Water call made on the Williamson
by Stephen Floyd 11/23/16
users in the upper Klamath Basin have received shutoff
notices for surface water use after the Klamath Tribes
called on their water rights earlier this month.
According to the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD),
the tribes called on their rights Nov. 7 due to decreased
flows in the Williamson River and other aquifers.
users along the Williamson and its tributaries, as well as
the Klamath Marsh, received notices directing them to cease
stock and domestic use of surface water until February. Kyle
Gorman, regional manger for OWRD, said this should only
affect those diverting water from streams and rivers and
said wells, which depend on ground water, are not affected.
said this is the first time the Klamath Tribes have made a
call for their in-stream water rights this late in the year.
The tribes have maintained priority water rights since 2013
when local water rights were adjudicated in circuit court.
tribes have previously called on their rights during the
summer but not during previous low winter flows.
said, because irrigation season has passed, his office
expects few water users will be impacted.
the wintertime, there’s very little quantity of water being
diverted from steams,” he said. “The volume is much, much
less in the winter.”
said his office has not encountered significant resistance
to the call for water, as can happen during the summer, and
said an appeal process remains in place for users who wish
to challenge the shutoffs.
opposition to the call for water was expressed during the
Klamath County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday. Commissioner
Tom Mallams, an irrigator who has challenged shutoffs in the
past, said he is not directly affected by the current
shutoff notice but believes this is a sign of future intent
to place hardship on water users with lower-priority rights.
are very, very, very onerous,” he said.
2015 Mallams appealed a call for water made by the Tribes
and told the court he had a claim to surface water that
superseded the Tribes’. While his appeal was pending, he
continued to irrigate his property, which frustrated some
residents and was among issues cited during an unsuccessful
recall of Mallams the same year.
appeal was dismissed at his request in June and a similar
petition was filed July 25 regarding a call for water made
during the 2016 irrigation season. Mallams similarly
continued irrigating his property while the appeal was
pending and a request to abate the matter until April was
approved by the court Nov. 16.
Mallams said Tuesday the call for water may be an attempt to
compel support for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA)
and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), which
define local water use among other issues.
“Somebody’s going to probably stand out there and say,
‘Well, if the agreements were in place, this wouldn’t have
happened,’” said Mallams.
went into effect in 2010, but lapsed in January due to
inaction by Congress. KHSA was signed in April and defined
the terms by which four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath
River will be removed by 2020.
Mallams said the parties who crafted the agreements also
defined the terms of adjudication for local water users and
he accused them of deciding both without input from the
were negotiating water deals behind closed doors,” said
also said he fears ground water rights will be called by the
Tribes in the near future, leading to the shutoff of wells
in the upper Klamath Basin and widespread hardship for water
has the potential of destroying our livestock and
agricultural businesses here in the Basin,” he said.
Grinch is alive and well, I guess,” Mallams continued. “A
little bit early — a month early this year — in the form of
a water shutoff.”
seeking comment regarding their intent behind the call for
water, Klamath Tribal Chairman Don Gentry and tribal
spokesperson Taylor Tupper could not be reached for comment
prior to deadline.
Gorman was asked if a positive change in water levels was
likely to alter the call for water, he indicated it would
not, but said his department keeps regular track of flows in
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