Klamath Riverkeeper Press Release | For Immediate Release
March 12, 2012
Contact: Erica Terence, Klamath Riverkeeper Executive Director.
KLAMATH RIVERKEEPER FILES NOTICE OF INTENT TO SUE MONTAGUE WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT OVER DAM AND DIVERSIONS ON KEY KLAMATH TRIBUTARY
Group Seeks Restoration of Coho Salmon Habitat, Accountability by District
Yreka, CA – Today Klamath Riverkeeper (KRK) filed a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue the Montague Water Conservation District (MWCD) for ongoing operation of Dwinnell Dam and associated diversions in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The Notice provides an opportunity for the District to propose measures to settle the claims before initiating a judicial proceeding.
“Coho once numbered in the thousands in the Shasta River,” noted KRK Executive Director Erica Terence. “Today fewer than 50 return most years.” In 2009 only 9 endangered coho salmon (all male) returned to spawn in the Shasta River according to the California Department of Fish and Game.
Montague Water Conservation District owns and operates Dwinnell Dam and Shastina Reservoir on the Shasta River. A large part of Parks Creek, a key Shasta tributary is also diverted to the Reservoir. From there water is diverted through a large ditch over 20 miles to grow hay and irrigate pasture.
Fisheries biologists have long noted that despite being in a relatively dry area, the Shasta is historically one of the most prolific salmon producing streams in the West. The Shasta River is fed by spring water that originates on the slopes of Mt. Shasta. These numerous springs provide a stable supply of water at the optimal temperature for salmon. The water is also rich in nutrients that in turn grow the insects that salmon feed on. However, since the 1920’s, much of the Shasta’s pristine waters have been diverted by Montague Water Conservation District without any stipulations on how much water must be left in-stream for salmon. According to the KRK Notice of Intent, that is no longer legal.
“We want to balance water use in the Shasta so that both farm and fish dependent communities can thrive,” said Terence. “The two are not mutually exclusive but we have to learn how to better share the resource.”
If MWCD fails in the next 60 days to demonstrate adequate, good-faith efforts to comply with legal requirements for permits to kill endangered coho salmon, KRK may consult fisheries experts and seek a court order to remedy the devastating impacts of the MWCD's dam and diversions.
Note: For a copy of Notice Letter or photos of Dwinnell Dam, send request to Erica Terence.