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Irrigation’s role in Klamath fish kill disputed

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

THERE WAS ONE small but very important inaccurate statement in the August cover story [THE FIGHT FOR WATER] regarding the Klamath Basin: “It was the site of the biggest fish die-off in the history of the West because of an irrigation diversion.”

During late summer and early fall of 2002, Dave Vogel, a fisheries biologist, noted that water temperatures in the Klamath River were measured hourly just prior to and during the fall-run Chinook migration. He also found that large numbers of salmon entered the lower Klamath earlier than usual and were exposed to uncharacteristic cooling and warming conditions causing disease outbreak from warm water and crowded conditions.

“In my opinion the operations of Iron Gate Dam during the summer and fall of 2002 did not cause and could not have prevented the fish die-off in the lower Klamath River,”  Vogel reported.

Activists base many of their arguments on a California Department of Fish and Game report on the die-off. They consistently manage to avoid the unbiased National Research Council report on the same issue. The media also largely ignored a similar October 2003 finding by the National Research Council Committee, which failed to find a link between the operation of the Klamath Project and the fish die-off. The recent congressional hearing regarding Dick Cheney’s alleged involvement with Klamath River operational decisions effectively put many of the arguments raised to rest.

Dan Keppen
Family Farm Alliance
Klamath Falls

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