The Official Blog of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC)

 

The World According To Salmon

Posted by admin on July 18, 2016

by James Peterson

IMG_0143-COLLAGE.jpgIn the world according to salmon, the rivers and streams dictate their choices in life. If the flows are
high and the water is cold, they are more likely to be able to complete their life cycles and ensure the future of their species in their offspring. If the flows are low and the water is warm, their chances of successfully surviving to spawn become much more challenging. As many of us along the River know, most salmon species die after spawning, and from the time they return to fresh water, their journey towards their natal streams will be their lives terminus. Their sacrifice and determination is almost Shakespearean in its tragedy and beauty.

 After five years of intensive drought conditions, Northern California benefitted from a slight respite this year, and winter conditions were more along the lines of a normal weather pattern for this region. To give you an example of this, last year in mid-June (6/15/15) the Klamath River at Orleans was flowing at a rate of 2,250 cubic feet per second (CFS) and a temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit.  This year mid-June (6/15/16) the river is flowing at 3,870 CFS and a temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in context, one cubic foot of water is roughly equivalent to one basketball full of water per second.  71 degrees Fahrenheit is the beginning of the stressful temperature range for juvenile salmonids and over 75 degrees can be lethal.

IMG_0563.JPGThe conditions this year are hands down a whole lot better than last year. For the past ten years, MKWC in partnership with the Karuk Tribal Fisheries Program, and various other state and federal agencies, have been constructing off-channel habitats along key tributaries to the Klamath River. Juvenile fish looking to escape high winter flows and stressful or even lethal summer temperature conditions in the Klamath River and its tributaries utilize these habitats in order to survive. Two of the newest constructed ponds along Middle Creek, a tributary to Horse Creek, have their first cohorts of juvenile coho salmon moving into them as creek flows begin to drop.

Many of these fish will stay in the ponds all summer and possibly even through next winter if they like the conditions. Fish utilizing these ponds have been shown to have a survival rate of two to six times higher than fish that don’t.  To date, MKWC has constructed 12 off-channel ponds throughout the Klamath basin and all of them have seen use by juvenile and sometimes adult coho salmon. Some ponds even hold several thousand juvenile fish during parts of the year. Some fish that were marked as juveniles in these ponds have returned several years later as adults and been detected spawning in areas along Seiad Creek, showing that these ponds are beginning to produce adult fish! By the summer of 2017, several more of these ponds will be constructed as safe havens for these determined little fish to shelter in.

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These habitats along the margins of a stream may not look like much to a casual onlooker, but when your whole world revolves around survival against steep odds, these side-channel sanctuaries can make a big difference, and in the world according to salmon, every little bit helps. 

Photo 1: Juvenile coho salmon rearing in ponds constructed along Middle Creek  6/7/2016.

Photo 2: Juvenile coho and Chinook in O’Neil Creek Pond. 

Photo 3: Goodman Pond constructed by MKWC in collaboration with the Karuk Tribe and other partners offers refuge from Middle Creek flows. 

Photo 4: O'Neil Creek Pond.

James "Jimmy" Peterson is the Water Monitoring Coordinator at MKWC. He comes from Minnesota, and brings to the Middle Klamath a love for water and fish and a sense of stewardship for those resources that transcends borders. 

 

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Why Solar Power is Bad For The Klamath Region

Posted by admin on June 11, 2016

by Luna Latimer

Ok, that headline is a cheap trick to get you to read about a controversial topic.

But seriously, have you googled “California and Biomass” recently?

One of the top results is an LA Times article titled: “Solar is in, Biomass energy is out.” The article goes on to explain that “The state's biomass energy plants are folding in rapid succession, unable to compete with heavily subsidized solar farms.” Let’s be honest with ourselves: even if solar power wasn’t subsidized, it would still be cheaper than biomass energy. But not all energy is created equal. Here’s the case for biomass energy, as I see it.

Biomass is fuel that is developed from organic materials, and used to create electricity or other forms of power, and it can offer a renewable and sustainable source of energy. In our area, biomass is usually generated using a forestry byproduct –materials that would otherwise be burned on site.

log deck_biomass blog post.jpg

What will be the fate of this pile on National Forest lands? Will it be burned on site or used to create energy independence? 

I know a lot of people living in the mid Klamath are off the grid and use hydro and/or solar power and batteries to produce their own power. In no way am I claiming that this power production is bad for the Klamath. Here on the River, I see a lot of solar panels on roofs where the power is being sold to PG&E at a rate between $0.03 to $0.04 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). That is cheap power. It also helps fill the PG&E requirement for renewable energy. Why would PG&E buy expensive biomass when it can fill its renewable quota with cheap solar power? They probably won’t.

