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Bid applicants for retiring 2014 water rights: Water Loopholes closed, new penalties in place;
applicants must refrain from using surface water
  By LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 1/23/14 
     The language of a seasonal on-project water mitigation contract has been expanded to close loopholes that have been exploited in the past, according to local irrigation officers.

   Similar to last year, the 2014 Klamath Water and Power Agency (KWAPA) on-project Water User Mitigation Plan (WUMP) requires that bid applicants provide proof that a land parcel has been irrigated at least once in the last three years. In addition, now they must prove an irrigated crop has been produced on the land in the same time frame.  

   Applicants also must explicitly agree to refrain from the use of surface water.

   “If you sign the contract you are bound to not use surface water,” said Hollie Cannon, executive director of KWAPA.


   According to the contract, WUMP is a cooperative agreement between KWAPA and the Bureau of Reclamation. Irrigators “bid” on their application by providing a dollar amount per acre they would like to be paid in return for not diverting water to grow crops.   When irrigation water supply is not sufficient to meet anticipated demand, the program forbears the use of surface water in an effort to balance the supply and demand.

   Also new in the contract is a $500-peracre penalty for applicants who violate the KWAPA forbearance contract.

   According to Cannon, in past years some irrigators under contract have changed their mind mid-season   and irrigated. The only penalty for violating the contract was that they didn’t get paid, he said.

   Cannon said the $500 penalty has been introduced because it’s going to be vital to know who is and isn’t irrigating when facing another severe drought year.

   “We know there’s not enough water to go around by a long ways,” he said. “If people change their mind in the middle of the season, it’s going to hurt other people.”

   No surface water

   To simplify the contract, this year groundwater pumping and land idling options are jointly classified as “surface water forbearance   program.”

   Ed Bair, a board member of KWAPA and of the Klamath Irrigation District, said he wants people to take the potential for severe drought seriously and suggested on-project irrigators at least apply for the program.  

   “We want to encourage everybody to put in,” Bair said.


   The bid deadline is Feb. 21. After that, bids can no longer be submitted; however, applicants don’t have to make a decision to sign a WUMP contract until April 15, which is after the water supply determination is made for the year. He emphasized that applying for the program is not binding, but provides f lexibility for later options.  

   Under the “wet” option, an irrigator would not receive surface water, but may have the option to draw from on-property wells, according to Bair. Although ground water may supplement surface water, too much pumping may lead to interference between wells and could set off additional groundwater regulations, he said.

   “We’re trying to avoid these trigger points outlined in the   well permits,” Bair said.

   An irrigator with a “dry” option agrees no water, from any source other than natural precipitation, will be applied to parcels under contract.

   “If you elect not to take a diversion of surface water and to be dry for the season, that makes much more surface water available to a person who chooses to irrigate,” Bair said.

   Cannon said when ground pumping and land idling meet demand and there’s no shortage, it’s a successful year. He’s not sure   that goal will be met in 2014.

   “We are looking at an involuntary shortage this year,” Cannon said.

   Irrigators who don’t sign a contract could be subject to water shut off if adjudication calls are made.

   “They take their chances that whatever the water supply is,” Cannon said. “Landowners should think about planning for the worst when deciding whether to sign up for the program.”  

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN

With ranchers and farmers facing an involuntary water shortage this year, the Basin agricultural community is looking for any available water resource.


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