By Will Houston, Eureka Times-Standard
n an attempt to meet the needs of Klamath Basin irrigators and endangered fish species in the basin in a time of drought, a federal agency is proposing to reduce the amount of dam water releases to the Klamath River that are meant to protect threatened Coho salmon from deadly parasite outbreaks like those that occurred in 2014 and 2015.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe says the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s prioritizes farmers over fish and goes against a federal court order that they, the Yurok Tribe and environmental groups secured last year to protect threatened salmon.
The court order requires the bureau to release a 72-hour flushing flow from Iron Gate Dam into the river to flush out worms that host the parasite. The order also requires the bureau to hold 50,000 acre-feet of water in reserve for an emergency diluting flow in case baby salmon still show signs of infection.
Up to 91 percent of baby Coho and Chinook salmon in the river were found to have been infected in 2014 and 2015 by an intestinal parasite, Ceratanova shasta. Local tribes say the disease outbreak contributed to the low return of salmon to the river in 2017, which resulted in a complete closure of the commercial fishery in the region.