Note: The following is a reprint of a letter published in the Sacramento Bee and signed by: Steve Rothert (California director of American Rivers); Leaf Hillman (director of natural resources, Karuk Tribe); Curtis Knight (Conservation Director, California Trout); Chuck Bonham (California director, Trout Unlimited).
On June 28, The Sacramento Bee reprinted a story from the Los Angeles Times, “Scientists find holes in the Klamath River dam removal plan.”
While we appreciate The Bee’s continuing coverage of the Klamath River, we disagree with some of the interpretations of the scientific analysis highlighted in the article.
By focusing on just one of many scientific reviews of Klamath restoration plans, the article missed the forest for the trees.
The story failed to convey the most important conclusion made by the independent scientists: “The Panel carefully considered the following overarching question: Based on available information, is the Proposed Action likely to increase abundance of naturally spawned Klamath River Chinook salmon substantially above abundance expected under Current Conditions? The Proposed Action appears to be a major step forward in conserving target fish populations compared with decades of vigorous disagreements, obvious fish passage barriers, and continued ecological degradation.”[emphasis added]
The Chinook Panel Report mentioned in the article also did not express “strong reservation” about removing Klamath dams or whether doing so would help fish. Instead, the scientists expressed concern about whether a restoration effort of this size could be effectively implemented. Any project of this magnitude will be challenging. Never before has this number of Klamath resource managers joined forces to tackle the basin’s problems.
Although the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) will invest over $200 million in projects to improve water quality, it was never intended to address all water quality issues in the basin. The KBRA will work in concert with California and Oregon as they improve water quality.
The Klamath River disputes of old are legendary. Restoring this incredible basin requires bringing together farmers, ranchers, Indian tribes, conservationists, a power company, governments and commercial fishermen. We have done that.
The cumulative message from the dozens of scientists involved in reviewing the KBRA is that it will benefit fish, water quality and everyone who relies on a healthy Klamath River.
Want to know more about science in the Klamath? You can find all of the many reports here: klamathrestoration.gov.