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Court Hears Klamath Water Case; Frustration with Lack of Plan for 2023

Klamath Water Users Association News Release

preceded by KID Executive Director and Manager Gene Souza comments

Gene Souza:

I am assuming this news release is not shared here yet. If it is, here are my comments:
Disappointing and Frustration are the kindest words I have for this epic tragedy that rivals Homer's Iliad.
@Patty Goldman gets a mulligan. Reclamation gets to produce a body of fiction that is contrary to its contracts and Oregon water law and demanded by biased science, district managers get no insight in to how to coordinate 2023 operations, refuges are high and dry, and Klamath Project farmers have no idea if their farm plan will work this year or if they will be able to pay their mortgages and loans to keep their employees paid.

A few clarifying comments on the Klamath Water Users Association release. (Please read the KWUA announcement by clicking the link)...
  1. As per the written Reclamation IOP, if followed the MINIMUM Project supply would be 285,000 acre-feet as calculated on 1 April 2023, and could only go up with the 1 June 2023 forecast with no claimed, nor scientific supportable biological effect on threatened or endangered species. To date, Reclamation has only announced 215,000 acre-feet are available...which does not match any model or agreed upon proposed action...nor the anticipated demand for the farmers and refuges which exceeds 315,000 acre-feet, and less than the 265,000 acre-feet of water that would have naturally evaporated from Lower Klamath Lake in 2023 and was never available to the Klamath River below Keno, and still not quench the thirst for harm to our communities and ecosystems.
  2. As per the written Reclamation IOP, if the 1 May forecast was used, the TARGET 30 September 2023 UKL elevation would be 4,139.01 with no claimed, nor scientifically supportable biological effect on threatened or endangered species. Reclamation's attorney stated that 4,139.2 (as demanded by the Yurok tribe in their injunction and not modeled as part of the IOP) is a possibly for the 2023 Operations Plan as reviewed and written under the purview of Robert (Bob) Anderson who authorized the Hardy flow model work in the 1996 which started this epic journey.
  3. Reclamation is rumored to be catering to demands (how a stipulation is still in place with the court case reopened is a whole other epic novel) for June water to be delivered in May to facilitate dam removal operations in June when flows are needed to be lower. Just look at Iron Gate dam releases. There was no recorded parasite before the warmer Klamath Lake water was released in April...now, parasites counts are increasing. The current flow schedule even contradicts the claims by NMFS Jamie Montessi and Yurok's Mike Belchik, and Robert Franklin that the flows need to more replicate natural ebs and flows...currently it is an Indy 500 to just get the water out of UKL to the ocean.
"The preliminary injunction motion asks the court to order limitations on diversions that are not stated in the IOP. “Basically, the plaintiffs are asking the court to write a new plan and micromanage the Klamath Project during 2023,” said KWUA Water Policy Director Moss Driscoll."


KWUA / Klamath Water Users Association
Contact Information: Moss Driscoll, Director of Water Policy

Court Hears Klamath Water Case; Frustration with Lack of Plan for 2023

A federal court heard arguments today on whether to issue a preliminary injunction limiting irrigation and wildlife refuge uses of water from the Klamath Project in 2023. The motion, filed by the Yurok Tribe and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, claims that the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) cannot be trusted to limit water deliveries in accordance with an Interim Operations Plan (IOP). 

Judge William H. Orrick, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of California, indicated that he would not grant the motion, but left open the opportunity for parties to return to court after Reclamation has adopted an actual Klamath Project operations plan for 2023.

The litigation move comes at a time when there is abundant water in the Klamath Basin. “It’s inconceivable that we are in court when we should be irrigating and producing food,” said Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) Vice President Jeff Boyd, who farms in the Project area. Similarly, Judge Orrick, who has heard several Klamath Project matters, noted that he had not expected to see a Klamath case this year.

In 2020, Reclamation adopted an IOP for the Klamath Project controlling the amounts of water made available in Upper Klamath Lake, the Klamath River, and for irrigation and wildlife refuges. The IOP is the basis for annual operations plans based on year-specific hydrologic conditions.

Since that time, drought conditions have required Reclamation to deviate from the specific terms of the IOP, which it has done with Temporary Operations Plans. During the early winter of 2022-2023, drought conditions persisted. Ultimately, Reclamation reduced IOP-based flows in the Klamath River for four weeks. The Yurok Tribe filed its motion for a preliminary injunction.

The preliminary injunction motion asks the court to order limitations on diversions that are not stated in the IOP. “Basically, the plaintiffs are asking the court to write a new plan and micromanage the Klamath Project during 2023,” said KWUA Water Policy Director Moss Driscoll.

The past several weeks have been characterized by favorable, wet weather, and snowpack conditions in the mountains have been as high as 200 percent of normal.

The IOP went back into effect on April 1. If it had followed the IOP, Reclamation would have issued a 2023 operations plan providing an irrigation supply of 285,000 acre-feet, which is still well below irrigation needs. Instead, Reclamation informally announced an “initial” supply of 215,000 acre-feet but did not write an operations plan as in past years. In the meantime, it has followed the IOP to the letter in terms of releases of Klamath River flows.

To date, during 2023, 215,000 acre-feet of water has been released to the Klamath River. Diversions for irrigation have been 6,000 acre-feet.

Judge Orrick indicated that he did not see a basis to issue a preliminary injunction based on the information before him. However, he required Reclamation to submit a final 2023 operations plan, and left open to the parties the possibility of asking the court to grant some kind of relief at that time. 

“It would have been great if Reclamation had done what they were supposed to and issued a final plan on time rather than being intimidated by politics and lawsuits,” said Mr. Boyd.



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