Tribe declares emergency over Klamath fish kill

By Don Thompson
Friday October 11, 2002

SACRAMENTO — A Northern California Indian tribe has declared a “state of emergency” over fish kills on the Klamath River, and asked Gov. Gray Davis to issue a similar declaration for the tribe’s reservation. 

The Yurok Tribal Council said the recent death of an estimated 30,000 salmon on the lower Klamath, and reductions begun Thursday in Klamath River flows, is creating a crisis for the tribe’s fishery. 

Downstream tribes are planning a rally Friday at the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Falls, Ore., office, reminiscent of the protests last year by Klamath Basin farmers upset that irrigation water was curtailed to protected endangered fish. 

“Last summer it was farmers, this summer it’s Native Americans,” said Steve Pedery of Portland, Ore.-based WaterWatch. 

The bureau nearly doubled the flow of water from its Iron Gate Dam two weeks ago in an attempt to break up a logjam of fish that was making the congregating fall-run salmon more susceptible to disease. 

The bureau began shutting down the water Thursday, however, and over several days will reduce it to the level required under its guidelines to sustain endangered species. 

That’s not enough water, tribal representatives, coastal commercial fishermen, environmentalists and state officials said Thursday. 

Reducing the flow will create the same conditions as caused the recent die-off, the Yurok council said. The tribe’s narrow reservation stretches 45 miles inland from the Klamath River’s mouth.