Independent Science Panels

As part of the Secretarial Determination, the federal team has contracted with PBS&J to convene and facilitate four independent expert panels to provide the federal team with an opinion regarding the effects of two possible management scenarios on lamprey, resident fish, coho salmon and Steelhead, and Chinook salmon.

The two management scenarios considered are: (1) no action with regard to a potential dam removal scenario as described in the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), and (2) dam removal as described in the KHSA, including implementation of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).

The opinions from these expert panels will be independent and not a product of any federal agency, and thus, will not necessarily represent the views and conclusions of the federal government. The results of the panel reviews will be considered, along with other available information, to formulate the Interior Secretary’s determination as to whether implementation of KHSA and KBRA would be in the public interest and advance restoration of fish populations.

The four expert panels will be managed by Karl Omundson of Atkins Global (Fomerly PBS&J). Atkins Global is an environmental sciences and engineering firm. Atkins Global holds a national on-call contract with the Department of the Interior specifically to conduct independent science reviews. Mr. Omundson can be reached at: KLOsmundson@pbsj.com.

Four Panels

To view each of these reports, please see the section on Biological Studies for the Secretarial Determination process, PBS&J reports, or click on the headings below for each species. 


Lamprey are eel-like fish that are an important resource for Native Americans, especially the Pacific lamprey. Relatively little is known about these species compared to other fish in the Klamath Basin. Like salmon, adult anadromous lamprey return from the ocean to spawn in the Klamath. Lamprey offspring spend a longer time in the river than juvenile salmon -- perhaps as long as seven years. Lamprey may occasionally prey on salmon, but they also benefit salmon by serving as an alternative food source for sea lions and other predators. Source: USFWS; for more information on these species, click here.


Resident Species

Resident Fish Species (Includes rainbow/redband trout and suckers) 

Rainbow/Redband Trout — The Klamath River is also home to resident rainbow trout, known locally as redband trout. They are native to the Upper Klamath Lake basin. Originally redbands are believed to have entered the “upper Klamath basin when it was connected to the Columbia Basin via the Snake River,” (Behnke 1992, quoted in 2004 NRC Report). Lake Modoc eventually drained when it cut an outlet to the Pacific Ocean. Coastal steelhead trout are native to Klamath River and migrated into Upper Klamath Lake until 1917 when the construction of Copco Dam blocked fish passage. The steelhead trout in Klamath River are genetically and morphologically distinct from the native redband trout in Upper Klamath Lake (Behnke 1992). Sources: ODFW and National Research Council

Lost River and shortnose suckers — Shortnose suckers were once so abundant that they, along with Lost River suckers, were a major food source for Native Americans. Despite their apparent heartiness, these species are now listed as Endangered. These species have been around for thousands of years, surviving the geologic turmoil that shaped the region, including the eruption of Mt. Mazama, now Crater Lake. Today, they are threatened with extinction due to dwindling numbers and habitat loss that occurred in just the last 100 years. There has been a 60 percent decline in endangered sucker numbers since 2000 and there has not been a significant recruitment of juveniles into the adult population since the late 1990s. Source USFWS


Coho Salmon and Steelhead

Coho Salmon and Steelhead

Coho salmon — Coho salmon, also called silver salmon, have a three-year life history pattern. Adults spawn in late fall and early winter. Juveniles spend their first year in fresh water, preferring cool, slow velocity habitats with complex structure commonly found in side channels and pools. Juvenile coho migrate to the ocean in early spring and spend about 18 months in the marine environment. Unlike Chinook and steelhead, nearly all coho spawn as 3-year-olds, so each coho stream has essentially three cohorts. Due to winter periods of high flow and turbid water conditions, adult coho returning to spawn and juvenile coho rearing are difficult to survey, and long term data sets of coho are limited in the Klamath River. Coho are also raised at the Iron Gate Hatchery, averaging about 70,000 smolts released per year, and the Trinity River Hatchery, averaging about 500,000 smolts per year. (CDFG and NMFS 2001). Hardy and Addley (2001) reported that coho salmon spawning escapement in the Klamath River system, including hatchery stocks, was between 15,400 and 20,000 adults in 1983, a 90% decline since the 1940’s. Coho are no longer observed in some Klamath tributaries where they historically spawned (National Research Council 2004) or they are no longer seen every year. NOAA Fisheries listed Southern Oregon/Northern California coastal coho as Threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1997, and is working on a recovery plan. The State of California listed coho as Threatened under the state ESA in 2004.

Steelhead  — Steelhead are rainbow trout that follow an anadromous life history pattern. “Winter steelhead” return from the ocean when streams reach winter flow levels and spawn in tributaries from January through April. “Summer steelhead” return from the ocean in late spring, spend the summer and fall in deep pools, and spawn in winter. Steelhead can spawn more than once, returning to the ocean between runs. Steelhead are highly valued sport fish in the Klamath River. Their spawning runs in the Klamath Basin prior to the 1900’s probably exceeded several million fish (Hardy and Addley 2001). Subsequent runs declined steadily to an estimated 100,000 fish in the 1980’s (National Research Council 2004). Summer steelhead are vulnerable to loss of cold-water summer habitat; in 1999 their population in five Mid-Klamath tributaries was estimated to be 305 adults.


Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon

Chinook salmon that originate in the Klamath Basin are caught in ocean fisheries from Monterey Bay to the Columbia River. There are diminished but still significant recreational and Tribal fisheries for Chinook salmon as well. In the Klamath Basin, Chinook currently follow two life history patterns. “Spring Chinook” return from the ocean in the spring, and spend the summer making their way to higher portions of the watershed, where they spawn in August-September. Before the construction of dams on the Klamath River, spring Chinook were the dominant salmon race in the Upper Klamath Basin, but they have been reduced to one dwindling wild run in the Salmon River subbasin and a hatchery run in the Trinity River.

“Fall Chinook” return from the ocean in September and spawn October-November in the main stem rivers and large tributaries. Most Chinook juveniles migrate to the ocean in the late spring of their first year, avoiding the hazards of summer rearing. The Iron Gate Hatchery releases an average of 7 million juvenile fall Chinook each spring, while Trinity River Hatchery releases an average of 2.8 million fall Chinook and 1.6 million spring Chinook (Myers et al 1998). Fall Chinook numbers have declined, but are still sufficient to allow harvest, though there have been closures or curtailments of the fishery in recent years.