Karuk Tribe: Fires Lead to Klamath River Fish Kill




By Dan Bacher | 

Debris flow stemming from the McKinney Firethen heavy rains, are causing a fish kill on the Klamath River in Northern California.

“Very large numbers of dead fish, of all species, are being observed in the vicinity of Happy Camp, CA along the mainstem Klamath River,” according to a press advisory released an hour ago from the Karuk Tribe. The advisory states:

• “Preliminary observations suggest that massive debris flows following flash flood events on August 3rd in areas impacted by the McKinney Fire are the cause.

• Road closures in an active fire zone are limiting detailed observations.

• The Karuk Tribe is working with the Yurok Tribe along with state and federal agencies to gain access to the fire zone to better document and evaluate river conditions.

• Note that observations of dead fish are being made over 20 miles from the source of debris flows. The severity of the event is impossible to characterize until biologists can make direct observations in currently restricted areas.

• It is currently unknown if the event will affect the fall migration of Chinook salmon, which is just beginning, or areas of the river downstream.

• More information will be released as observations are made.”

The Yurok Tribe has also issued a press statement about the fish kill.

“Fisheries experts have observed numerous dead fish floating on the surface of the Klamath River after a flash flood sent a torrent of sediment down multiple fire-damaged tributaries upriver from Happy Camp,” according to the Tribe.

“The first discharge of debris occurred in the footprint of the McKinney Fire on Seiad and Humbug Creeks. Erosion events also took place on the Salmon and Trinity Rivers, which flow into the  Klamath. Including multiple species, the dead fish were observed  near Happy Camp. On the Yurok Reservation, Yurok Tribal Fisheries Biologists and Technicians are currently monitoring the lower 44 miles of river for the presence of deceased fish. The large sediment plume is expected to hit the reservation this evening. At this time, the scale of the environmental damage and loss of fish cannot be determined as the dynamic situation continues to unfold. The fire is only 10 percent contained and 100-degree temperatures are expected in Happy Camp this weekend.”

Save California Salmon also commented on the impact of the McKinney Fire upon people and fish in a statement:

“The McKinney Fire has been raging near Karuk and Shasta homelands since Friday, July 29th and continues to cause rapid changes in safety for people and other beings living along the Klamath River. These disasters and mega-fires only become worse through continued climate devastation and mismanagement of fire through the attempted eradication of cultural burns by Native California Tribes. The Karuk Tribe is now documenting a fish kill among many different Klamath fish species from the debris and flash flooding caused by the fire, which may further impact fall-run salmon and spawning locations.

“Yreka, Happy Camp, Seiad Valley, Scott Bar, and Hilt along with nearby areas are experiencing evacuation orders and warnings, with many structures and homes being threatened. Local county officials continue to release updates on the Siskiyou County Website, where folks can also sign-up for Emergency Alerts via phone with the Siskiyou County CodeRED system. Remember that you can call 9-1-1 on a cellphone even without phone reception. Reach out to loved ones and friends who live in impacted areas to give information to those with inconsistent internet access.”

As I receive more information, I will post it here.

Here’s a link to a video showing the devastation of the flash flooding: https://twitter.com/wildland_zko/status/1555034838234632192?s=20&t=h51L8DZuyeBrIXf4wR5MVQ 


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