Over two hundred Klamath and Trinity rivers advocates made the trek down to Sacramento Tuesday to send a message to the Bureau of Reclamation: “Save Our Salmon! Let the River Flow!”

Members of the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk tribes, as well as fisheries experts and just plain concerned citizens, young and old, chanted and carried signs pleading for the release of more water from the Lewiston Dam into the Trinity in an attempt to stave off an 2002 Fish Kill-level event. As we’ve noted here on LoCO, local fish are already in a bad way.

The accompanying video, photos and press release were provided by the Klamath Justice Coalition. LoCO spoke briefly with member Mo Hollis for an update from yesterday’s protest. He told us that protest organizers were able to speak with David Murillo, the regional director of the BOR and that Murillo promised he would get back to them this afternoon after a few more pertinent meetings with agricultural officials.

In the likely event that there is no change of course and no water is released, more protests will come.

Klamath Justice Coalition press release chronicling yesterday’s protest and providing a “state of the fish” update:

Hundreds of Tribal members and supporters from the Trinity and Klamath Rivers converged at the Bureau of Reclamation in Sacramento Tuesday. They demanded increased water flows, known as preventative flows, from Lewiston Dam into the Trinity River, the largest tributary of the Klamath River. They also asked that more water be let out of Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath.

Participants protested Reclamation’s recent decision to withhold emergency releases until large numbers of adult salmon die. Emergency flow releases from Lewiston Dam would take four days to reach the struggling Klamath River salmon. Fisheries biologists commonly agree that by the time the emergency flows are triggered and the water has traveled from the dam, it would be too late to prevent a large-scale fish die-off. Tribal members say Reclamation is ignoring the beginning stages of a disaster.

“Fish are pooled up at cold water tributaries because the water in the river is so warm and polluted,” said Hoopa Valley Tribal member Kayla Brown. “These fish are diseased and dying. Once the disease starts to spread, it can’t be stopped and we will have a fish kill on our hands courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.”

Currently, five times more water is diverted to the Sacramento Basin for Central Valley irrigators than is released into the Trinity River. Rally organizers and participants said they support Klamath River fisheries biologists’ assertion that a minimum of 2,500 cubic feet per second be maintained near the mouth of the Klamath River. This can be achieved if the Bureau of Reclamation approves preventative releases from the Lewiston Dam reservoir.

According to Nat Pennington, Fisheries Biologist for the Salmon River Restoration Council, “Klamath River flows are lower than they were during the 2002 fish kill. River temperatures are consistently higher than the acute stress level for Chinook salmon at seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit. If this trend continues, a large-scale fish kill is likely and the Klamath could loose the entire run.”

“The Klamath fish kill of 2002 was devastating for our tribal communities and to the West Coast Fisheries. Previously, Tribes, fisheries scientists, and the Department of the Interior have worked together to avert fish kills by releasing preventative flows during drought years,” said Frankie Myers of the Yurok Tribe Watershed Restoration Program, “We need these releases now more then ever.”

Karuk tribal member Molli White said “Reclamation says they need the water for Sacramento River salmon, but our rivers are actually being exported to meet the demands of corporate agriculture like the Westland’s Water district.” White went on to say California’s almond growers who are projecting an eight percent increase in harvests while the rest of California experiences a devastating drought year.

When the dams and diversion tunnels were built on the Trinity, laws were set up to protect the river and fish, before exporting water to the Central Valley. These laws established that fish, and the tribes that depend on them, are the top priority for the Trinity River flows.

Klamath Justice Coalition members have made it clear that Tribal people and traditional fishermen will not give up until Reclamation releases water.

(Photos by Mo Hollis, Media Director, Seventh Generation Fund)