Chapter Eight The Gem of the Klamath River
“A new transmission is not so bad,” Vince said, still nervous about Marsha’s reaction to the news. “It could have been so much worse. Just think if we’d broken down going up that grade to Eureka that we drove yesterday.”
“Yeah, there’s not much between here and McKinleyville, Arcata and then Eureka. And running into elk at night in the rain, with no transmission. Yikes!” Marsha knew how lucky they had been, and she couldn’t even be upset at the news. It was an old truck anyway, and it had never given them any trouble. She felt like anyone else, a truck needed to go to the doctor and get things fixed once in a while.
“The good news is that we get internet today!” Vince had spotted the sign at the Riverside RV Park next to them. They had stopped in after their trip to Eureka, and asked about using the internet for Marsha’s online meeting the next day. Even though they were on vacation, work could go almost anywhere, and Marsha needed to find a source. The park next to them was almost empty. Salmon season was almost over, and folks were heading home. Marsha hoped they would be willing to help them move over.
As they talked to the park managers, Marsha had suggested that they would love to move to their park, but they had no truck to tow the trailer. The manager and her husband thought that they could tow the Terry trailer an eighth of a mile down the road to their park with their Ford pickup.
“And we have TV service as well,” the manager told the couple proudly. “Did you notice that we also have free laundry service?”
The move was completed by 9:00 a.m., and Marsha opened her computer, and tested the internet. “Wow, this is faster than at home, “ she told Vince.
“Do you want to run into Crescent City to check on the truck?” he asked, knowing full well he had the rest of the morning to himself.
In reality, he had the rest of the day to himself. Marsha looked up at about 1:00 and took the dog for a walk and enjoyed the wonderful sunshine, and another walk a couple of hours later, each time snapping back to the computer like she was connected to it by a rubber band. At five thirty she finally noticed Vince lying on the couch quietly watching TV, and forced herself to pay attention to him.
“Let’s go for a walk. It’s so beautiful outside,” she smiled at her patient husband.
As they walked around the park, they stopped to talk to a forest ranger. His job was to check each fisherman and women as they brought in their catches. The rangers had a route they checked, and collected random data about the salmon in Klamath River. They examined the fish for diseases, weighed them, and recorded many other important data. The ranger told them about the 2002 salmon disaster.
The Klamath River is a dam-controlled river that transports some of its water to California’s great Central Valley for agricultural purposes. In 2002, they had been letting the cold spring waters flow to the ocean, just a half mile from where Vince and Marsha stood. The cold river water beckoned the salmon to enter into the river to lay their eggs. After they started their run upstream to spawn, the water was shut off in preparation to send it to the Valley. The shallower waters in the river heated up, and the salmon were trapped. They were caught too far from the ocean to get back, and became diseased in the glutted warmer waters, and died. By the end of the catastrophe over 33,000 dead salmon floated along the banks of the Klamath for miles. The congressperson for that area took many of them to Washington D.C. and laid them out on the steps of the Capitol to illustrate the disaster.
Marsha and Vince knew the consequences of water cutbacks all too well. Restrictions of water imported by the Central Valley meant gluts of dead trees, uprooted on their sides along every roadway. The couple had not smelled the thousands of salmon that lost their lives for lack of water, but they watched trees wither when the water didn’t come. The debates over water resources would never end. Water, a priceless commodity, is too scarce, and absolutely vital to both communities.
The RV Park handed out the Klamath Chamber of Commerce Newsletter with all the other check-in information. On the very first page of the September, 2013 Volume 13, Issue 9 was a full-page article titled, “Klamath River Conditions & Salmon.” A quick scan pulled up the word, “Fresno,” and Marsha, read on. “On Wednesday, August 21st, a federal court judge relied heavily on Yurok tribal science in a weighty decision to increase Klamath River flows, and not send the water to California’s Central Valley.” The conditions this year are “nearly 1.7 times the number of fish that returned in 2002. … The Klamath River is one of three rivers that produce the majority of sport and commercial Chinook salmon harvest on the West Coast.”
What a dilemma. Marsha felt overwhelmed by the struggle for life between salmon and trees. Living in Oregon among fishermen in her family further divided her loyalties. The decisions to send the life-giving water one place or another affect millions of people’s lives, not to mention the salmon and the trees. The Central Valley produces a large proportion of food that is exported to the rest of the nation as well as other parts of the world.
For the moment, the couple enjoyed the “slamming” salmon catches on the Klamath River. The couple they had met at the former park gave them some freshly home canned salmon.
If you were making the decisions about where to send the water, where would you send it?
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