Native News Network Staff in Native Challenges. Discussion »
HAPPY CAMP, CALIFORNIA In what has become an annual ritual, water quality officials are posting the Klamath Reservoirs and River with warnings to avoid contact with the water due to blooms of the toxic algae Microcystis aeruginosa. Posted areas include Copco Reservoir, Iron Gate Reservoir, and the river itself downstream to Turwar on the Yurok Indian Reservation.
Klamath River Blue-Green Algae
The blooms occur in the summer as the shallow, nutrient rich water trapped behind the dams heats up and thus provides an optimal environment for the algae to bloom. For years, down river Tribes, fishermen, and conservation groups have called for the removal of the dams to restore runs of salmon that are in dramatic decline and alleviate the toxic blooms.
To add insult to injury, the blooms normally occur at the same time downstream tribes are holding annual World Renewal Ceremonies. The Ceremonies require spiritual leaders to bath in the river, putting themselves at high risk of exposure in order to carry out religious obligations.
Microcystis aeruginosa secretes the toxin microcystin with is a known tumor promoter and liver toxin. Expsoure to high levels of microcystin can lead to organ failure and death.
In response to the recurring blooms, officials from the California Water Quality Control Board and the Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment formed a Blue Green Algae Work Group. The Blue Green Algae Work Group recently published a document to provide guidance to local health officials dealing with toxic algae blooms.
According to the Blue Green Algae Work Group Document, when the probability of adverse health effects are high, typical actions by local authorities includes
immediate action to control contact with scums including prohibition of swimming and other water contact activities.www.kbmp.net
Klamath River Basin in Better Times
According to Karuk Department of Natural Resources Director Leaf Hillman,
The only remedy to this problem is dam removal. It's one of the many reasons we need Congress to act and implement the Klamath Agreements.
The Klamath Agreements call for removal of the lower four Klamath Dams and water quality improvements that would ameliorate the toxic algae blooms. In addition, the Agreements would provide greater water security for agriculture, restore wetlands, and reintroduce salmon to historic habitat upstream of the dams.
While congress dithers, rural communities in the Klamath suffer,added Hillman.
The Klamath Economic Restoration Act (HR 3398, Thompson and S 1851, Merkley) was introduced last year. A diverse coalition of groups including Klamath River Tribes, Klamath Irrigation Project farmers, conservation groups, and dam owner PacifiCorp support the legislation.
posted September 12, 2012 7:10 am edt