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YREKA, CALIFORNIA On Thursday, Klamath Riverkeeper filed an Endangered Species Act citizen suit over a dam and series of water diversions operated by Montague Water Conservation District on the Shasta River in Siskiyou County. The Karuk Tribe also decided today to file its own 60-day notice of intent to litigate on the same grounds.
Water Diversions Removal
The legal filing by Klamath Riverkeeper follows a 60-day notice period during which KRK offered Montague Water Conservation District an opportunity to negotiate a settlement outside the courtroom. The action effectively calls on the irrigation district to remedy its impacts to salmon runs verging on extinction there.
“ We simply have to better manage limited water resources to benefit everyone in the watershed. We hope to resolve this issue in a way that will restore endangered coho salmon while preserving a viable agricultural economy in Siskiyou County,”
said KRK Executive Director Erica Terence.
Klamath Riverkeeper 's complaint, filed in federal court in Sacramento, outlines how Dwinnell Dam and Montague Water Conservation District diversions from Dwinnell Reservoir, nearby Parks Creek and Little Shasta River have harmed endangered coho salmon populations in the Shasta River.
Because Montague Water Conservation District operates without an incidental take permit, the District is violating the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), Klamath Riverkeeper contends in its filing. To comply, MWCD needs to consult the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) about the impacts of its operations on endangered coho runs and implement adequate measures to mitigate those damages.
Many well documented water quality and fisheries problems stem from Dwinnell Dam and Montague Water Conservation District''s water diversions, including toxic algae blooms, elevated water temperatures lethal to fish, blocked access to valuable upstream habitat, and habitat fragmentation due to dewatering caused by diversions.
Irrigators constructed Dwinnell Dam in the 1920s, and created an extensive canal system to transport Shasta River water east to irrigate crops and serve cattle ranches surrounding the town of Montague. Dwinnell Reservoir, sometimes called Lake Shastina, also supplies domestic water for the Shastina and Montague municipalities. In many years, nearly the entire river is siphoned out of the reservoir for irrigation, lowering Lake Shastina dramatically and reducing river flows to just 10 percent of historic levels.
“ We're talking about some of the best coho salmon habitat anywhere in the Klamath watershed or the Western US. It has been choked and polluted for decades by Dwinnell Dam and Montague diversions, and now it's time to take some big steps to restore it,”
The consequences of doing nothing about the impacts of Montague Water Conservation District 's operations are dire, Terence pointed out. Just nine adult coho were counted in the Shasta in 2009, only44 coho returned to spawn in 2010, and 45 swam home in 2011, according to video fish counts conducted by the California Department of Fish and Game.
posted May 18, 2012 6:20 am edt
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