Southern Oregon Farmers Suing To Prevent Water Release

Aug 9, 2013

Farmers in southern Oregon are suing to block the release of additional water from the Trinity River to the Klamath River. The discharge next week by the federal Bureau of Reclamation is meant to prevent a fish kill of Klamath River salmon. The agency finalized its plans Wednesday and that’s what prompted the lawsuit from farmers.

Klamath River Canyon as seen from an overlook near Weyerhaeuser Road.
Credit ex_magician

In a drought year with low water and high expected salmon runs, the Bureau of Reclamation plans to release extra water from the Trinity River into the Klamath. The Trinity provides 40 percent of spawning habitat for Klamath River salmon, and much of the cold water perfect for chinook. But farmers and power utilities say Reclamation didn’t take into account environmental or economic impacts on the Central Valley side, which also relies on Trinity River water. Here’s Elizabeth Hadley of Redding Electric Utility, which has 43,000 customers.

Hadley: “The lost power could result in a three-and-a-half to six million dollar impact to the Central Valley Project.”

Irrigation districts in the Central Valley hope to block water releases with legal action through the federal district court in Fresno. Fishing groups and tribes plan to intervene to maintain the releases while a judge deliberates. Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network in Mount Shasta says a judge would be hard pressed to rule against the releases.

Stokely: “I’m really not sure you could find a federal judge who’d make a decision barring these releases because they would then have the blood of tens of thousands of dead adult salmon on their hands.”

Yet Stokely says the Central Valley Project controls massive political and legal power. Trinity River releases are scheduled for August 13 and salmon are already on their way.

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