UPDATE: Flows increased again on Monday between the Link River and Iron Gate Dams and are expected to continue until May 21.
Once again, the increase in water flowing through Klamath River dams was ordered by U.S. District Judge Orrick in order to flush or dilute waterways, in hopes of saving coho salmon populations from disease.
'Emergency dilution flows' have required that the Bureau of Reclamation keep 50,000 acre-feet of water in the Upper Klamath Lake to be used specifically for this purpose—causing anger and worry from Klamath Basin farmers who say they need the water for irrigation.
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River will be increasing flows in an attempt to save coho salmon from disease, according to a statement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). The increase is expected to begin on Friday afternoon, and continue for 72 hours—through Monday, April 9.
“Reclamation is working hard to balance the available water to meet the many competing needs of the Klamath Basin. Every acre-foot of water is valuable and is in limited supply. We are doing everything we can to minimize disease among Klamath River salmonid species while meeting the requirements necessary to protect suckers in Upper Klamath Lake,” said Klamath Basin Area Office Water Operations Chief Jared Bottcher.
At this time of year, flows have been kept at 1,800 cubic feet per second, according to USBR. Through the weekend, they will be increased to 6,030 cubic feet per second—an increase of more than triple the previous rate.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick ordered the higher surface flushing flows on February 8 of 2017, as part of an annual effort to balance water levels for different ecological systems along the Klamath River.
USBR says that the increase in flow takes advantage of current and anticipated water conditions throughout the Klamath Basin, coinciding with natural water events that reduce the amount of water needed from Upper Klamath Lake. The idea is to preserve the water supply along Lost River and the habitat of shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath.
The flow increase required extensive coordination between USBR, the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Klamath Project water users, Pacificorp, and the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley and Klamath Tribes.