Regardless of 'Best Available
Science', Bureau demands over 100,000 Acre Feet of
Klamath Irrigation Water
Story by KBC, content
approved by TID manager 2/18/05
Ken Lite, Oregon Water Resource
Department, said regarding Sabo's statement to TID,
"Using our study for leverage doesn't make sense."
They are two totally different issues. Lite said,
"That's not a true statement."
It took place:
Tulelake Irrigation District, TID, office
Date: February 14, 2005
What: The verdict, the ultimatum, from the Bureau of
Reclamation, BOR, to Klamath irrigators
In 2001, the Bureau of Reclamation shut down the Klamath Irrigation
Project. WHY? They said that the 'best available
science' demanded that more water needed to go to
the fish in Klamath Lake and the Klamath River.
What did our government do about it? After devastating our
community, economy, families, fields, and wildlife,
the Department of the Interior, DOI, engaged the
National Academy of Science to find out what
happened and if the 'best available
science' had been used.
Low and behold, it was not the best available science. The
Committee said that there had been sufficient
science to evaluate, even in 2001, that
lake-level/river-flow management was not justified.
The water shut-off was 'NOT JUSTIFIED.'
The DOI, before these final results were out, didn't ask but rather
told Klamath Water Users that they MUST form a water
bank so, on low water years, there would not be
another water shut-off like in 2001. Every week for
a year, for hours at a time, these dedicated people
met and deliberated on a plan that would work on low
water years to keep the community whole. Most of these farmers and ranchers have
a college education and have taken many agricultural
courses. And they are the ones who live on the land,
nurturing crops and animals, families, and wildlife,
every day of their lives.
Finally, a detailed waterbank plan was presented to the Interior Department. Were
they pleased? Did they read it? This plan was
discarded and the Bureau of Reclamation made their
According to the Bureau's 2005 waterbank description, "The
waterbank is required by a 2002 NOAA Fisheries
Biological Opinion on Klamath Project operations and
is used to augment Klamath River flows to benefit
threatened Coho Salmon."
This plan disregards the latest court
findings that the coho were illegally listed.
Their plan promises to downsize the Klamath Project irrigation water by
This plan has no flexibility.
This plan is currently demanding 100,000 acre feet of our stored
irrigation water and our aquifer to go into Klamath Lake or the
Klamath River regardless of water year type.
If the river is flooding, our water will still be
taken. It is not only for low-water years
This plan disregards the National Academy of Science final results
that say lake-level/river-flow management are
This Biological Opinion was based on science by Dr Hardy, who was
hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department
of Justice to go against the Klamath Irrigators in
the adjudication process. The lake levels and
river flows are based on the highest recorded water
year in history after the Project was built, making the demands unachievable.
These artificially-elevated flows are higher than
physically possible to achieve before the Klamath
Project was built. The Klamath Project was paid for
in full by Klamath Basin irrigators to reroute water
to store for irrigation.
By diverting this former lake into the Klamath River, artificially high
water levels produce more water for the power
companies to make power, and these levels prevent
the river from going dry like it did before the
Project was built.
This waterbank, according to Ned Gates of Oregon Water Resource
Department, is stressing our aquifer. Our aquifer is
lowering five feet per year. It takes a few
years to recharge the water extraction of one year,
but this continuous water extraction, year after
year, is not allowing recharge time.
As stated on the Bureau's website, "Reclamation is the largest
wholesale water supplier and the second largest
producer of hydroelectric power in the United
States..." They are good at negotiating.
This "voluntary" "opportunity" to sell our water, idle productive
farmland, downsize Klamath Basin agriculture and
deplete our aquifer went something like this at the
Tulelake Irrigation District meeting this Monday.
Dave Sabo, Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Area Manager, began the
chat with a room full of farmers. He began by saying
that he wants to isolate Coppock Bay, California
well pumping and rely on ground idling. Ground
idling is where one does not farm their fields, the
fill with noxious weeds that blow all over the
basin, and neighboring farmers must use more water
to irrigate their fields.
John Crawford, Project irrigator, said that we're
trying to save the economics and well being of the
Project. We know there's one idled acre too many
that will break the back of the Project, but we
don't know what that acre is.
Sabo, "I have 100,000 Acre Feet required. 35,000 is the total
groundwater pumping required."
"I'd like to offer you (TID irrigators) and midbasin (land near
Merrill, OR) $60/Acre Foot (AF). How much are you
going to commit to buy? " It was not an 'opened
bid.' It was an ultimatum.
"If we pump more than reasonable, and if we don't get recharge, we
may overtax the aquifer," stated Sabo.
