Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Hugh Vickery
For Immediate Release: Oct. 21, 2003
Interior Department Statement on
National Research Council Report
(Washington) - The Interior Department issued the following statement in response to the National Research Council report, "Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin," that was released today:

The Department appreciates the hard work and thoroughness of the National Research Council in preparing this report, which we are in the process of reviewing.

It should be noted first that the Council reaffirmed its position that there was not sufficient evidence to support the lake levels and flow regime for the endangered suckers and threatened coho salmon respectively, which had been required by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service in their 2001 Biological Opinions. The Council complimented the agencies for their collaborative work on the two long-term Biological Opinions issued in 2002.

The Department is pleased that the National Research Council determined the operation of the Klamath Project -- particularly the flows adopted consistent with the 2002 biological opinion -- was not the cause of the 2002 fish kill and that changes in the operation of the project at the time would not have prevented it. We also note that the Council found that conditions on the Trinity River and other Klamath tributaries -- rather than the main stem -- provide the best opportunity for preventing future kills through increased cold water flows. The Department this year sought and received permission to increase these cold-water flows on the Trinity River. There was no fish kill in 2003 like that seen in 2002.

"We agree with the council that the recovery of coho salmon and the two suckers cannot be achieved through actions primarily focused on the Klamath Project but require a broader approach that includes the participation of a wide range of stakeholders in the basin," said Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton. "Consultation, communication and cooperation are the cornerstone of the Department's approach to conservation, and we will work closely with other federal agencies and all the stakeholders in the basin to recover these species while providing for agriculture, refuges, and fisheries."

The Council made a number of specific recommendations and suggestions that we are reviewing.


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