We face a fire and fuel problem in the Klamath Mountains. Over a century of fire suppression and laws stopping prescribed burning has created a tinderbox around our communities. It is just a matter of time before these overly dense forests go up in smoke. I have a hard time viewing these trees as having sequestered carbon, as the fire reality we face makes the carbon seem pretty active, or ready to be released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gas emissions.

As groups like the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC), Karuk Tribe, Forest Service and Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP) work to increase the pace, scale and quality of collaborative restoration of our forests, a lot of the forest is slated to be burned. However, a portion of these forests – the part that is close to a road -- could be headed to a biomass power plant.

Biomass power is a superior renewable in that it has other benefits:

1)    It provides a 24/7 baseload power – it can be produced even if the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow

2)    It has a net carbon benefit because it not only is a renewable energy source, but it limits the emissions from pile burning in the forest.

3)    It creates more local jobs than other sources of power, according to the US Department of Energy.

I know what some of you are thinking: If we are cutting woody biomass out of the forest (and using fuel to do so), then transporting it to a biomass facility (and using fuel to do so), how can you say that biomass energy is carbon neutral? A lot of work has gone into assessing this and given our local situation, biomass energy achieves a net decrease in atmospheric Greenhouse gasses compared to the alternative of open burning of the materials.

I have to take this one step further. Is there any hope for biomass energy in the mid Klamath? I think this really comes down to this question: who pays the cost? Even if you can get behind biomass as a carbon-neutral source of renewable energy with added community and ecosystem services in theory, would you pay a higher rate for this type of energy on your utility bill?

Biomass graphs.png

The brightest beacon of hope for biomass is the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) – the system in seven states, including California, which allows cities and counties to aggregate the buying power of individual customers to secure alternative energy supply contracts on a community-wide basis. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors agreed two weeks ago to enter into the CCA program as part of Redwood Coast Energy Authority. The Board of Supervisors unanimously supports biomass energy being part of the CCA renewable energy portfolio. The CCA would still offer a lower rate than PG&E – which is critical so that customers don’t choose to opt out of the CCA – while adding biomass to the mix.

Here’s hoping that the Redwood Coast Energy Authority can take advantage of being in the Saudi Arabia of biomass.

Luna has worked with MKWC since 2003 when she was doing graduate research with the Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council. She is a fifth-generation forest worker from Southern Oregon. She lives in Orleans, CA and works for MKWC as one of two Directors. Luna oversees administration and operations for MKWC. She received a Master’s degree in Applied Anthropology from Oregon State University with a focus on forest restoration projects on private land within the middle Klamath. Luna works with private landowners, agencies, contractors and non-profit organizations to restore both upslope and in-stream ecosystems. Luna is passionate about non-timber forest products and spends her free time harvesting and processing acorns, huckleberries, mushrooms, and other food and medicines.

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by Chris Root

Scott Upton faced an overwhelming job in 2015. He began his presentation at the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council’s recent conference in Middletown, California saying as much.

Scott was the CALFIRE Unit Chief during four major fires in the tri-county Sonoma/Lake/Napa unit.  Four years into the most severe drought on record in California, his agency saw a massive increase in the number of fires and area burned over their past averages. 

middleton-01-800.jpgThe Valley Fire in Middletown was described as the third most destructive on record in the state, but it was just one of several large incidents that CALFIRE managed that year.  Everyone at the conference was trying to figure out what made this fire so destructive. Was it just a freak of nature, or was this going to be the new normal for fire behavior in California? 

The 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite and the 2014 King fire in Tahoe each burned over 50,000 acres in a single day.  These massive fires, Scott reminded the conference, were not driven by extreme wind events. They were triggered by drought-stressed fuels and vegetation.

The Valley Fire, which spread 40,000 acres and burned through three towns in the first 12 hours of the incident, was the new normal in times of drought.  What was exceptionally terrible about this fire was that it occurred within a populated area, not in the back country of the Sierra Nevada.

Phil VanMantgem, a USGS scientist warned the conference participants that the current drought might be a possible preview of the future climate conditions in California.  The current drought, he explained, is different than past events.  Sure there is less rain than average -  everyone is aware of that.  But what’s unprecedented are the record-breaking temperatures that are coupled with the lack of rainfall.  These temperatures are causing California’s overstocked and drought-stressed vegetation to suck the soil dry in a desperate effort to survive.  If the moisture content got any lower in the vegetation burned during the Valley Fire, the plants would have died from drought stress alone. 

