NOAA’s Fisheries Service announced Monday that, after considering the “best scientific and commercial data available, it has decided that chinook salmon stocks in the Upper Klamath and Trinity rivers basin of southern Oregon and northern California do not warrant listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The announcement comes in the form of a 12-month “finding” on a petition filed on Jan.28, 2011, by the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Environmental Protection Information Center, and The Larch Company.
In making the finding, which was finalized through publication in the April 2, 2012 Federal Register, the agency concluded that “overall extinction risk of the ESU is considered to be low over the next 100 years.” An ESU – evolutionarily significant unit -- is the species designation used by NOAA Fisheries based on genetic and geographical factors.
Based on biological, genetic, and ecological information compiled and reviewed as part of a previous West Coast status review for chinook salmon, NOAA Fisheries included all spring-run and fall-run chinook salmon populations in the Klamath River Basin upstream from the confluence of the Klamath and Trinity rivers in the UKTR chinook salmon ESU.
The Federal Register Notice says that “Abundance of spawning populations in the ESU appear to have been fairly stable for the past 30 years and since the review by Myers et al. (1998). Although current levels of abundance are generally low compared with historical estimates of abundance, the current abundance levels do not constitute a major risk in terms of ESU extinction.
“Long-term population growth rates are positive for most population components that were analyzed, indicating they are not currently in decline and, in general, most populations are large enough to avoid genetic problems.”
“Based on these considerations and others described in this notice, NMFS concludes this ESU is not in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, nor is it likely to become so in the foreseeable future,” according to the notice.
See the Federal Register notice for further information:
The Trinity River is the longest tributary of the Klamath River, located in northwestern California. It drains an area of the coast ranges, including the Klamath Mountains, northwest of the Sacramento Valley.
The Klamath River runs southwest through Oregon and California, cutting through the Cascade Range to empty into the Pacific Ocean.
Anadromous salmonids in California, like UKTR chinook salmon, exist at the southern edge of their range along the West Coast of North America.
Meawhile, in other Klamath developments, the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council, amidst the uncertainty of another dry water year, on Monday released its second annual report highlighting accomplishments since agreements were signed in 2010 in an attempt to assure sustainable natural production of fish such as native salmon and support agriculture and other commerce reliant on the river system.
The most recent forecasts are for a spring-summer water supply of less than 60 percent of the long-term average for the basin.
The “Restoration Agreement” struck in 2010 is intended to result in effective and durable solutions which will: 1) restore and sustain natural fish production and provide for full participation in ocean and river harvest opportunities of fish species throughout the Klamath basin; 2) establish reliable water and power supplies which sustain agricultural uses, communities, and National Wildlife Refuges; and 3) contribute to the public welfare and the sustainability of all Klamath Basin communities, according to the second annual report.
The “Hydroelectric Settlement” lays out the process for additional studies, environmental review, and a decision by the Secretary of the Interior regarding whether removal of four dams on the river owned by PacifiCorp: 1) will advance restoration of the salmonid fisheries of the Klamath basin; and 2) is in the public interest, which includes but is not limited to consideration of potential impacts on affected local communities and tribes. The four dams are Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Copco 2. The hydroelectric settlement includes provisions for the interim operation of the dams and the process to transfer, decommission, and remove the dams.
The KBCC noted that when these agreements are implemented, local irrigators and fisheries would have greater certainty for obtaining the water needed in dry years.
The Klamath Basin restoration and hydroelectric settlement agreements were forged by Klamath River basin stakeholder groups including basin irrigators, fishermen, tribes and conservation groups, PacifiCorp, agencies within the states of California and Oregon, federal agencies, Humboldt County, California, and Klamath County, Oregon.
Forty-five entities in all have signed the Klamath basin agreements.
Over the past two years, parties to the agreements have implemented the following near-term actions:
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
-- The KBCC has reviewed and updated the cost estimates to implement the KBRA. This process reduced the seven-year cost estimates by 38 percent and the 15-year cost estimates by 18 percent.
-- The Klamath Water and Power Agency is developing the On-Project Plan to align water supply and demand for irrigation in the Klamath Reclamation Project in light of limitations on diversions of water that will arise under the restoration agreement. With these limitations, the availability of water from Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River for irrigation would be approximately 100,000 acre feet less than current demand in the driest years, with irrigation water availability increasing on a sliding scale with increasingly wet conditions.
-- The Drought Plan Lead Entity has completed the Drought Plan and it is under review by the Department of the Interior. When the Drought Plan and other provisions of the Restoration Agreement are implemented it would provide more water for fishery resources in very low-water years and more certainty for irrigators than current conditions.
-- Reclamation has made progress on studies of additional water storage in the Klamath basin that could benefit agriculture and fish resources.
Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement
-- The Department of the Interior has issued a draft of a report summarizing information on whether removal of four hydroelectric dams owned by PacifiCorp is in the public interest (the draft Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report) and a peer review panel has completed its review of the draft.
-- The Department of the Interior and the California Department of Fish and Game have released a draft environmental impact statement/environmental impact report evaluating environmental impacts of removal of the four PacifiCorp dams under consideration for removal.
-- The public utility commissions in California and Oregon have approved the collection of funds to pay for decommissioning the dams. As of the end of January 2012, the combined balance of the Oregon and California dam removal trust accounts was more than $28 million.
-- The interim measures to improve environmental conditions within the Klamath Hydroelectric Project to benefit aquatic habitat and listed species, improve water quality, and improve hatchery operations are being implemented on the schedule called for in the KHSA. Implementation of a number of programs has been delayed until Congress passes legislation and funding is available.
Measures that have been delayed include:
-- Preparation and implementation of the Fisheries Restoration and Monitoring Plan;
-- Work on the Off-Project Water Settlement;
-- Implementation of the elements of the Power for Water Management Program, including the Interim Power and Conservation and Renewable Resources Programs;
-- Implementation of the Drought Plan; and
-- The Secretary of the Interior’s decision on the four Klamath River dams is also delayed until Congress passes the authorizing legislation.
The interior secretary, in cooperation with the Secretary of Commerce and other federal agencies, will determine whether the conditions of the Hydroelectric Settlement have been satisfied, and whether facilities removal: 1) will advance restoration of the salmonid fisheries of the Klamath basin; and 2) is in the public interest, which includes but is not limited to consideration of potential impacts on affected local communities and tribes, the implementation report says. The KHSA had called on the secretary to use best efforts to complete this determination by March 31, 2012.
But on Feb. 27 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that he would not make a decision by March 31 because Congress has not yet enacted legislation necessary to authorize a Secretarial Determination under the terms of the KHSA.
The Klamath Basin historically supported one of the most abundant salmon fisheries in the nation, with an estimated predevelopment run size of up to a million salmon per year,” according to the new implementation report. “As a result of multiple stressors, these fisheries have declined steeply in the Klamath Basin. Fall-run Chinook salmon are now estimated to be 14 percent of their highest historic estimated abundance; and coho salmon abundance is at an estimated 2 percent.
Two species of suckers that reside in and around Upper Klamath Lake in southern Oregon are listed as endangered under the ESA and coho salmon in the Klamath River are listed as threatened.
The removal of the dams would facilitate the recolonization, or reintroduction, of salmon in upper part of the basin in Oregon. Dam removal would allow access to historic habitat.
“Oregon remains fully committed to implementing the Klamath Basin Agreements, and I’m pleased that substantial progress has been made,” Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said”. I was governor during the water crisis in 2001 and 2002, and I remember well the devastating effect the drought had on communities in the basin. Following through on these agreements, and passing the congressional legislation, will help us have different and better outcomes when we face low-water seasons.”
“California is pleased with the progress over the last two years,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “California has worked closely with the federal agencies on the environmental studies. We look forward to working with Oregon and the congressional delegation to pass the federal legislation needed to fully implement these agreements.”
“We are encouraged by the progress that has been made” said Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association. “Unfortunately, we are heading into another very uncertain water year. The communications and trust that has developed among the parties to the agreement have been very helpful, but we need Congress to act to pass the Klamath legislation so we can get more certainty about our water supplies.”
“The fish managers have made progress, but we can’t truly solve the Klamath crisis until Congress acts on this bi-partisan agreement,” according to Leaf Hillman, director of Karuk Natural Resources Department.
Copies of the annual report, the Klamath settlement agreements, along with summaries, reports, and meeting notices can be found at www.klamathcouncil.org.
To learn more about the studies related to the four Klamath River dams visit www.klamathrestoration.gov