However Ned Gates, OWRD, has already stated that we are overtaxing the aquifer
when we do not allow years for recharge. It takes a
few years for the aquifer to recover from each year
It has also been brought up that Fish and Wildlife Service has a 'C' rating on water use, so
legally 'A' users get first water, 'B' are second,
and the refuges are 'C'. But the way the Klamath
Project was carefully designed, when all the fields
get water, the runoff goes into the refuges and farms,
and both stay whole.
Currently, Fish and Wildlife is filling their refuges with water directly,
not from the farms, so when they have to donate to
this waterbank, they have taken their water off the
Rather than an open bid process, this negotiation was more like
a judge offering an innocent defendant a bonus if he plead guilty.
Irrigation Districts are in debt now because of the
government agencies and environmental groups filing
lawsuits against them. So the Bureau has
essentially got the Districts by the throat. When
the water districts try to hold out for the fair
market price of water established previously, then
Sabo said that the Bureau only has so much money,
and there will be no
money left this summer to pay pumpers. So districts
must either agree to $60/AF, or there will be a
shortage this summer of water and money.
To further talk TID into settling for the low water rate, Sabo
said, "The state wants 20,000 AF from midbasin....I want to work with the
state. If Coppock sells 15,000 and TID 15, that's
all I have, then the state can't finish their 5-year
study on midbasin." He said midbasin would sell
their water for $60, so if TID won't comply, then
Sabo and the state would be happy to finish the
5-year study and only buy midbasin groundwater.
Ned Gates, hydro geologist from OWRD, said that this claim was not true.
He said, "We are not advocating that they pump
there (midbasin). We are using the information for USGS
groundwater studies." He said that they use this
information for future knowledge to see if they
should be issuing more groundwater permits. "I do
not need midbasin to pump their wells. I can
see their recharge and I can study the California
wells. I was out there before the 2001
drought showed up. They are two separate
issues. It's an apple and an orange. I
can go to another well not involved....We are a
resource agency. I think that argument (Sabo's) is
Lead hydro geologist of the study team Ken Lite works for OWRD
also. He said, "Using our study for leverage
doesn't make sense." They are two totally different
issues. Regarding Sabo's statement to TID, Lite
said, "That's not a true statement. We told
them (the Bureau) the further south, the better.
They told us they were going to get most if
not all their water from Coppock."
"Our recommendation," Lite continued, "was to minimize interference
with existing groundwater sources and surface water.
We've made no other recommendation."
We asked five other people present at TID what they heard Sabo say
when trying to get TID to agree to pump at the lower
rate, and they all heard Sabo tell the group that
OWRD recommended midbasin to pump for their study.
Perhaps someone else from OWRD came up with that
recommendation, but the hydrogeologists sure hadn't
ever heard anything like that and such
recommendations had never
before been their policy.
When asked, what if there is a water shortage this summer, will the
Project be shut down, Sabo said no, they will just
allocate water. Evidently that means that some
people will get shut down.
When Hardy study and flows were brought up, Sabo said "Hardy has
come up with silly, fictitious numbers in the river.
He said "The undepleted flow study says that in July
and August sometimes there wasn't any water coming
down the river."
Sabo also said that the water bank has nothing to do with
irrigating the Project. It all goes to
(scientifically unjustified) fish needs. So if the
irrigators come up short of water, they are out of
luck. Then there will be no money to pay
people to pump wells to provide water for the
Klamath Basin crops.
Last year, the water bank was supposed to take 75,000 AF of our
stored water and aquifer. Sabo said that they sent
88,000 AF of our water downriver last year.
Some of the water demanded of irrigators is called tribal trust,
which is a wild card. When the tribes demand our
irrigation water, the Bureau gives it to them. And
it has been water over and above the demanded
So, what's next. The court ruled that the coho were illegally
listed. The NAS said lake-level/river-flow
management was unjustified, The Chiloquin dam
blocking 95 percent of sucker habitat is still being
studied. There are tens of thousands more suckers in
the lake than believed when they were listed. Dr.
Hardy's science has been proven flawed, yet he has
been rehired to invent more 'science.' And our
government is demanding one third of our water,
downsizing our agricultural economy, regardless of
the best available science. The misconception
of more warm water to send down the Klamath River
which is lethal to fish is creating the opportunity
for the government agencies and eco-groups to get
more money to purchase and 'restore' more ag land.
They have already purchased around 100,000 acres of
Klamath Basin farmland to make into swamps to
evaporate our precious water.
Is anybody listening?