During a tour of the Boggs Mountain State Demonstration Forest, the conference participants witnessed entire mountainsides of drought-stressed plantations killed by the ambient heat of the Valley Fire.  They were so stressed they essentially baked to death from radiant heat generated in a surface fire. 

What was especially surprising to CALFIRE, the managing agency at the Boggs forest, is that this area was perceived to be the shining example of responsible forest management in Lake County.  The agency had even conducted some small prescribed fires in the heat-killed forest stands, a management practice that is rarely implemented in heavily populated counties in central California.  These small demonstration burns, conducted over 10 years prior to the Valley Fire, had very little impact on tree survival.

Jeremy Bailey, a leader in the Nature Conservancy’s Fire Learning Network, and one of the nation’s greatest proponents of prescribed fire use, questioned how CALFIRE - the largest and most technologically advanced firefighting organization of its type in the world - intended to expand the use of prescribed fire when the agency found it difficult to burn 30 acres a year on its demonstration forest.  The agency representatives expressed that the barriers to implementing burns were the same faced by private land owners, and by prescribed fire practitioners state wide.

Organizers initiated the conference to confront serious and seemingly intractable issues such as this drought stress phenomenon and the havoc it can wreak on California communities when wildfire strikes. As you would expect from a conference centered in a natural disaster area, most discussions were somewhat discouraging and depressing. 

Participants in the 2014 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange make the front cover of Wildfire Magazine.

There was some optimism, however, centered on the Nature Conservancy Fire Learning Network’s TREX or Prescribed Fire Training Exchange program. The majority of the representatives from state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private land owners participating in the conference came to an understanding that the only way forward is through cooperating and sharing the responsibility and liability of implementing prescribed fire projects.

That mutual agreement will be essential to changing the way we respond to future fires. That shift, in turn, can help us get ahead of mega droughts and fires to be safer and smarter down the line. 

Photos: 

Above left: Middletown, Lake County, CA was one of three towns impacted by the 2015 Valley Fire.

At right: participants in the 2014 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange make the front cover of Wildfire Magazine.

 

Chris Root is MKWC's Fire and Fuels project coordinator, responsible for overseeing MKWC's brushing and burning crews and helping to implement the annual Prescribed Fire Training Exchange in the Middle Klamath watershed. 

 
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Picking Our Own Peaches

Posted by admin on April 21, 2016

by Ramona Taylor

SPRING! Verdant, fresh, cool, warm, blooming, chirping and growing. Spring comes to me with the promise of food. I can’t help but make the connection between spring and fresh garden food. I see tons of fruit blossoms and imagine eating all those oh-so-delicious, tender, juicy fruits of summer! And yet it’s time to write this blog, write reports, and write funding requests.  I ask myself, “Why am I spending precious hours and days plunking out words on my laptop in my dark office on these gorgeous days?”  Here is my answer.

I remember the warm, early summer day I decided to actively pursue a different path in life. I had attended a few meetings to discuss food in our community.  Some people had lots and others not enough; some could afford awesome organic food and others, only crappy processed food.  Those meetings got me thinking and I decided to volunteer for the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC)

As a volunteer on a school field trip to a local farm, I had an exchange with a 6-year-old boy.  We were standing next to a fruit tree. He looked up, pointed to the fruit and asked me, “What’s that?”  I looked up and saw a peach.  At first, I was confused by his question and I hesitated, but he was still looking at me for an answer. “It’s a peach. That’s a peach tree.”  He gave me a quizzical look, skeptical even. I was a little taken aback and then a little horrified.  This young boy growing up in rural northern California had no idea that peaches grew on trees. I asked him where he thought peaches came from.  At this question, he perked up and cheerfully answered, “A can!”  He knew they came from a can, and before that the store, and before that a truck, and the truck took a highway.  Where did he think peaches came from before the truck?   He was confused and had no answer. His eyes got really big…the ah-ha moment came when he realized those peaches in the can came from peaches that grew on peach trees. 

Then we ate peaches.  Fresh peaches off the tree. Drippy sweet, delicious, first of the season peaches.  That moment changed the direction of my life…I was angry and sad this sweet little boy had never had a fresh peach.  I realized this little boy was a product of our society being disconnected from our food.  For some, peaches do come from the can.

