At a recent public hearing in Sacramento, members of the Hoopa Valley, Yurok, Karuk, Quartz Valley, Winnemem Wintu and Miwok Tribes, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, and environmental activists came together to oppose PacifiCorp’s application for a Section 401 clean water permit needed to re-license the dams it operates on the Klamath River. The Tribes gave detailed testimony to California state water officials that the dams have resulted in significant declines in both fish populations and water quality, and advocated for the removal of the dams.
Daina Colegove, a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe and board member of the Klamath Riverkeeper, presented a big bottle filled with toxic blue green algae that she gathered from behind Iron Gate Dam as a “gift” to the state’s review board. “We are unable to use the river for swimming because of the toxic algae and it’s getting worse every year,” she said. “We don’t want to see another fish kill like the one we had in 2002 (when over 68,000 salmon died).”
Richard Myers, a member of the Yurok Tribal Council, testified about the impact the river’s water quality has on Tribal life and customs. “We do our ceremonies, including the World Renewal Dance, on the river. Normally we would bathe in the river during our ceremonies, but the water quality has been so terrible during periods of the toxic algae heath advisory that we are forced to bathe in the creeks instead.”
Tribal members and environmental advocates have noted steep reductions in the populations of Chinook salmon, lamprey eel and candlefish in the Klamath River, which they attribute to degradation in water quality over several years. populations to the dramatic decline in water quality on the Klamath in recent years. “The fish are important, but the Indian people are also important,” Myers stated. “My great aunt used to have a saying: when the Klamath River dies, the Yurok people will die also. Today we depend upon the river just as our ancestors did.”
The state is now reviewing the issue through a special EIR after successful legal action filed by the Klamath Riverkeeper. The EPA now lists the algal toxin Microcystin as a pollutant, and required California to regulate PacifiCorp through an EIR. This EIR will determine if the dams are issued clean water certification known as a 401 permit, or if they are removed.
For information regarding the opposition to the dam, contact Malena Marvin, outreach and science director, Klamath Riverkeeper, cell: 541-821-7260 , phone/fax: 541-488-3553.
You can find further details on the licensing hearing.