SAN FRANCISCO – The Yurok Tribe, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association (PCFFA), and the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR), represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, are seeking a temporary restraining order to reinstate water flows in the Klamath River to protect threatened salmon, according to a news release.
Earlier this year, the plaintiffs successfully obtained a new three-year plan from the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) for operating the Klamath Irrigation Project to increase springtime flows in the Klamath River. On Monday, May 11, BOR shut off augmented flows required under that plan, pushing the Klamath River to low water levels that could place juvenile salmon in danger. A hearing is scheduled for May 22.
“Salmon are in crisis and we absolutely cannot afford to operate the river at minimum flow levels,” said Yurok Tribe-Vice-Chairman Frankie Meyers. “Reclamation’s unilateral decision to cut off water flows is in clear violation of the plan and comes as a shock, especially given the productive, collaborative meetings to find a way to meet the needs of the salmon.
In March as a result of litigation BOR developed a new three-year operations plan that allocates more water for river flows in most hydrologic years to help salmon. BOR also agreed to develop a longer-term operations plan through a collaborative process with the Tribe. In return. The Yurok Tribe and commercial fishing groups had withdrawn their motion for a preliminary injunction and stayed their lawsuit subject to implementation of the three-year plan.
BOR is now returning to court to seek additional flows.
Under the 2019-2024 Klamath Project Operations Plan, the Klamath Fishery experienced a disease outbreak and degraded habitat in part due to drought conditions. The health of Klamath River salmon stocks is a determining factor in whether ocean coastal commercial Chinook fisheries are open or closed.
The Yurok Tribe and commercial fishing families filed litigation to secure adequate water flows necessary to prevent further collapse of Klamath salmon populations.