Fish Pay The Price For Failed Water Management

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Friday, July 30, 2021

Two species of the bottom-feeding sucker fish that inhabit the Upper Klamath Lake and nearby rivers are struggling to survive after a century of water management in the Klamath Basin has all but drained the wetlands ecosystem where these fish once thrived.“Historically, these fish were really incredibly abundant — we’re talking tens of millions of individuals,” said Alex Gonyaw, senior fisheries biologist for Klamath Tribes. The tribes once relied heavily on the fish for subsistence and income. Now, the suckers are on the brink of extinction. During the past century, wetlands surrounding Upper Klamath Lake were converted to farmland, while waters from the basin were allocated to irrigators. The lake currently is used to store snowmelt water in the spring and that can be released to farmers during the summer months. But with the wetlands gone, algae in the lake blooms and dies off each year in a cycle that makes the water too toxic for the juvenile fish to survive.

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