Welcome to the Reconnect Klamath Blog.
Reconnect Klamath embodies the idea that the diverse individuals who make up our local communities have more in common than not, and that the broad interests of the Klamath Basin are all connected—we either succeed together or suffer cultural and economic losses apart.
This year Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers are suffering dire hardships as the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has been exacerbated by another arid winter and subsequent irrigation curtailments. Similarly, Tribal communities and coastal salmon fishermen witnessed another fish kill as poor river conditions gave rise to an outbreak of Ceratomyxa shasta infections this Spring, killing juvenile salmon by the millions. Endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake require specific lake levels for spawning, adding more complexity to the water balancing act. And most recently, protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd have swept the nation, including demonstrations in the Basin. 2020 has not been a year for the faint of heart.
For more than 20 years, Klamath Basin community members have worked courageously to turn the page on our acrimonious history. Leaders from agriculture, Tribal nations, counties, commercial fishing, and conservation groups have worked hard on agreements to better share water, fund restoration projects, and remove dams. These efforts have not made the ongoing challenges facing our communities go away– but they do represent small steps in the right direction, and that should give us all reason to hope.
Across the Klamath Basin, groups continue to come together to improve the long-term health of our watershed and economies, even groups that have been opposed historically. In the Middle Klamath, local fire safety councils, the Forest Service, Karuk Tribe, and the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council joined together to develop the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership to guide land management planning. In the Shasta sub-basin, CalTrout is working with the Cardoza Ranch to improve conditions for fish in a manner compatible with ranching. And in the Upper Basin, Trout Unlimited and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are working with landowners to improve water quality in Upper Klamath Lake .
Perhaps the biggest project underway is the effort to remove the lower four Klamath River dams . Because the dams provide no irrigation diversions nor any other benefit to agriculture, removing them can only benefit struggling farmers and ranchers along with fish dependent communities. Current peer-reviewed science and previous dam removal projects on other major rivers strongly indicate that removing the four lower Klamath dams will dramatically improve water quality in the river. It will certainly provide salmon access to hundreds of miles of historical spawning and rearing habitat. It will also erase the disease hot zone below the dams and make the water balancing act easier for fishing and farming communities alike by eliminating the need for “flushing flows” to address water quality problems that require large water releases out of Upper Klamath Lake. As a whole, removing these dams will dramatically improve conditions for Klamath communities.
We ask that communities continue to support one another and reject the old winner-take-all approach that has never produced lasting solutions for the Klamath Basin’s water challenges. Help us to rewrite the story of the Klamath by working toward collaboration and compromise. Let’s be honest about our past and make sure the future offers opportunities for everyone, no matter their occupation, race, creed, or gender. We can reconnect our watershed, our economies, and the fabric of our communities if we remain committed to each other’s success.
In the coming weeks, Reconnect Klamath will continue to feature content highlighting the best of the Klamath Basin, and the work happening across our communities. Stay tuned to get Reconnected!