NOAA 2002-R127
Contact: Jim Milbury
NOAA News Releases 2002
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Agency Proposes Measures to Protect Salmon During Dam Operations

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has proposed measures that will allow farming and other water uses while also protecting the threatened coho salmon population in its biological opinion of the Bureau of Reclamation's operation of the Klamath River Project.

The biological opinion states that implementing a series of conservation measures as a reasonable and prudent alternative will likely avoid jeopardizing the existence of coho salmon in the Klamath River and will help lead to their recovery. Klamath River coho are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

"The conservation measures in our biological opinion are an innovative approach to resolving the needs of farmers, Native American Indian tribes, and endangered species," said Bill Hogarth, NOAA Fisheries director. "Our approach is based on cooperation and research rather than economic hardship and litigation."

Working with the Bureau of Reclamation, NOAA Fisheries identified measures that would help provide water for farming and other uses while ensuring the continued existence of coho salmon and its critical habitat. They include:

  • Specific water management measures over the next ten years
  • Development of a water bank and enhanced water-supply program
  • An agreed-upon water-flow target by 2010
  • An inter-governmental task force to manage water resources
  • An inter-governmental science panel to develop and implement a research program to identify and fill gaps regarding coho salmon and their habitat requirements.

The Klamath Project is located in Southern Oregon and Northern California and provides irrigation water for approximately 220,000 acres in three counties located in Oregon and California. Each county has very complex water usage issues.

The biological opinion was released following review of comments from the Bureau of Reclamation and the public on the draft opinion released on May 16, 2002. The biological opinion can be found on the NOAA Fisheries Southwest region web site at

On February 27, 2002, The Bureau of Reclamation asked NOAA Fisheries to initiate a formal consultation (under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act) regarding the impact of the Klamath Project on coho salmon. NOAA Fisheries was asked to determine whether the Klamath Project "jeopardized" threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam.

The conclusion of NOAA Fisheries, as detailed in the biological opinion, is that the operation of the Klamath Project through March of 2012, with comprehensive implementation of the conservation measures contained in the biological opinion's "reasonable and prudent alternative," will likely avoid jeopardizing coho and will help lead to their recovery.

NOAA Fisheries, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit