (US occupation of Iraq, Israeli bombing of Lebanon, etc..) protest in downtown Arcata and Eureka in the evenings of Aug 11/12..

For exact time and location of peace protest in Arcata/Eureka, please contact the Arcata Redwoods Peace and Justice Center for more info;

1040 H Street
Arcata, CA 95521
Phone: (707) 826-2511
Fax: (707) 826-2565