Start watching
Tending Nature poster 2021

Tending Nature

Start watching

Southland Sessions

Start watching

Earth Focus

Start watching

Reporter Roundup

Start watching

City Rising

Start watching

Lost LA

Start watching
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement and Special Events teams.

Irrigators Ask Judge to Cut Emergency Water for Klamath Salmon

Turkey vulture eats a dead salmon on the Klamath River | Photo: Linda Tanner/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A federal agency started releasing more water from a reservoir Saturday in an effort to avoid another massive die-off of Chinook salmon in the Klamath River, but now a pair of powerful agricultural interests has gone to court to stop the release.

Prompted by drought conditions on the lower Klamath River similar to those that caused a die-off of more than 70,000 salmon in 2002, the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday that it would release additional water from the Trinity Lake reservoir into the lower Klamath River from Saturday through mid-September. The release was hailed by local tribes who depend on the salmon both economically and culturally.

Water in Trinity Lake is divided between the Klamath basin and large farms in the Central Valley. BuRec said on Friday that the releases wouldn't affect this year's deliveries to Central Valley farms. But on Monday afternoon, the Westlands Water District and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority were in court seeking to block the releases anyway.

In 2002, a drought year, water diversions from the Klamath for use by farmers in the Upper Klamath Basin left the lower river too warm and unoxygenated for the river's chinook. The warm water aided the spread of a parasite, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (Ich), which causes a disease in salmon with a 100 percent mortality rate. The resulting die-off in September 2002, and the piles of dead fish rotting along the river banks, caused national outrage.

Anxious to avoid a repeat of the 2002 die-off, the the Hoopa Valley, Karuk, and Yurok tribes that live along the Klamath and its tributaries have been urging BuRec to release more water from Trinity Dam to help give the salmon a fighting chance. BuRec had decided in June not to release any additional water, but tribal representatives' lobbying of state and federal agencies in Sacramento last week apparently sparked a reversal of the June decision.

"We have determined that unprecedented conditions over the past few weeks in the lower Klamath River require us to take emergency measures to help reduce the potential for a large-scale fish die-off," said BuRec Regional Director David Murillo in a statement announcing the planned releases Friday. "This decision was made based on science and after consultation with Tribes, water and power users, federal and state fish regulatory agencies, and others."

The water releases would be staged to simulate varying natural flows. A large pulse of water was released from the dam Monday to help flush out stagnant pools below the dam.

But despite assurances that the release would not affect this year's water deliveries to Central Valley farms, Westlands and San Luis & Delta Mendota asked the U.S. District Court in Fresno Monday for a temporary injunction that would block further releases. Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill expects to rule on the request Thursday.

Neither of the irrigation districts asking for the injunction has commented to the press. However, the likely issue prompting the petition is the possibility that releasing water for the salmon might reduce deliveries to Central Valley farms in 2015, assuming the statewide drought continues.

We'll update this story when O'Neill issues his ruling.

Support Provided By
Support Provided By
Read More
un mazo de juez de madera

Justicia retrasada: tribunales abrumados por el atraso de la pandemia

Desde la manutención de los hijos hasta el fraude de seguros, los casos judiciales se retrasan en todo California. Solo la mitad de los casos civiles y penales se resolvieron el verano pasado en comparación con las cifras anteriores a la pandemia. “La justicia no se ha cerrado. La justicia se ha ralentizado”, según un grupo de abogados.
A gavel on a table

Justice Delayed: Courts Overwhelmed by Pandemic Backlog

From child support to insurance fraud, court cases are delayed throughout California. Only half as many civil and criminal cases were resolved last summer compared with pre-pandemic numbers. “Justice has not shut down. Justice has slowed down,” according to an attorneys’ group.
People pull up in their vehicles for Covid-19 vaccines in the parking lot of The Forum in Inglewood, California on January 19, 2021. | FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

L.A. County Expands COVID Vaccines to Residents 65 And Older

L.A. County began scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments for those aged 65 and older today, but limited supplies and uncertainty about future allocations has left the inoculation effort shrouded in doubt.