Salmon-Killers Ordered to Stop Polluting River

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Jan 7, 2011  |  Updated 12:02 PM PDT
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Salmon-Killers Ordered to Stop Polluting River

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SELKIRK, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Salmon attempt to leap up the fish ladder in the river Etterick on November 2, 2010 in Selkirk, Scotland. The salmon are returning upstream from the sea where they have spent between two and four winters feeding with many covering huge distances to return to the fresh waters to spawn. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

After years of dwindling salmon populations, the federal government has taken steps to clean up poisoned rivers in California, according to the Gate.

The EPA has approved a state plan that will pursue pollution at its source: farmers, foresters, and utility plants along the federally protected Klamath River, where the water quality is so bad it exceeds World Health Organization standards.

Predictably, agricultural polluters like PacifiCorp are opposed, claiming that the plan is unachievable and based on faulty data. They may be on to something: a recent plan for fish restoration around the California Delta was recently rejected for using suspect data.

But everyone can agree that California's water needs to be cleaner. The Delta was recently named one of the country's 10 areas most vulnerable to climate change. A few degrees' difference could completely destroy the region, where nearly half of the native fish have been declared endangered or extinct.

The new plan seeks to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen runoff from farms and reservoirs.

At one time, the Klamath was one of the country's most significant sources of salmon. But a century ago, new dams blocked spawning and warmed the water, allowing toxins to build up.

The salmon decline has meant big trouble for everyone. Not only are the fish crucial parts of the ecosystem, but their disappearance has dealt a heavy blow to the fishing industry. Even worse, it's spelled disaster for Indian tribes like the Yurok for which fishing plays a major cultural role.

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