The Flows Tell the Story: Klamath River Coho Salmon are in Dire Condition

Migrating Salmon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

So far this spring only 36 Coho Salmon age 1+ have been trapped by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) while exiting the Shasta River Basin and only 21 Coho Salmon age 0+, 3 Coho Salmon age 1+  have been trapped on their way out from the Scott River.

These are dismal numbers and indicate that Klamath River Coho continue on the slide to extinction. The Shasta and Scott should be the top producers of Klamath River Coho but they are not because of poorly regulated irrigation using surface flows. Irrigation in the Shasta and Scott prevents Coho from reaching the best spawning grounds and kills the juveniles before they can get out to Klamath River. Then disease gets most of them descending the Klamath.

Meanwhile DFW and the State Water Board allow this to go unchallenged and NMFS is giving Shasta ranchers a Safe Harbor Agreement that allows them to kill Coho salmon.

The flows tell the story of how irrigators are killing the Shasta Coho:

Flows should be increasing in springtime due to snowmelt. But in the Shasta most of the flow is being diverted to irrigate cow pasture and alfalfa.

Felice Pace is a longtime environmental activist in northern California. You can find his writings online at Bearitude in Black.