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CDFG issues 'license to kill' coho with new permit program
Proposed watershed-wide permits strip endangered species protections in Scott & Shasta
Controversial, confusing & convoluted
The California Department of Fish and Game has developed a controversial program that could strip important endangered species protections from Shasta and Scott River coho salmon. Water quality and quantity are critical issues for endangered fish in these watersheds, yet the program does not address them, instead allowing the killing of coho by unregulated groundwater pumping, poorly enforced irrigation diversions, and dams.
CDFG's proposal would allow landowners to forego obtaining individual Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) for coho, in exchange for a blanket 'watershed-wide' permit. ITPs authorize and track the killing of threatened coho by irrigation diversions or other land use practices on private property.
As confusing as it is convoluted, CDFG’s proposal would put enforcement of the Endangered Species Act in the hands of local Resource Conservation Districts, who do not have the capacity or the inclination to bring the law down on friends and neighbors. Further, the watershed-wide permits would rubber stamp existing dams, diversions, and any proposed upgrades without any public process.
Taking action for Scott & Shasta salmon
The Shasta River was once the most productive salmon river in California for its size, and the Shasta and Scott are still key habitat for Klamath coho, currently at just 2% of their historic numbers. CDFG should be advancing programs that not only support key habitat restoration goals, but work to restore flows to these rivers that are routinely pumped dry to irrigate ever-expanding fields of alfalfa.
Along with many others, Klamath Riverkeeper submitted detailed comments opposing the watershed-wide ITP program in November of 2008, but CDFG refused to incorporate changes in the final draft released in October 2008. KRK continues to work with a coalition of commercial fishing groups, tribes and other conservation groups to challenge these permits and brought an official lawsuit to block the program in late October 2008.
- Press Release Coalition Challenges State’s “Licenses to Kill Salmon” on Klamath River Streams 10/22/09
- Read the coalition lawsuit against the ITP program: KRK et. al vs. CDFG
- Klamath Riverkeeper and PCFFA's Official Comments on Watershed Wide ITPs
More on flows and irrigation on the Klamath's Scott & Shasta Rivers: