This week the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) submitted comments in reference to the Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) plan to augment Trinity River flows from Lewiston Dam to assist conditions in the Lower Klamath River in light of the extreme low-flows in the Klamath River that are creating dangerous conditions for returning fall-run Chinook Salmon. The Draft Environmental Assessment for 2013 Lower Klamath River Late Summer Flow Augmentation from Lewiston Dam was made available for public comment from July 15th to July 31st, with a decision on the plan expected within the next week. The plan is to release 62,000 acre-feet of water from Lewiston Dam in the Trinity River between August 15th and September 21st, with the objective of providing for a minimum flow of 2,800 cubic feet per second in the Lower Klamath River.
EPIC submitted a letter that highlighted the complex challenges faced by salmon and aquatic ecosystems in the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and that explicitly supports the BOR plan to release more water down the Trinity to attempt to supplement flows in the Lower Klamath River in order to avoid another disastrous fish-kill, as occurred in 2002.
“This stop gap measure is clearly an imperative action to address dangerous conditions for returning salmon in the Lower Klamath River due to over allocation of Upper Klamath Basin water, and the continued presence of antiquated dams in the mainstem Klamath,” said Gary Graham Hughes of EPIC. “We strongly support the augmentation of flows out of Lewiston Dam, as in-basin uses for Trinity River water supersede out-of-basin demands, even as we make clear that the flow augmentation measure is an emergency action that fails to provide any long-term solutions.”
The Trinity River currently exports 50 percent of the river’s flow, as water from the upper reaches of the river is captured behind Lewiston Dam and sent over to the Sacramento River and points south. Considering severe drought conditions throughout California, the water from the Trinity River is highly coveted by irrigation interests in the Central and Southern regions of the state. Irrigation interests in the western San Joaquin Valley have indicated that they will resort to litigation to stop Trinity River water from being used this year for fisheries and aquatic ecosystem maintenance in the Trinity and Lower Klamath Rivers.
Amongst various contributions to conservation efforts in stressed watersheds throughout Northwest California, EPIC currently has an innovative legal initiative concerning the threats to wild salmon presented by fish hatchery operations on the Trinity River. Stay tuned for more updates as EPIC will continue to engage at a high level on Trinity and Klamath River management decisions that are affecting wildlife, water resources, and local economies.