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Oregon Senate includes over $22 million for Klamath Basin

PORTLAND — The Oregon Legislature on Monday agreed to send more than $22 million to the Klamath Basin, while also passing additional safety nets to keep thousands of people housed who are currently struggling to pay rent or are facing eviction during the pandemic.

The Klamath-specific package included $4 million for domestic well assistance in Klamath County, which would be administered by Klamath County in cooperation with state agencies and local agencies such as the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency.

Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris said the well assistance money will help reimburse residents who have had to deepen their wells or drill new ones due to the drought.

“This is welcome news,” Morris said. “We are grateful for this action, and for Governor Brown’s support for the this desperately needed funding package.”

An additional $4 million will help cover increased operation and maintenance cost associated with cracked, dry canals that irrigation districts must fix before refilling them next summer.

“This year, countless water users paid expenses for maintaining an irrigation system that delivered them no water,” said Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director Paul Simmons. “On top of that, canals and drains are cracked, and infested with weeds and animal burrows, which will impose major, additional costs on water users in order to make the system operable again and protect public safety.”

The funding package also includes $3 million for livestock watering wells and construction of off-channel water facilities for livestock producers and irrigated pasture owners; $1 million more set aside for drought resiliency work in Klamath County administered by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

“In the southern part of the Klamath Basin more than 250 wells have gone dry this season, partly from drought and partly from California ag-producers draining the joint use aquifer,” said Senator Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls).

A KWUA press release said the Klamath-Lake County Farm Bureau and Oregon Farm Bureau Federation were “instrumental” in securing the assistance, along with Trout Unlimited, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Water for Life, the Oregon Water Resources Congress, the Klamath County Commissioners, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, Klamath County Economic Development Commission and Klamath County REALTORS.

Requests from the Klamath Tribes include $475,000 for restoration work to determine the nutrient loading impact of the Bootleg Fire on Sprague River tributaries and potential negative impacts on Klamath Lake water quality.

Another $1.5 million is earmarked for cultural resource inventory and assessment on lands impacted by the Bootleg Fire, $6.6 million for adaptation to chronic drought and persistent fire conditions and $1.1 million for additional emergency management staff and equipment within Klamath Tribal government.

Klamath County farmers and ranchers impacted by drought this summer will also be able to apply for assistance through a separate $40-million fund created by the bill. Money will be disbursed as a loan that will be forgiven if applicants can prove that their revenue was lower than normal in 2021.

“I am thankful that our producers in Klamath County will be eligible for the statewide funding and that we were able to secure direct assistance for irrigation districts and domestic well users,” said Jason Flowers, president of the Klamath-Lake County Farm Bureau.

Klamath Project producers will also receive a total of $35 million from the Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Agriculture through the KPDRA. According to a KPDRA news release, irrigators who applied for the Department of Agriculture fund can expect to receive $116 per approved acre, with checks mailed out starting December 17. Those participating in the non-irrigation Bureau of Reclamation drought relief program can expect to receive $450 per approved acre beginning the first week of January.



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              Page Updated: Monday January 03, 2022 03:34 PM  Pacific

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