Native News Network Staff in Native Challenges. Discussion »
FORT JONES, CALIFORNIA The US Forest Service continues to sit by as Scott River water rights management is not being met. The Scott River is a tributary to the Klamath River and is of vital importance to Chinook salmon, Pacific lamprey, steelhead trout, and Coho salmon. Scott River water is divvied up by a water rights adjudication that awarded flows designed to protect fish. However, since August 3rd, that water right has not been met, and the Forest Service has failed to notify water management agencies.
Karuk Tribal Chairman Buster Attebery
Currently, hundreds of adult salmon are circling at the mouth of the Scott waiting for enough water to migrate up into the Valley and spawn. According to Yurok Fisheries Program Manager Dave Hillemeier, "these kinds of conditions can lead to disease outbreaks and fish kills."
“During meetings between the USFS and the Karuk Tribe, the Tribe has asked that attention be brought to the failure of meeting water needs,”
explains Karuk Tribal Chairman Buster Attebery.
“The Klamath National Forest has yet to take any action regarding the reported shortage in water and the obvious failure to protect the fishery.”
The Forest Service's water right for the month of August is 30 cubic feet per second (cfs). Their right is 40 cfs in October to accommodate adult migration. Currently the river is running at 18 cfs, which is simply not enough water for migrating salmon to make it up river to reproduce.
Despite the fact that the number of days per year that the USFS water right is not met has increased steadily since the 1980 adjudication, the agency has never lodged a complaint with California Water Resources Control Board. Before the adjudication, it was rare for flows to ever drop below 30 cubic feet per second (cfs). In fact between 1942 and 1980, the Scott dropped below 30 cfs on average only 5.6 days a year, mostly in drought years. Between 1980 and 2009, the flows dipped below 30 cfs on average 35 days a year. This year, the river has been below 30 cfs since August 3rd!
The Tribes are urging the Forest Service to formally notify the California Water Board of the situation and make a call on any junior water rights holders.
posted October 11, 2012 7:50 am edt