Klamath Basin water plan won’t harm protected fish, federal scientists say

The Oregonian

A new plan for balancing scarce water in the Klamath Basin between fish and farms won’t harm salmon or other fish protected by the Endangered Species Act, federal scientists said Monday.

The NOAA Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued what is called a biological opinion for operations on the Klamath Project, a federal irrigation project straddling the Oregon-California border. It covers the effects of the irrigation project’s operations on shortnose suckers and Lost River suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and other reservoirs, as well as coho salmon, green sturgeon and eulachon in the Klamath River.

The evaluation represents a “landmark” level of coordination between the federal agencies, as well as integration of the needs of the different fish species, with an eye toward trying to keep the irrigation project supplied with water, said Laurie Sada, field supervisor for the Klamath office of Fish and Wildlife.

Water levels in lakes for suckers and releases down the Klamath River for salmon are tied to natural events, such as rain and snowmelt. That allows for storing more water in the winter, and provides that winter flows will not be static, said Irma Lagomarsino, supervisor for the NOAA fisheries northern California office.

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