The Oregon Natural Resources Report - Agricultural News from Oregon

Klamath Basin designated as habitat for endangered sucker fish

January 2, 2013

Klamath Basin designated as habitat for endangered sucker fish

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has designated habitat for endangered suckers in the Klamath Basin, including water systems in Klamath, Lake, and Modoc counties. A plan for Lost River and shortnosed suckers is scheduled to come out in the next few months, and will include steps for recovery, a timeline, and funding.

A century ago, the US Bureau of Reclamation launched the Klamath Project, building seven dams and over 717 miles of irrigation canals. The suckers lost critical habitat when the Project converted lakes and marshes to reservoirs and irrigated farm land. They were listed as endangered in 1988.

The fish have been in the forefront of Klamath Basin water disputes for years as parties fight over the balance between ecological and economic concerns. During the drought of 2001, irrigation water was cut off to almost 1,400 farms to provide water for the suckers in the Upper Klamath Lake. Protestors were able to reverse the decision the following year.

In 1994 it was proposed that the suckers receive designated critical habitat, but it has taken almost 20 years to make that happen.

The total size of sucker critical habitat is about 75% smaller than what was proposed in 1988 and includes 241,438 acres of reservoirs and 282 miles of rivers in Oregon and California.

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