Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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MP-05-Klamath Ops Plan
April 07, 2005
Klamath Project 2005 Operations Plan Released
The Bureau of Reclamation today released its 2005 Operations Plan for the Klamath Project (Project). The plan is based upon current and expected hydrologic conditions derived from the April 1, 2005, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) inflow forecast. It is consistent with the Biological Opinions issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Operations Plan provides an estimate of Project water supply as well as anticipated lake elevations and river flows for the coming summer and winter seasons. It is used by agricultural water users, Klamath Basin Tribes, national wildlife refuges, and others as a planning tool. "Since this is shaping up to be the third driest year on record, I am asking all Klamath Basin farmers, both on and off the Reclamation Project, to really tighten up on their water usage," stated Dave Sabo, Reclamationís Area Manager for the Klamath Basin.
Earlier, in anticipation of the upcoming drought season, Reclamation notified Project irrigation districts that it was implementing the Klamath Project Drought Plan. Underscoring the seriousness of the issue, Sabo announced that the drought plan will remain in effect this irrigation season. At this time, however, Reclamation does not intend to undertake the next step in the drought plan, which would affect the "B" category contract water user deliveries. Instead, Reclamation will ask all basin farmers to voluntarily reduce consumption by 15 percent. If such a reduction in water demand can be undertaken and maintained throughout the season, Reclamation is cautiously optimistic that forced cutbacks can be avoided. Nonetheless, water deliveries will be closely monitored to ensure that Upper Klamath Lake elevation minimums and river flows are met.
Sabo said, "I am very sorry to report that the water level in Clear Lake Reservoir is so low we will not be able to make any deliveries to irrigators from that resource, and deliveries from Gerber Reservoir will be limited to approximately 19,000 acre-feet because of extremely low inflows."
Discussions are ongoing with FWS to implement emergency actions at Clear Lake Dam, similar to actions taken in 1992, to protect the populations of endangered suckers. This could entail the release of water from one side of the reservoir to draw the fish into the deeper remaining water.
The estimated Project irrigation water supply from Upper Klamath Lake from April 1 through September 30, 2005, is 299,000 acre-feet based upon the hydrological conditions existing on April 1, 2005. This amount could be affected by weather conditions and water bank requirements. The NRCS estimated inflow forecast for Upper Klamath Lake is 215,000 acre-feet from April 1 through September 30. At this time, the water year type for both Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River is Dry. The year-type designations are determined from specific criteria based upon forecasted and actual runoff, which are influenced by precipitation and temperature. Since inflows vary each month, uncertainty exists about the final year type determination. Generally, inflow forecasts after June 1 remain relatively stable for the remainder of the irrigation season.
Reclamation has developed a water bank of 100,000 acre-feet as required by the NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion and will release water bank water to supplement river flows according to the flow schedule developed with input from the Tribes and agreed upon with NOAA. The flows from that water bank actually began supplementing river flows in February and March. The remainder of the seasonís flows, including the water bank supplementation schedules, are detailed in the Operations Plan.
As in the past, the water bank is comprised of land idling and groundwater pumping. The Klamath Basin Refuges have agreed to provide up to 15,000 acre-feet from their marshes to meet a portion of the water bank requirements. The Operations Plan for 2005 may be viewed at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/kbao/.
Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits.
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