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Bureau to stabilize lake levels


June 13, 2006 by STEVE KADEL, H&N 

The Bureau of Reclamation will dip into its water bank reserves to stabilize the level of Upper Klamath Lake.

The lake dropped 3 inches Wednesday when an 80-year-old dike cracked and failed west of Klamath Falls. About 2,000 acres of farmland flooded up to 4 feet deep.

Water stored at Agency Lake Ranch has been pumped into Upper Klamath Lake, said Cecil Lesley, the Bureau's chief of water and lands.

In addition, two large water bank contractors - one in the mid-Basin and one in Tulelake Irrigation District - have been asked to start pumping water from their private wells into the irrigation system.

“The Bureau of Reclamation is attempting to maintain the current elevation in the lake,” Lesley said. “We didn't change any flow out of the lake.”

Withdrawals from the water bank probably won't be needed until after early July, he said. That's when downstream flows on the Klamath River must increase substantially under federal mandate to help fish.

Water delivered

The Bureau has been delivering irrigation water in pre-flood amounts since the breach occurred, Lesley said. He added there is no threat to irrigation water later this summer.

“We haven't lost any water,” Lesley said. “It's just in a different place.”

The new holding area is Caledonia Marsh adjacent to the 100-foot breach in the dike and on some Running Y Resort land farther east.

Officials haven't decided whether to “manage” the water from there or pump it back into Upper Klamath Lake.

Dave Solem, manager of Klamath Irrigation District, noted the flood is outside Klamath Reclamation Project boundaries.

“I don't think it will affect things in the big picture,” he said.

Meanwhile, two wetlands on Running Y property were covered by flood water. That would have had significant impact on nesting Canada geese if the flood came in March or April, a federal biologist said.

“They have young broods now,” said Mark Buettner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “I've seen geese with young goslings in tow. In terms of their nesting there were not any impacts.”

He reported seeing some broods of cinnamon teal and mallards, too.

“They probably got through the critical part of their incubation, although there probably would have been a small amount of additional nesting by ducks.”

Pelicans taking cover

About 200 pelicans normally use the wetlands to fish in shallow water as well as taking cover on islands.

“Pretty much all the wetlands are submerged so it will cause some displacement,” Buettner said. “But there are plenty of opportunities for feeding in the Basin. They're pretty adaptable looking for other sources.”

The breach carried several fish from the lake onto agricultural property, Buettner said. However, he said that part of the lake isn't highly used by endangered suckers.

Redband trout likely moved up to inflow areas like the Williamson River and Rocky Point in search of cooler water prior to the flood, Buettner said.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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