Native Tribes Demand More Water in Rivers to Save Fish

Native Tribes Demand More Water in Rivers to Save Fish

The Times-Standard reports that the Yurok, Karuk, and Hoopa Valley tribes and the Klamath Justice Coalition traveled to Sacramento Tuesday to protest the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) decision to cut pre-emptive water releases from Trinity Lake that would nurture fish on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. Roughly two hundred protesters showed up at the office of Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo, who made the decision which diverted the water to the Sacramento River to protect federally endangered salmon.

The tribes assert that the combination of the state’s severe drought and the reduced water flow may emulate 2002, when 70,000 salmon and other fish died in the Klamath River.

One protester said, “Us and fish are one and the same. We’re family, and we’re relatives. And we’ll die for those fish. BOR, they’re just breaking our river, that’s all they’re doing.”

A representative from the BOR said, “So we feel that the plan we’ve put in place will meet the needs. But what we’ve also said that based on current conditions, in the river, if they warrant adjustments to the plan, and we have to make releases early, we’ll definitely consider that.”

Klamath Justice Coalition and Karuk tribal member Chook Chook Hillman said, “It was powerful that all these people drove all the way down here. It took a lot of us nine hours to get down here. I think it is so powerful that we’d drive nine hours and put our hearts into this.”

Coalition and Karuk tribal member Molli White echoed, “There is going to be no divide-and-conquer strategy. The time has come that we are all here to stand together and say this is not OK. We’re not going to accept that the BOR are going to let our fish die. We’re not going to accept the mistreatment of our people. It’s not just about the fish. This is a people issue.”

Six representatives had the chance to meet with Murillo. Coalition member Frankie Myers of the Yurok Watershed Restoration Program said, “We yelled at him for what he’s been doing and about his decision. He is going to be calling us by this evening to tell us when he’ll be making his decision, and then we’re gonna go from there.”

One dissatisfied protester who met with Murillo said, “He said he needs time to pull his staff together to make that decision, and he said that he would have an answer by tomorrow but that what we heard last week. So right now I’m feeling really frustrated.”

Hillman ventilated, “There are some heavier things to him that tribal councils can’t say. We might have opened his eyes in a different view; put it into perspective to see his place in history. We’re going to make sure there is no question whose hands the blood is on.”

State, federal, and tribal scientists met with a bureau representative in Arcata to discuss the conditions of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Hoopa Tribal Fisheries Director Mike Orcutt stated that the tribes were asking the bureau to increase the flow of water to at least the minimum 2,500 cubic feet per second. He said, “I think we’re playing with some pretty high stakes in terms of the resource we’re trying to protect.” Orcutt also said there will likely be a decision by next week.

Myers concluded, “I think that an awesome turnout from all three tribes all the way down here in Sacramento. The passion was really awesome. Folks came out and wanted to be heard, and I think they have been by the person who needed to hear them.”