Tribal Officials Urge Water Release Into Klamath River to Prevent Mass Fish Kill

Courtesy Hoopa Valley TribeChairperson Danielle Vigil-Masten and Tribal Council members took Bureau of Reclamation officials and Supervisor Ryan Sundberg on a boat down the Trinity River in Hoopa.
Courtesy Hoopa Valley Tribe
Chairperson Danielle Vigil-Masten and Tribal Council members took Bureau of Reclamation officials and Supervisor Ryan Sundberg on a boat down the Trinity River in Hoopa.


Dropping water levels and rising temperatures in the persistent California drought have tribal members concerned about a fish kill—and, some say, fish are already dying.

The Hoopa Tribe is pressing for a release of water from the Trinity River, which feeds the Klamath. Hundreds of tribal members from the northern coast of California, along with river conservationists, traveled to the state seat in Sacramento on August 19 to urge officials to reconsider their decision to stop pre-emptive water releases.

Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley tribal members joined with people from the Klamath Justice Coalition, coming by the busload, according to the Times-Standard.

It was the second attempt at confronting officials to try and get the message across. On August 11 others showed up in Redding, California, at a press conference on wildfires to ask U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell directly to authorize such a move.

Tribal members are looking for a release of Trinity River water out of Lewiston Dam, they said in a release. The Trinity is the Klamath River’s main tributary. They are worried about a fish kill on the scale of one that occurred in 2002, also for lack of water and a too-high temperature. Tens of thousands of otherwise healthy fish died that year, under very similar conditions.

“The Klamath fish kill of 2002 led to poor salmon returns devastating west coast fisheries for years afterward,” said Dania Colegrove, Hoopa Tribal member and activist with the conservation group Got Water, in a statement. “Since then tribes, scientists and the Department of Interior have worked together to avert fish kills by preventively releasing water during drought years.”

Many say they are already seeing dead fish. They fear that a release once that starts happening would not come in time to stop disease from spreading. Though Jewell met with the protesters after the press conference, she did not agree to release water.

“There is an opportunity to do emergency releases, if we see the temperature rise,” Jewell said to the group at the press conference, according to the Times-Standard. “We’ll make sure that people come out and there is an opportunity to see it. We are dealing with profound drought all over. We’re dealing with it in the Klamath. So, I’ll follow up. Also, I want you guys to understand the biggest issue is the lack of water.”

Two days later, though, Jewell sent a federal team to tour the river along with Hoopa Valley Tribe experts. On August 14, Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director David Murillo and Assistant Regional Director Pablo Arroyave toured the river. In addition the Humboldt County Fifth District Supervisor, Ryan Sundberg, added his voice to that of the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council and Chairperson Danielle Vigil-Masten, calling for immediate water releases into the Trinity River, according to a release from the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

“It affects the economy throughout the county when the fish are threatened,” Sundberg said in the statement. “It’s a diverse County and a diverse Board of Supervisors, but everyone is united on this issue.”



Video: Klamath Fish Kill Redux? Teens Tell Grown-Ups to ‘Put More Water in the River’

YouTube/Yurok youth videoThis is what the Klamath River looked like in 2002, when conditions were similar to those present now. Releasing water from the Trinity River into the Klamath would cool it down and raise water levels, enabling fish to survive.
YouTube/Yurok youth video
This is what the Klamath River looked like in 2002, when conditions were similar to those present now. Releasing water from the Trinity River into the Klamath would cool it down and raise water levels, enabling fish to survive.


“It’s time to put more water in the river.”

So says one teen in this video put together by Yurok youth who, fearful of a fish kill on the Klamath River in California, went out and interviewed tribal leaders as well as those who witnessed mass fish death in 2002.

Water levels are low in the river, and the temperature is rising. Fish, especially salmon about to spawn, congregate in the cooler water, and their proximity can spread disease—which gets cultivated in warmer water. In 2002 this resulted in the deaths of 60,000 to 80,000 fish, crippling fisheries and severely compromising sustenance fishing.

Members and leaders of the Hoopa Valley, Karuk and Yurok tribes have confronted U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell about the decision not to release water from the Trinity River into the Klamath. They have also protested outside state government buildings in Sacramento.

RELATED: Tribal Officials Urge Water Release Into Klamath River to Prevent Mass Fish Kill

“The Klamath River is on the brink of another massive fish kill,” claim the makers of this video.

The river smells terrible, one girl describes, and the salmon, while alive, had gills that “looked weird to me,” she said. “It made me angry and broke my heart, seeing that happening.”

The river looks sad and sick, said a Yurok man, recalling when it used to be a glorious emerald green, when he was a child. Now it’s green, alright—neon toxic green with things floating in it.

“It’s pretty sad,” he said.

Much of the video is devoted to recounting what transpired during the 2002 fish kill, then drawing parallels between the conditions then and now. Is the Klamath River on the brink of another fish kill? Wathc Yurok youth investigate, below.



Raid Targets Illegal Marijuana Farms Sapping Yurok’s Drought-Plagued Water Supply

Yurok TribeOne of the many illegal marijuana farms that federal agents uprooted in a raid on July 21.
Yurok Tribe
One of the many illegal marijuana farms that federal agents uprooted in a raid on July 21.



The drought in California is exacerbating the effect that illegal marijuana farms have on the Yurok ’s water supply, and on July 21 federal and state agencies raided several properties on or adjoining the reservation along the Klamath River.

The raid was conducted at Yurok officials’ request, the Los Angeles Times reported, and involved the California National Guard, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Justice’ North State Marijuana Investigation Team, and Yurok police. Operation Yurok, as it was called, was coordinated by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Drug Enforcement Unit.

The Yurok are not the only ones contending with the effects of illegal pot grows on their lands. The Hoopa Tribe has been actively combating incursions as well.

RELATED: Hoopa Tribe Helps Destroy 26,600 Marijuana Plants Invading Sacred Land

Pot-Farm Raticide May Be Killing Spotted Owls; Hoopa Tribe Investigates

Even without the ongoing and worsening drought, the farms put a strain on Yurok life in a number of ways. Rat poison kills sacred fish and other animals, lower water levels become too warm and unhealthy for salmon to spawn in, and water pressure is just about nil on the reservation.

“They’re stealing millions and millions of gallons of water, and it’s impacting our ecosystem,” Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke said during the raid, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We can no longer make it into our dance places, our women and children can’t leave the road to gather. We can’t hunt. We can’t live the life we’ve lived for thousands of years.”

Not only that, but access to one sacred ceremonial site is blocked by a pot farm, O’Rourke told the Los Angeles Times. And growers have become brazen enough to trundle supplies to and from the farms in broad daylight.

“We are coming close to being prisoners in our own land,” O’Rourke said. “Everything we stand for, everything we do is impacted.”

Read Massive Raid to Help Yurok Tribe Combat Illegal Pot Grows



Complexity of water pact frustrates some tribe members


April 8, 2014

LACEY JARRELL H&N Staff Reporter Northwest News Partnership

Members of the Klamath Tribes have expressed frustration with the lack of time to review a proposed water settlement as the deadline for a vote nears.

“My vote is no, and I’m not shy about it,” Klamath Tribes member Rowena Jackson told the Herald and News.

The Klamath Tribes and Upper Basin irrigators have been working for more than eight months to develop a pact balancing the needs of upper Basin water stakeholders and the Tribes.

A 95-page settlement, the Proposed Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement, was released March 5.

Klamath Tribes leaders then held four informational meetings across the state the third weekend in March. Klamath Tribes approval requires the majority of members to vote in favor of the agreement. Mail ballots are due by 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry said Tribal leadership knew the deadline would be difficult to meet.

“We’ve done our best to get information out at additional meetings. I certainly understand the difficulty in getting through the long settlement agreement,” he said.

According to the agreement, 30,000 acre-feet of water must be permanently retired by Upper Basin landowners. The water will provide increased flows in Upper Basin tributaries. If conditions of the water program and an additional riparian management program are met, the Klamath Tribes agree to guarantee water to irrigators at levels based on instream flows specified in the agreement.

“Members have no understanding of what they are asking to give up,” Coleen Crume, a Modoc member of the Klamath Tribes, said.

Ecological considerations

The water retirement and riparian management portions of the agreement are intended to help restore and sustain fisheries in Upper Klamath Lake tributaries. As part of the agreement, the Klamath Tribes will receive a

$40 million economic development package, including $1 million a year for five years from the Department of Interior to address tribal transition needs beginning this year. The development package could help the Tribes acquire the 92,000-acre Mazama Forest and fund a timber mill and related industries.

Kayla Godowa pointed out members have had less than a month to review the settlement and supporting documents. Godowa, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, attended an informational meeting in Eugene, with her mother and other family who are Klamath Tribes members.

Gentry said in addition to the meetings, members of the Tribal Council have responded to questions and concerns by email and on the Tribes’ website and Facebook page. A summary about what a “yes” or a “no” vote means was included in the ballot.

“Information has been available for those who want to contact us,” he said.

Godowa does not believe Tribal leadership has had enough input from Tribal members or that leadership has been transparent throughout the settlement process. She wanted to see more direct input and direct representation of members in the proposed agreement.

“I feel like it’s a weak negotiation,” she said.

Gentry explained the process was expedited because the proposed agreement builds on conditions agreed upon in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which was settled in 2010.

Specifically, he said, the current proposed agreement’s framework was approved by a Tribal member vote as the Off-Project Water Settlement, also known as Section 16 in the KBRA agreement.

“Though the name has changed, that’s basically what it is,” he said.

