BOR updates KID on water operations
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath
Basin Area Office continues to operate under the 2013
Biological Opinion while a new document is being created,
along with the court-ordered injunction in place to guide
the Klamath Project, according Moss Driscoll, who shared a
water operations update on Thursday with the Klamath
Irrigation District board of directors.
April 1 is a tentative goal for
the completion of the new biological opinion, and includes
portions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National
Marine Fisheries Service.
“Is it going to abide by state
water law or is it going to break the law?” asked Grant
Knoll, a member of the KID board, during Driscoll’s
Driscoll chuckled lightly and
said, “Obviously, there’s perspectives on that in terms of
its consistencies. Reclamation has to follow state law. It
also has to follow federal law so that’s the hard spot we’re
in, between a rock and a hard place.”
He emphasized that the new
biological opinion would need to be consistent with Oregon
and California water law.
“As of Feb. 8, Upper Klamath
Lake was approximately 38,000 acre feet below where the
proposed action would have Upper Klamath Lake,” Driscoll
said. “It was greater in January by almost double, so we are
closing that gap. But this issue of how we would transition
to this new proposed action and this deficit that we are in
right now with respect to where the lake would be otherwise
is one of the issues in transitioning obviously, and could
affect, obviously, the Project and could affect early season
Jared Bottcher, deputy area
manager of the Klamath Basin Area Office, said it is “highly
speculative” at this point to say how Project water users
would be impacted, but that more information would be
available in a fortcoming transition plan.
“We’re working with the
services on a transition plan,” Driscoll said, refencing the
federal agencies involved in creating the new biological
“We are just about to transmit
a revised or amended proposed action, which they will have
to further analyze,” Driscoll added.
Driscoll said Reclamation is
still subject to meeting monthly calculated thresholds on
Upper Klamath Lake as well as the Klamath River flow
requirements in the court-ordered injunction.
“We are currently scheduled to
just meet our end of February thresholds,” Driscoll said.
“The thresholds adjust so we anticipate that threshold will
move, likely up, based on the precipitation we’re
Because of lake level
requirements, Reclamation has no water available in Upper
Klamath Lake for flushing flows that would be required under
the court-ordered injunction, Driscoll said.
“If there were to be any kind
of flushing flow in the month of February, it would have to
be from accretions downstream of Link River,” Driscoll said.
“We do anticipate pretty large accretions from this latest
event … rain on snow … but not nearly of the magnitude that
would be necessary to provide those flushing flow
Bottcher added that 2019 storms
in January and February has positioned the Basin in a much
better spot than this time in 2018.
“We’re at 92 percent of average
for snow water equivalent,” Bottcher said. “So I would say
we’re in the normal to average water year range and that’s
certainly much improved from where we sat this time last
When asked if Reclamation is
optimistic about the water year, Bottcher stopped short of
“We’re certainly thankful for
the precipitation,” Bottcher said.
“We caught up to a large
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