For Immediate Release USDA:
January 27, 2004
President’s FY 2005 Budget Calls for Unprecedented Help for Klamath Basin
(WASHINGTON) – President Bush’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2005 calls for investing more than $100 million in habitat restoration and water improvement projects and programs for the Klamath River Basin, providing an unprecedented level of commitment to help Klamath communities restore their watershed and avoid future water supply crises.
The investment, a 38 percent increase in funding over Fiscal Year 2003 and a 21 percent increase over FY 2004, would accelerate habitat rehabilitation for three threatened and endangered fish and spur water quality and quantity improvements for the 12,000-square-mile watershed in Oregon and California. The increase resulted from recommendations of the Cabinet-level Klamath River Basin Federal Working Group, which the President created in March 2002.
“The President’s budget proposal reflects his steadfast commitment to restoring the health of the Klamath Basin,” Interior Secretary Gale Norton said today in announcing the initiative. “The effort requires a broad watershed approach that includes the participation of a wide range of partners over the long-term. We will work closely with other federal agencies and all the stakeholders to protect endangered and threatened fish while managing water for the needs of agriculture, tribal and commercial fisheries, and wildlife refuges.”
“As the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council report emphasized, federal agencies should broaden the scope of their recovery plans and more directly encourage stakeholders to take voluntary measures that benefit the fish,” said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “The President’s proposal reflects many of the Council’s recommendations, including improving conditions on Klamath tributaries to address problems on the lower river.”
The President’s proposed 2005 budget for the Klamath Basin calls for $105 million, ensuring an unprecedented level of habitat restoration and water quality and quantity improvements. It includes the following increases over FY 2003 Klamath-related funding:
● $5.9 million increase in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s collaborative partnerships
for restoring fish habitat;
$4.6 million to purchase critical land and return it to natural wetlands, enhance populations of endangered suckers, and increase the amount of water that can be stored in Upper Klamath Lake;
$2.5 million increase for new studies of the endangered sucker species and studies on water quality aspects of Klamath Lake; the increase in funds responds to recommendations of the National Research Council and will develop better information on which to base endangered species recovery actions;
$2.1 million increase to remove the Chiloquin Dam and reopen 70 miles of sucker habitat on the Sprague River;
$2.0 million increase to bolster coho salmon recovery, habitat restoration and science in lower basin tributaries;
$2.9 million increase for water banks with broadened eligibility among farmers and ranchers who voluntarily conserve water;
$12 million increase for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s on-farm assistance to private land owners in the Klamath Basin for conservation systems planning and implementation, irrigation water management, upland watershed management, and wetland, wildlife, and conservation buffer enhancement.
Additional funds for Klamath-related projects are likely to be available after California allocates its share of Pacific Coastal Salmon Restoration Funds later next year. The President proposes to increase this program by $10 million in 2005.
Secretary Norton and Chairman Connaughton detailed the President’s budget initiative on behalf of the Klamath River Basin Federal Working Group, which Norton chairs. The President’s Working Group has accomplished a number of Klamath-related restoration projects, including:
Designed and constructed new flow gates and a fish screen complex at the head of the Klamath Project’s main diversion canal. The $18 million facility prevents endangered suckers from being diverted with river water to irrigation canals, where they may become stranded;
Conserved vital water supplies by increasing irrigation efficiency on 16,000 acres of agricultural lands in the Klamath Basin while meeting crop needs and increasing profitability; the project cost $13 million;
Overall, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with conservation districts to plan conservation systems on 66,000 acres of farmland and apply best water management practices on 25,950 acres to manage natural resources. This work includes planting new crops, rotating traditional crops and other methods. NRCS also is working to create and enhance wetlands on 2,200 acres; improve wildlife habitat and upland watersheds on 13,000 acres; and enhance streamside buffers on 2,700 acres for improving water quality;
Provided an additional $630,000 and technical assistance to support a major wetlands restoration project with the Nature Conservancy in the Williamson River Delta Preserve. The project will improve the quality of water flowing into Upper Klamath Lake and restore wetland habitat along the lake’s shores, increasing available storage in the lake. Interior bureaus have provided about $6 million for this project during the past six years;
Conducted a two-year pilot project with the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust to improve the quality and supply of water flowing into Upper Klamath Lake from the Wood River Valley;
Screened salmon from diversions in the Scott and Shasta Rivers to reduce fish mortality and enhance fish populations, using $3.0 million in NOAA funds;
Acquired permanent easements for the Williamson River Delta Preserve and restored 5,800 acres of agriculture lands (converted wetlands) to aquatic habitat for Lost River and shortnose suckers; $7.5 million was spent from the Farm Bill Wetland Reserve Program to accomplish this.
The Klamath Basin’s diverse ecosystems include high elevation desert lakes like Upper Klamath Lake and rugged snowmelt-fed tributary streams like the Shasta and Trinity Rivers in California.
President Bush established the Working Group on March 1, 2002 after the 2001 drought in the Klamath Basin and federal legal requirements regarding water use resulted in a severe curtailment of water for agricultural use to meet Endangered Species Act requirements for threatened and endangered fish. The events of 2001 were the culmination of years of dispute over water quality and allocation in the Basin.
The reduction in water available for irrigation in 2001 caused severe economic consequences. Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Project delivers irrigation water to 1,400 farms and 210,000 acres of farm land. Ensuring that the farming community has access to a sustainable water supply while complying with federal environmental laws protecting threatened and endangered species and respecting tribal trust obligations involves complex economic and legal issues requiring the attention and coordination of the Cabinet-level Working Group.
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, and Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality James Connaughton are members of the Working Group, which advises the President on immediate steps and long-term solutions to enhance water quality and quantity and to address other complex issues in the Klamath River Basin.
In formulating this advice, the Working Group seeks input from stakeholders, including members of the farming and fishing communities; residents of the Basin; representatives of conservation, environmental, and water use organizations; the States of Oregon and California; local governments; and representatives of Klamath River Basin tribal governments.