During the course of Resighini Rancheria investigations related to the government’s proposed action to remove dams that included Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) implementation, we have come upon some alarming information regarding lack of protection for the Lost River and shortnose suckers, two endangered species of fish native to the Upper Klamath Basin.
On April 22, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) amended its existing Biological Opinion (BO) for Klamath Project operation to allow Tule Lake and Clear Lake to be drawn down so low that they would no longer support the populations of both species that have inhabited these lakes since time immemorial. The BOR was also allowed to trap and remove from Tule Lake a substantial portion of these populations, which are considered very important to recovery efforts.
Image: Map of sucker population status and the potential effect of USFWS 2010 modified B.O. Click to enlarge.
The sucker Recovery Plan defines two sub-populations of both species: Upper Klamath Lake and the Lost River, including Clear Lake and Tule Lake. The Upper Klamath Lake populations of both shortnose and Lost River suckers are plummeting. Therefore, elimination of Clear Lake and Tule Lake populations is counter to the goals of the Endangered Species Act and the USFWS 2010 BO modification was illegal because it posed increased extinction risk or Jeopardy (see Higgins 2012a, 2012b). In addition, the new proposed Critical Habitat for Lost River and shortnose suckers by USFWS leaves out Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Lake, which is contradictory to previous Recovery Plan recommendations and numerous scientific studies.
Both species of suckers are also listed under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and Tule Lake is in California; therefore, the removal of these endangered fish was likely a violation of CESA. The Resighini Rancheria filed a California Public Records Act request with the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and it is apparent that CA Code 5515 that designates both sucker species as “fully protected animals” was also violated.
Shortnose sucker captured and transported from Tule Lake to Upper Klamath Lake in May 2010. Photo from Courter et al. 2010.
|Contractor to U.S. BOR dumping Tule Lake suckers into Upper Klamath Lake in May 2010, which violated CESA and CA 5515. Photo from Courter et al. 2010.|
The KBRA (24.2.2) states that:
“Within sixty days of concurrence by the Governor of California with an affirmative Determination by the Secretary under Section 3.3 of the Hydroelectric Settlement, CDFG will provide the draft legislation to the Parties regarding a limited authorization to take incidentally Lost River suckers, shortnose sucker, golden eagles, southern bald eagles, greater sandhill cranes, or American peregrine falcon contingent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions, if such authorization is necessary for implementation of the Agreement.”
The USFWS B.O. amendment in April, 2010 was just three months after the signing of the KBRA. This, along with the modifications of Critical Habitat which conform with the provisions of the KRBA, creates the appearance that USFWS is compromising ESA enforcement in the Upper Klamath Basin in California. CDFG also appears to be honoring the KBRA despite the lack of legislation described in 24.2.2 and the fact that both CESA and CA Code 5515 are being violated.
Members of the Resighini Rancheria are not wealthy and they rely on the Klamath River for sustenance as they have since time immemorial. While we have never relied on suckers as a food source, they have always been important to us because they are indicators of the health of the Klamath River as a whole. We feel that if the suckers cannot live, the Lower Klamath River cannot be healed and salmon and we, as a people, will perish with them. Ecological restoration that helps recovery suckers is needed and should be the thrust of future legislation.
Buettner, M. 2005. Contribution of the Lost River to Recovery of Federally Listed Lost
River and Shortnose Suckers. Draft white paper of 4/6/05. USFWS, Klamath Falls, OR.
Courter, I., J. Vaughan and S. Duery. 2010. 2010 Tule Lake Sucker Relocation Project:
Summary Report. Prepared for: The Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Basin Area Office,
Klamath Falls, OR by Cramer Fish Sciences, Gresham, OR. 11 p.
Fry, S. 2010. Letter from Susan M. Fry, BOR Klamath Falls Area Manager to James
Whelan, CDFG Yreka re: Appreciation for Help in Moving Tule Lake Suckers. June 21, 2010. U.S. BOR, Klamath Falls, CA. 1 p.
Higgins, P.T. 2012a. Comments on proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Critical Habitat for Lost River and Shortnose Suckers. Docket No. FWS–R8–ES-2011–0097. Letter to Division of Policy and Directives Management with CC to Laurie Sada, USFWS, Klamath Falls, OR (2/5/12) on behalf of Resighini Rancheria. Patrick Higgins, Consulting Fisheries Biologist, Arcata, CA. 5 p.
Higgins, P.T. 2012b. Summary of California Department of Fish and Game Information Regarding Permitting of May 2010 Removal from Tule Lake of Endangered Lost River and Shortnose Suckers. Letter to Chairman Don McCovey of 5/15/12. Patrick Higgins, Consulting Fisheries Biologist, Arcata, CA. 9 p.
Hodge, J. and M. Buettner. 2007. Sucker Population Monitoring in Tule Lake and Lower
Lost River, 2006. March 23, 2007. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Klamath Falls, OR. 21
Hodge, J. and M. Buettner. 2008. Sucker Population Monitoring in Tule Lake and Lower
Lost River, 2007. August 26, 2008. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Klamath Falls, OR.
Hodge, J. and M. Buettner. 2009. Sucker Population Monitoring in Tule Lake and Lower
Lost River, 2008. June 29, 2009. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Klamath Falls, OR. 35 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
Resighini Resighini Rancheria. 2012a. Concern Regarding Lack of Endangered Species Act Enforcement. Letter from Chairman Donald to Secretary of the Interior Salazar of 3/26/12. Resighini Rancheria, Klamath, CA. 8 p.
Resighini Resighini Rancheria. 2012b. Resighini Rancheria California Public Records Act Request for Information Related to California Department of Fish and Game and U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service Communications Prior to April 22, 2010 Biological Opinion
Modification for Klamath Project Operations. Letter from Chairman Donald to Neil
Manji, Region 1, CDFG by the Resighini Rancheria, Klamath, CA. 6 p.
Sada, L. 2010. CDFG Permitting for USFWS, USGS and BOR to Relocate Lost River
and Shortnose Suckers from California to Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon. Electronic
mail from Laurie Sada, USFWS of 12/3/2010 (4:07 PM) to Ren Lohoefener, Alexandra
Pitts, Darrin Thomas, Michael Fris, and Matthew Berry. 1 p.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1993. Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and
Shortnose (Chasmistes brevirostris) Sucker Recovery Plan. Prepared by Kevin Stubbs and
Rolland White. Portland, OR. 80 p. http://www.krisweb.com/biblio/klamath_usfws_stubbsetal_1993.pdf
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2010. Amendment to the April 2, 2008, Formal
Consultation on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Proposed Klamath Project Operations from
2008 to 2018 (Service File 8-10-08-F-070070). Memo from USFWS Field Supervisor
Laurie Sada to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager, Klamath Basin Project Office,
Klamath Falls, OR. 6 p.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2011. Draft revised recovery plan for the Lost River sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, California. xviii + 89 pp.