Getting dirty planting pumpkins.PNGlets plant weitch comm garden.JPG

Today, I work for the Mid Klamath Watershed Council Community Foodsheds Program. One of our current projects is The Klamath Roots Food Project, funded by a USDA Food Security Grant and a USDA Farm to School grant.  The project is a collaboration with local schools, the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources (KDNR) and many community members and agencies.  Approximately 330 youth in seven Mid Klamath Schools are involved with contemporary garden and traditional food based activities, curriculum and field trips. Field trips highlight local farmers and food production, volunteerism, and traditional food gathering trips.  Partners from the KDNR and the Yurok Tribe Fisheries program have been invaluable, providing curriculum and field trips about traditional food resources and how land management decisions impact cultural resources. The project also addresses systemic barriers to increasing access to and consumption of fresh, local food in school cafeterias. All in hopes of inspiring students to become familiar with growing and making food, seeing local people and businesses that grow and make food, and empowering them to choose healthy food options.

 Forks Fall Potato Harvest 9.15.jpg Incorporating local farm and school grown produce into school meals.PNG 

That little peach boy is why I am plunking away at my computer on this absolutely gorgeous day.  To see their little faces light up as they dig in the dirt and get DIRTY..to watch kids who “don’t like GREEN THINGS” gobble down some fresh made pesto they helped grow and make…to see the amazement on her face when she sees the pea starts in the window moving towards the sunlight and exclaims “They’re moving!…They’re ALIVE!” That is why I am spending my time writing reports trying to quantify the absolutely amazing qualitative experience to share a real, fresh delicious peach with a 6-year-old boy in the wilds of northern California.

Want to help out or learn more?  Email me at Ramona@mkwc.org 

Connect with us on FB at Mid Klamath Foodshed or at http://mkwc.org/ to sign up for monthly emails to find out what’s happening.

 To learn more about the Klamath Food Security Project and activities happening from the mouth of the Klamath River to the upper Basin, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this link.

Learn more about the impacts of Farm to School by clicking here.

This post is funded through USDA Food Security Grant #2012-68004-20018 & USDA Farm to School Grant #CN-F2S-SS-15-CA-03.

Photos in this blog, upper left to lower left (clockwise): (1) Local youth learn to plant in the community garden in Orleans. (2) Students get their hands dirty as they participate in a Weitchpec community garden as part of MKWC's Foodsheds Farm to School program. (3) The basil, pepper and pear harvest from a local school garden, on its way to being incorporated into school lunches. (4) Forks of Salmon students are proud of the potatoes they grew in their school garden! Photos 1 and 2 are courtesy of MKWC staff. Dara Soto captured Photo 3. Tammy Markin captured Photo 4. 

Ramona Taylor is the Director of MKWC's Foodsheds Program, an effort that addresses community food needs by building strong relationships, organizing peer-to-peer workshops, events and projects based on seasonal food activities, supporting ongoing initiatives in our community, and providing technical support for building strong school, community and family gardens.  

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Curiosity and the Catkin

Posted by admin on March 28, 2016

by Tanya Chapple

silktassel.JPGI wanted to write this blog about pollination.  Usually, when I think of pollination my mind immediately visualizes bees and butterflies, maybe a hummingbird or a bat if I get excited.  But when I started thinking about pollination in early March there weren’t many pollinators to see. What became very apparent, however, were the blooms of alder, hazel and willow… Wind Pollination! 

Many plants use wind to disperse their pollen, notably conifers and grasses. Trees and shrubs with pendulous, green or brown flowers, like alder, hazel and willow, oaks, silktassle, maple, and ash also reproduce via wind pollination.  These trees and shrubs show good examples of catkin or catkin-like inflorescences.  A catkin is a flowering structure, designed to distribute (or receive) pollen on the wind.  Often only the male flowers form catkins, while the female flower will take another shape, as we see in hazel or oak. 

The catkin appears to be an example of convergent evolution; this reproductive mechanism evolved at least twice, once for the order Fagales (oaks, hazel, alder) and again for Salicaceae (willow, cottonwood). Willow.JPG

Wind pollination will only be successful if there is space for the air to pick up and move the pollen.  Most of the trees forming catkins do so before they form their leaves, thus having more space for air movement.   Conifers spread their pollen across the top of the forest canopy and grasses spread their pollen across the meadow or range.  Understory plants are almost never wind pollinated as there isn’t enough space for this to be successful; these plants rely on the help of those bees, butterflies, occasional hummingbird or bat to pollinate their flowers.Hazel 1.JPG

Great information about insect pollinators can be found at the Xerces Society website: www.xerces.org

The photos in this blog post show (from top to bottom): catkins on Garrya fremontii, common name silktassel, photographed at the Klamath Salmon confluence, catkins ready for dispersal from a willow, and a female blossom and male catkin on a hazel plant. 

Tanya Chapple directs MKWC's invasive plant initiatives, and also co-directs native plant restoration efforts at the organization. She has resided in the Middle Klamath since 2008, and developed a profound understanding of the backcountry and astoundingly diverse plant life in these mountains.

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