federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction that will require the Bureau
of Reclamation and the Klamath Project to provide additional flows for flushing
out a parasite that has been harmful to protected salmon in the Klamath River Basin.
William Orrick III of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco issued the order
for a preliminary injunction on Feb. 8, siding with plaintiffs in the
litigation, the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes.
plaintiffs contend the federal government’s response to the parasite, C.
shasta, has been inadequate.
agreed that a review of the Klamath Project’s operations should have been
triggered when parasite infection rates reached 81 percent of sampled fish in
2014 and 91 percent in 2015.
said the infection rates in coho salmon are “extremely threatening” to a
species that is designated as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
2002, more than 34,000 adult salmon died from disease caused by low flows on
the Klamath River as they returned to spawn. Since then, releasing “pulse
flows” in the summer on the Klamath project largely prevented a recurrence of
that type fish kill. But the C. shasta
parasite eventually emerged, this time targeting migrating juvenile
salmon rather than adult spawners.
2014 and 2015 … shasta infection rates in juvenile salmon that were sampled
soared to 81 percent and 91 percent, respectively,” the plaintiffs stated in
their request for an injunction. “This lawsuit seeks to compel the Bureau and
NMFS to make changes in Klamath Project operations to prevent a recurrence of
such high shasta infection rates.”
defendants did not agree to recommendations that the Klamath Project provide
additional flows in the winter and spring to flush out worms that carry the
parasite, and to reserve water for emergency dilutions flows if parasite spore
concentrations spike during juvenile salmon outmigration.
Feb. 3, the court granted requests to extend case management deadlines so that
a formal consultation regarding Klamath Project operations can get underway
after May 2. The consultation is expected to yield a new Biological Opinion to
replace a BiOp that took effect in 2013.
is good cause” to establish the requested schedule, the defendants’ attorneys
contend, partly because knowing how to proceed will depend on a pending
determination on the “scope of review” necessary in a consultation process that
will guide development of a new BiOp.
defendants have maintained that a preliminary injunction on additional flows
was not necessary because the court could not provide any additional effective
relief for salmon. They noted that the last parasite outbreaks occurred during
drought years, and since then there have been more robust streamflows and the occurrence
of C. shasta has declined sharply. That trend is expected to continue this
has said he is hopeful that plentiful precipitation recently will allow for
some of the issues on both sides of the case to be mitigated.
the plaintiff tribes contend that “protective flows” should be provided because
the Klamath project is no longer operating under a valid Biological Opinion,
and developing a new one could take at least six months.
flushing flows have been dramatically reduced over time, and surface and deep
flushing flows would reduce these C. shasta rates,” the judge has stated.
that the Coho salmon will suffer imminent harm of any magnitude is sufficient
to warrant injunctive relief … Plaintiffs’ requested flows are supported by the
best available science and are likely to reduce C. shasta rates,” Orrick
concluded, adding that the federal defendants should have initiated
consultation for a new Biological Opinion after the severe C. shasta infection
technical advisory group formed by the Bureau of Reclamation last November
created a guidance document that has urged the agency to provide flushing flows
during optimal periods. The group recommended setting aside 50,000 acre-feet of
water to provide those flows as well as emergency flows if needed.
April, Klamath River Basin water supplies are surveyed by the bureau to
allocate water for agriculture, replenishing reservoirs and lakes, and to
provide salmon with effective flows and temperatures.
Klamath Water Users Association has maintained that allocating more flushing
flows would probably create economic hardships for farms and agricultural-based
businesses. The Yurok and Hoopa valley tribes say they rely on salmon for
subsistence, cultural identity, rituals, and economic well-being.
CBB, Dec. 10, 2016, “Lawsuit filed Over
Klamath Basin Operations,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438089.aspx
CBB, Oct. 10, 2014 “Stream Flows Increased In Klamath River By 75 Percent To
Fight Parasite Threatening Coho, Chinook” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432360.aspx
CBB, August 22, 2014, “Parasite-Driven Disease Hitting Klamath Salmon Hard Also
Found To Lesser Degree In Columbia Basin” http://www.cbbulletin.com/431827.aspx