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Bureau makes call for water, shutoffs anticipated.
Water shutoffs could begin as early as Friday
by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 6/17/15

     More water shutoffs are anticipated in the Klamath Basin. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Klamath Basin Area Office (KBAO) on   Tuesday made a call to exercise a 1905 water right on behalf of the Klamath Project.

   “The call for administration, made by both Reclamation and Project water users, will assist in managing the limited water supply to ensure water will be available as long as possible through the 2015   spring-summer irrigation season,” said KBAO Area Manager Therese O’Rourke Bradford.

   Measuring flows

   Before regulating water users, OWRD water managers must measure instream flows to validate the BOR’s call for water. If the call is validated, water shutoffs for users with rights junior to 1905 could begin   as early as Friday, Scott White, Oregon Water Resources Department watermaster for the Klamath Falls office, said.

   The Klamath Tribes called on their timeimmemorial water rights in late April. Fewer than 10 creeks are currently being regulated for the call, according to the OWRD website.
       According to Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, the Tribes’ call on upper Basin creeks is not being fully regulated based on priority date. Instead, instream flows are being regulated to levels the Tribes agreed upon in the Klamath water settlements. This means upper Basin junior water users not affected by the Tribes’ call could still be impacted by the BOR’s call for water.

   City, Jeld-Wen wells

   White said if the Project call is validated, city wells and wells owned Jeld-Wen, the county’s second largest employer, could also be impacted. He explained that how many water users are shut off or regulated, and to what priority date, will be determined by the volume of the shortage.

   “If we’re talking hundreds of cfs (cubic feet per second), then it’ll go all the way to 1905. It’s really hard to say,” he said.

   KBAO Manager O’Rourke Bradford, said only 56 percent of water supply needed by Project irrigators is available from Upper Klamath Lake.

   As of Tuesday, Upper Klamath Lake was 77 percent full, according to the BOR Hydromet Data website.  

   Usage, weather

   “We are working with the water users to determine current usage and project future use through the season. At this point, we are confident that at least 175,000 acre-feet will be available. Depending on water usage and weather conditions in the next month, this estimate may increase up to 220,000 acre-feet,” O’Rourke Bradford said.

   She said since March 1, about 65,000 acre-feet has been diverted to the Project from Upper Klamath Lake.

   “The water users have taken to heart the need to conserve water and have done a great job in efficiently using the water they have received,” O’Rourke Bradford said.

   Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association couldn’t guess how much, if any, water the call will create for Project irrigators.

   “We are hopeful that us making a call creates more water that will help get us through the season,” he said.  

   Future access concerns

   White stressed that ranchers should also be thinking about options for maintaining future access to stock water.

   “We want to make sure people are set up to get water to their cows,” he said. “It’s super important. I’m very much concerned about it in the future.”

   This year, the OWRD commission was able to create rules allowing exceptions to shutoffs for stock watering and human consumption because Gov. Kate Brown declared the county in a drought; however, White said, in years when a drought is not governor-declared, the commission cannot create the exemption rules. White noted that water availability could improve next year, but wetter conditions don’t guarantee water calls won’t be made.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN



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