Elizabeth J. Finney / File, 2002

Increased flows from Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River, a main tributary of the Klamath River in northeastern California, are scheduled to begin Aug. 13 to head off a possible die-off of chinook salmon in the Klamath similar to the one in 2002 that left salmon carcasses strewn along the waterway's banks.

Extra water releases planned to protect Klamath River salmon

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 - 3:45 pm

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will release extra water from Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River next week in hopes of preventing a large fish kill downstream on the Klamath River.

In a decision signed Wednesday, the releases will begin Aug. 13 from the dam, which impounds water in Trinity Reservoir upstream of the Klamath River. The extra flows will range between 1,000 and 1,200 cubic feet per second through September, with pulse flows as high as 2,700 cfs between Aug. 26 and 27.

The move is intended to avoid a massive fish kill like one that killed tens of thousands of fall-run Chinook salmon in 2002. Similar drought conditions exist this year that may result in deadly high temperatures, low flows and bacteria growth that could kill salmon and other fish.

Adding to the urgency, this year's salmon run on the Klamath is expected to be very large, potentially putting even more fish at risk.

Farming interests in the San Joaquin Valley opposed the extra flows. That is because the same water otherwise would have been diverted through a tunnel to the Sacramento River for Reclamation's agricultural water contractors.

Environmental groups and Indian tribes in the Klamath region support the move. But some said it may be too little, too late.

"We feel like they're really cutting it close," said Regina Chichizola, spokeswoman for the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

Contact The Bee's Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.

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