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Know the West

Short on Klamath reporting


Plague on the Klamath” (HCN, 4/27/15) was good so far as it went. It did not, however, give readers a full view of salmon disease on the Klamath River, nor of water management and pollution issues related to disease outbreaks. Not mentioned, for example, is that most of the young salmon born in Klamath River tributaries succumb to one of several diseases before they can reach the ocean. Also not reported was the increasing reliance on hatchery salmon to make up for the loss of natural production, due to the ongoing juvenile salmon disease epidemic. And the article ignores the refusal of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to release the flushing spring flows, which scientists say are needed to reduce disease among juvenile salmon traveling the highly polluted Klamath.

The article does mention the Klamath agreements and the legislation enabling them, which is currently stalled in Congress. But it fails to note that these flows are the same that are now producing the yearly epidemics that annihilate up to 90 percent of the Klamath Basin’s naturally produced salmon. The dams, which the stalled legislation would transfer from private to government hands, along with liability for their removal, are fingered as a cause of the diseases, but massive agricultural pollution, which also contributes, is not reported.

By and large, the settlements continue to allow water to (mostly white) irrigators, while providing cash-strapped tribal governments money in exchange for it. Absent robust reporting that provides essential context, readers can’t make informed judgments about the efficacy of Western water deals or the implications of those deals for our ­rivers, our salmon and the tribal people whose governments are making the deals.

Felice Pace
Klamath, California