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Klamath River: Salmon Protection

This is the time of year when Chinook salmon head back up the Klamath/Trinity River system to spawn—if they have abundant, cold water.

But this year—this week—powerful business interests are in court trying to seize that water, putting tens of thousands of salmon, and an entire generation of their offspring, in peril.

Here’s why:

Washington state’s Swinomish tribe faces a water rights battle in the Skagit River basin, the likes of which we have seen before. It’s reminiscent of the dispute that broke out around a decade ago in the Klamath River basin in California and Oregon. That dispute led to a fish kill of about 70,000 salmon after federal intervention severely reduced water flows in the Klamath and its tributaries.

Coho and chinook salmon, along with their steelhead cousins, are making some promising headway in California's North Coast streams. The San Francisco Chronicle carried a front-page story on Dec. 19 describing a higher-than-expected return of spawning coho in Lagunitas Creek. The same trend holds true for the Garcia and several other streams.