Thousands of Baby Salmon Choked Out by “Clean” California River

Kit Leong /
Kit Leong /

Back on February 26th, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) released approximately 830,000 baby Chinook salmon into Fall Creek. A historic and crucial tributary of the Klamath River, the CDFW had hoped to restore the fish population to this once-native habitat. Knowing what they had done to this supposedly “clean” river, they released the fish from a fish hatchery in Siskiyou County.

One of the major changes in the river was the Iron Gate Dam Tunnel, a structure set for removal. Instead of timing it better, they went through it and mysteriously died of “gas bubble disease.” At $35 million, the project has been essentially torpedoed by a disease that shows no signs or symptoms. It’s caused by “an increase in the dissolved gas pressure above the ambient air pressure.”

Naturally, California officials are rushing to ensure the public doesn’t blame them for their obvious oversight and failure. The state wildlife office claimed, “There is no indication the mortality is associated with other Klamath River water quality conditions…The problems associated with the Iron Gate Dam tunnel are temporary and yet another sad reminder of how the Klamath River dams have harmed salmon runs for generations. CDFW will plan all future salmon releases below Iron Gate Dam until this infrastructure is removed.”

Even with their claims that other fish were “healthy,” the decision to move past the site tells you just how big a failure the four Klamath River hydroelectric dams were for the area. Gov. Newsome’s pledge to remove them has caused some waves, but this should convince others that this kind of “green” energy is more problems than it’s worth, and as a state, they are significantly better off without it.