Skip to main content

Klamath Salmon to Get Vital Water

Too Many Straws

There simply isn't enough water in the Klamath Basin in dry years to irrigate all the onion fields, pastures, and other areas and leave enough in the river to sustain what was once the third-biggest salmon fishery on the West Coast. A plan adopted by the Bush administration in 2002 failed to provide adequate water and salmon have been dying, sometimes in large numbers, in low water years ever since.

A Crashing Fishery

In 2002, low flows led to the deaths of upwards of 70,000 adult fish trying to swim upstream to spawn, and uncountable baby salmon. This in turn led to a severe curtailment of the fishing season for commercial salmon fishermen and widespread economic devastation up and down the northern California and Oregon coast.

Help for the Coast

Fishermen's organizations and conservation groups challenged the inadequate flow standards in court, and, after legal maneuvering that lasted several years, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 28, 2007, upheld a lower court ruling requiring the federal government to maintain minimum flows in the Klamath adequate to keep salmon alive in dry years, which is welcome step in rebuilding the coastal fishing economy.