The current National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Biological Opinion governing the Klamath Project operation to protect threatened coho salmon sets a lower limit for flow of 1300 cubic feet per second from October through February. However, flow releases from Iron Gate Dam fell to 1000 cfs for prolonged periods in January 2012 and for most of February 2012. The departure of flows from the 51 average shows that the new KBRA flow regime is a significant decrease as a result of retaining flows in Upper Klamath Lake.
Above: USGS chart of flow of the lower Klamath River at Iron Gate Dam from January to March 2012. Click to enlarge.
Despite a very dry period in the Upper Klamath Basin, Upper Klamath Lake was filled at the same time flows were restricted to the lower Klamath River and to National Wildlife Refuges.
Right: USGS flow level chart for Upper Klamath Lake. Click to enlarge.
The Expert Panel on coho salmon and steelhead convened to review the KBRA prospects for success noted that historic flow levels of the Klamath River were much higher when Lower Klamath Lake was connected. The lake filled with Klamath River water in winter and then slowly released it through July as it drained.
Left: Chart modified from Dunne et al. 2011.
The KBRA is causing flows to depart further from their historic range of variability, which is the opposite of what is needed for ecological restoration and restoring Harmony to the Klamath Basin. The unnaturally low flows released from October 2011 through February 2012 slowed transit time through reservoirs and could be responsible for early on-set of toxic algae blooms in PacifiCorp’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project reservoirs. PacifiCorp sprayed toxic algae blooms in September 2012 without a State Water Resources Control Board 401 Permit and over the objections of Tribes, even those Party to the Klamath Settlement (story).
Photo courtesy Dr. Charles Dewberry.
Dunne, T., G. Ruggerone, D. Goodman, K. Rose, W. Kimmerer, and J. Ebersole. 2011. Draft Scientific Assessment of Two Dam Removal Alternatives on Coho Salmon and Steelhead. KBRA Expert Panel produced with assistance from PBSJ, Portland, OR. 149 p.
Eureka Times Standard. 2012. Blue-green algae study on Klamath reservoirs frustrates tribes; PacifiCorp says treatment is safe. By Luke Ramseth. September 9, 2012.
Higgins, P.T. 2011. Comments on the KBRA Coho Salmon and Steelhead Expert Panel Draft Report for the Resighini Rancheria. Patrick Higgins, Consulting Fisheries Biologist, Arcata, CA. 14 p.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2010. Operation of the Klamath Project between 2010 and 2018. File Number 151422SWR2008AR00148. March 15, 2010. NMFS SW Region, Arcata, CA. 236 p.
National Research Council (NRC). 2008. Hydrology, Ecology, and Fishes of the Klamath River Basin. National Academy Press, Washington D.C. 272 p.
Resighini Rancheria. 2011a. Comments on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement Draft Drought Plan. Submitted April 15, 2011. Resighini Rancheria, Klamath, CA. 22 p.
Resighini Rancheria. 2011b. Resighini Rancheria Comments on the Klamath
Hydroelectric Project Facilities Removal Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
and Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). Resighini Rancheria, Klamath, CA. 32
Trush, W. 2007. Commentary on the Klamath River Settlement Agreement. November 9, 2007. McBain and Trush, Arcata, CA. 19 p.