In a recent letter to Humboldt County and the Hoopa Valley Tribe the BOR suggests the fishery should be fine this year because the Trinity River is having a Normal Water Year and because there has been a slight increase in minimum flows in the Klamath River since 2002, when a record 35-70,000 Klamath River salmon perished due to low flows.
The BOR also told the County and the Tribe that it would not let Humboldt County draw on the County's own water right to 50,000 acre-feet of CVP water in Trinity Lake to protect the fish this year.
"The letter states that because the BOR has never respected the law about the 50,000 acre-feet, they are not planning to now," explained Ryan Jackson, a Hoopa Valley Tribe Council member who was in Washington this week to brief a White House representative and staff for Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer on the impending crisis. "Our area has yet to recover economically from the duel disasters of the 2002 Klamath fish kill and 2006 West Coast Salmon fishing shut down, which was due to low numbers of Klamath salmon. Now we have the chance to protect an extraordinary return of salmon, yet the Commissioner of Reclamation remains noncommittal. His letter says to us that the Secretary of the Interior is not yet convinced we need water and is willing to roll the dice on whether the fish will live or die."
Scientists forecast 380,000 Chinook salmon will return to the Klamath River this year. That is a record and is 250 percent more Klamath salmon than 2002, the year the fish kill occurred. Despite these high numbers the BOR is relying on Endangered Species Act minimum flows set for another fish species to care for a Chinook population that has never been seen in such great numbers.
The BOR letter admits it has a study in hand specifying the water needs for the fishery this year. The study's authors are federal experts and scientists from BOR, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, National Marine Fisheries Service as well as tribal scientists. Nonetheless, BOR won't say that the water called for is necessary or that the study is scientifically supportable. In addition to sidelining the scientists, the BOR letter ignores the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, Trinity Management Council, and California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout-- all have told the Secretary of the Interior that the water is necessary and the need for it is scientifically supported.
"All the science points to the fact that a historically large run of salmon will need more water to survive. The BOR has the ability and mandate to provide this water, yet they continually fight us on flows even while they provide funding for restoration." stated Leonard Masten, the chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. "This year the Tribes and fishermen that depend on the Klamath Salmon are looking at a dream run, yet the BOR looks like it is ready to replay the massive fish kill nightmare of 2002."