Monthly Archives: December 2010

Upper Klamath Lake: An Example of Cohabitation or Destruction

Good Science Must Consider All Things and Exclude Politics

 Our natural environment is sophisticated in its natural structure; often we do not understand those complexities.  In the attempt to make things better within our environment there exists times our decisions, and sometimes outright irresponsibility, do not work out and we ruin a unique ecosystem or biosphere and destroy natural habitats.

Upper Klamath Lake, in Klamath County, Oregon is one such environment.  It is considered eutrophic.  It is a body of water that has high primary productivity due to excessive nutrients in-bound from several local tributaries, and is subject to algal blooms resulting in poor water quality, making bottom waters deficient in oxygen.  This is dangerous to the existence of plant life, fisheries, and wildlife in general.  The flow into Klamath River is detrimetnal to all habitat and wildlife, ironically, the exremely high phospherous levels somewhat good for cattle.

This portion of the lake has evolved to a stage where summer algal and macrophyte productivity causes severe aesthetic problems as well.  Often this renders the lake useless for recreational activities.  The occasion also presents questions as to control or developing regulatory situations that over the decades continue to be argued but have not been resolved.  Many controversies’s, to include dam removal, would create a devastating disaster over the entire area.  Over the past decade these debates have become extreme where rhetoric has replaced good science.

The problem is a nature caused situation, not man made.  It cannot be regulated as it is of a natural causation of events, although bad management judgments also have contributed to severe damage over the decades.  We can take verifiable information and clear the confusion in regard to what can or cannot be accomplished with such a natural and continuing event inUpper Klamath Lake.

Klamath Lake is a shallow 90,000 acre body of water.  Because of the shallowness the water warms rapidly in the summer.  The situation causes a high nutrient load where algal growth is extensive, predominantly Aphanezomenon Flos-aquae, blue – green algae found in eutrophic zones.  These organisms form a dense mat like appearance and stink to high heaven as they decay.  Other problems include boat props being tangled up in the Potamogeton Crispus that form long floating fonts, and habitat destruction.

Methods explored previously have been debated, whereas agreement never made and the situation remains.  There exist no restoration techniques or methods to slow down or curb this situation of events.  However, over the year’s one situation becomes evident, that the water level of Upper Klamath Lake is beyond debate a critical factor in at least somewhat controlling negative natural occurring events.

There exists a contract in-place, between the Departments of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the utility and company responsible for the Link River Dam.  This contract, first signing and dated January 31, 1956, is still valid no matter who at any given time possess and operates the Link River Dam.  It outlines, specifically, that the utility and/or company “. . . may regulate the water level ofUpper Klamath Lake between 4,143.0 (mean average 4,140.0 ft.) and 4,137.0 feet only. . .”

It goes further to state that “. . . these limits may not be exceeded without the permission of the Bureau of Reclamation’s authority and permission.”  Further the contract states the BOR may raise the water level but in no means lower the water level below 4,137.0 feet.  This also developed a functional system to coordinate with The Clean Water Act passed by Congress in 1972 and Amended in 1977 (PL92-217) and in 1981 (PL97-8) as well as within the past few years.  The contract was used to show compliance or attempts at controlling pollution, unfortunately the contract was ignored by BOR and other administrators over the same decades.

Several years can serve as an example of water level being a positive factor, when compared to drought seasons where wildlife and habitat wiped out due to low water levels and an overabundance of this natural occurring mixture of compounds that were devastating to the habitat.  The summer of 1981 serves as a definitive example and can be researched adequately to acquire evidence.  The following summer, 1982, was a good and wet season, which served as the catalyst for improvement within the Upper Klamath Lake area and into the Klamath River.

There exist no definite solutions; rather, definitive debates do exist.  This natural occurrence in Upper Klamath Lake seemingly being ignored, can be devastating.  Disaster struck in the early 2000’s when many Salmon fisheries were placed at risk in the Klamath River.  The draught was blamed but research shows it was the flow of the Upper Klamath Lake, when left under the allowable water level for a short period of time was one of a few causes for the minor disaster.  Why misleading information contrary to scientific facts was presented to the public are in question.

This is for sure, that dam removal on the Klamath River will equate to disaster if Upper Klamath Lake is ignored.  Ironically, all of the rhetoric stating improvements to natural habitats, fishery re-establishment, and ecosystems will simply not exist, as good science states a much different scenario that equates to disastrous results.

That’s what good research and good science states in an adequate manner.  Perhaps we do not need to attempt to change our environment so much as we need to reestablish our ethics and integrity and make our natural surroundings better and livable, a cohabitation situation that is not based on monetary income or profit as a priority.  One thing is for certain that greed, questionable conduct, and lies do not amount to anything other than spoiling of the environment we live within and rely upon for our existence.

1.  Wildung, R.E., R.L. Schmidt, and R.D. Routson. “The Phosphous Status of EutrophicLakeSedimentsas Related Changes in Limnological Conditions – Phosphorus Mineral Components,” Journal of Environmental Quality, 6:1:100-4, January, 1977.

2.  __________, James A Buckley and Ronald M. Bush.  Dilution as an Algal Bloom Control,” Journal WPCF, 44:12:7, December, 1972.

3.  __________, “Flood Control and Allied Purposes onKlamath River Basin,CaliforniaandOregon,” Serial #85,San Francisco,California, October, 1973.

4.  Campbell, Neil A.; Reece, Jane B. (2005). Biology. Benjamin Cummings. p. 1230 p. ISBN 0-8053-7146-X.   . .This oxygen deficiency is most apparent in shallow lakes, owing to the smaller hypolimnetic volume. The process of eutrophication may occur naturally or be the result of anthropogenic influences.

3.  Karina Preußela, Fastnera Jutta; Federal Environmental Agency, FG II 3.3, Corrensplatz 1, 14195 Berlin, Germany; Department of Limnology of Stratified Lakes, Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Alte Fischerhütte 2, 16775 Stechlin, Germany; 15 October 2005.

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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Uncategorized