KLAMATH FALLS — The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation proposes to release water later this summer from the Trinity River in California in hopes of preventing fish kills in the lower Klamath River.
The Klamath Basin straddling the California-Oregon border is in a drought that has led to irrigation shut-offs, recalling similar events more than a decade ago when thousands of fish died in the lower Klamath.
The Trinity is a tributary of the Klamath. California irrigators have threatened to sue the bureau if it releases Trinity water for the Klamath.
It would be the second year of such releases, the Herald and News of Klamath Falls reported.
The bureau said releases of 62,000 acre-feet of water would take place between Aug. 15 and Sept. 21 "to supplement flows in the lower Klamath River to lessen the likelihood of a fish disease outbreak and fish mortalities during late summer."
In 2001, a drought also led to irrigation shut-offs, and angry demonstrations by farmers led the Bush administration to release water for irrigation.
Downriver the next year came a fish kill. The Yurok Tribe estimates about 34,000 died in the river as a result of diseases brought on by low flows, high temperatures and inadequate habitat.
Glen Spain, Northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of the Fishermen's Associations, said fisheries closed as a result, and losses of more than $200 million were felt from Monterey, Calif., to the Oregon-Washington border.
Trinity River water also is pumped into the Central Valley Project, and a group of irrigators has filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue over the Bureau of Reclamation's proposed action.
"We're concerned about the dedication of that much water," said Dan Nelson, executive director of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority.
Fishing, tribal and conservation groups also are pushing for additional water releases from one of the Klamath River dams to support salmon runs in August and September.
Regina Chizola, communications coordinator for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, said making sure there's enough water for the fish "hasn't been a priority this year. All the focus has been on the upper basin issues with the farmers, but, meanwhile, California and the Klamath River are being shorted on water."