While conservationists, fisheries biologists and sport anglers are thrilled that the long-awaited Klamath River dam removal project has been set in motion and should provide plenty of new water flow for migrating anadromous fish, Native American interests in Northern California and Oregon are hopeful that the four dams set to come down will have a major positive tribal impact. Here’s more from the Associated Press:
“The river is our church, the salmon is our cross. That’s how it relates to the people. So it’s very sacred to us,” said Kenneth Brink, vice chairman of the Karuk Tribe. “The river is not just a place we go to swim. It’s life. It creates everything for our people.”
The story also cited the early effects of a dam removal on Washington State’s Elwha River, which has benefited coho salmon and local tribal organizations:
Biologists say it will take at least a generation for the river to recover, but within months of the dams being removed, salmon were already recolonizing sections of the river they had not accessed in more than a century. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, which has been closely involved in restoration work, is opening a limited subsistence fishery this fall for coho salmon, its first since the dams came down.
Brink, the Karuk Tribe vice chair, hopes similar success will happen on the Klamath River. Multiple times per year, Brink and other tribal members participate in ceremonial salmon fishing using handheld nets. In many years, there have been no fish to catch, he said.
“When the river gets to flow freely again, the people can also begin to worship freely again,” he said.
Northern California tribes such as the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa Valley and others have played a big part in the quest to have the four Klamath dams removed along with a similar Eel River project, partnering with California Trout and other organizations.