Gentry said Tribal members voted to approve the KBRA in 2010 and then voted in favor of proposed amendments to the agreement in 2012. Despite support for the KBRA, many stakeholder groups were not included in the settlement. Gentry said to move forward the settlement needed to be supported by the local agriculture community, who are partners in the new proposed agreement.

“This basically brings to the table many who were most actively opposed to the initial KBRA agreement,” Gentry said.

Crume, who attended a Tribal meeting in Klamath Falls, said the agreement doesn’t address the value water has to the Tribes.

“Water is the most precious commodity on Earth. Why would we give up water for a paltry few trees?” she said.

Gentry said if managed sustainably, lodgepole pine harvests from the Mazama Forest could bring as much as $1.5 million per year to the Klamath Tribes. Actively managed lodgepole pine stands are more likely to resist disease and infestations, he added.

Jackson said the $40 million economic package is a short-term solution to supporting Klamath Tribes programs.

“It’s not a fair deal — $40 million isn’t going to last,” Jackson said.

According to Gentry, the economic package isn’t intended to support existing programs. He called the economic package an “infusion of capital” that would allow the Tribes to move forward with economic development, including developing a mill in the Mazama Forest. The mill could create revenue for years by milling, chipping and producing wood pellets, he said.

© 2014 Wallowa County Chieftain. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Youth group From Klamath river plan trip to help fight world’s most destructive dam project

Photo: Klamazon Delegation
Photo: Klamazon Delegation

Source: Intercontinental Cry

Orleans, CA – Local youth are making plans to travel to Brazil to lend a hand in the fight against the world’s most destructive dam proposal, Belo Monte. The Belo Monte Dam Resistance Delegation includes indigenous tribes and river activists from Northern California who will travel to Brazil to work with indigenous people in the Xingu basin, the heart of the Amazon, making a strong bond through mutual efforts to preserve and protect inherited cultures and natural resources from short sighted projects like the Belo Monte Dam.

The Belo Monte project, would be the third largest hydroelectric dam ever built. This project would affect 40,000 people and inundate 640 square kilometers of rainforest. Belo Monte Dam is the first step in a larger plan to extract the Amazon’s vast resources through additional dam building.

Belo Monte is one of many dams proposed for the Amazon that would affect hundreds of thousands of indigenous people, including some of the world’s last un-contacted tribes, allowing further destructive mining and deforestation practices. The Amazon Basin, about the size of the continental U.S., is home to 60 percent of the world’s remaining rainforest, and holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.

In Northern California and Southern Oregon a diverse coalition of Native Americans and river activists have campaigned for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River. Currently, dozens of key Klamath Basin stakeholders, including dam owner PacifiCorp, have agreed to remove 4 Klamath River dams pending congressional action.

This project represents the largest dam removal in world history and is poised to restore one of North America’s largest salmon runs, allowing indigenous people to repair broken cultures and communities.

Our delegation will discuss the correlation between the struggles of indigenous people of the Amazon, and the lessons of indigenous struggles in North America, as well as the environmental hazards that dams have caused in the Klamath Basin. Native youth activists that have long fought for their culture will travel to the Amazon to learn about indigenous struggles in the Amazon Basin, engaging lifelong partners for the protection of the Amazon and its indigenous people.

According to Mahlija Florendo, a 16 year old Yurok Tribal member who will be going to the Amazon, “Our River is here to give us life, and we were created to keep the river beautiful and healthy. We need to keep every river alive because we cannot live without them. We cannot destroy life and if we don’t fight to keep them healthy, then we are killing ourselves, and any other life on the planet. The Amazon River is a huge bloodline for life of the Amazon indigenous as the Klamath is ours.”

Amazon Watch’s Brazil Program Coordinator, who knows the area, issues, and people, will accompany the delegation, providing guidance and on the ground support. Along with documenting the early stages of dam construction, the group plans to meet with several local tribes such as the Arara, Juruna, and the Xikrin, learning how they can best support efforts to preserve their homeland and way of life.

The Klamath group will connect Native Americans and grassroots activists from North America with tribes and organizations working in the Amazon to help them maintain their unique, rare and endemic cultures. They hope to return to the U.S. with information and firsthand knowledge to hold fundraising and advocacy events. These efforts will raise money for existing Belo Monte resistance groups and local tribes to travel and deliver their message to venues like the upcoming World Cup in Brazil in June and July 2014.

In the words of Zé Carlos Arara, a leader of the Arara people, “For us the river means many things. For everything we do, we depend on the river. For us to go out, to take our parents around, to get medical attention, we need the river for all these things. If a dam is constructed on the river, how will we pass through it? We don’t want to see the river closed off, our parents dying in inactivity. For us the river is useful and we don’t want it to wither away – that we not have a story to tell, that it become a legend for our children and grandchildren. We want them to see it with their own eyes.”