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PacifiCorp is working with the Bureau of Reclamation to provide the Klamath Project irrigators with up to 9,500 acre feet of water in late May in addition to a total 10,500 acre feet of water lent irrigation districts earlier in the month, according to Bob Gravely, the utility’s spokesman.

The announcement Monday was made as irrigation districts within the Project — KID and Tulelake — face a dwindling 10,500 acre feet borrowed from PacifiCorp at the beginning of the month. The amount has been all but exhausted as of Tuesday.

“That’s what we’ve been living on from Upper Klamath Lake up until this point,” said Brad Kirby, president of the Klamath Water Users Association.

“The discussion the last week and a half is that there is an additional 9,500 or 9,000 acre feet that we could temporarily augment or hold back in Upper Klamath Lake that could be able to be diverted by the Project in the month of May, that wouldn’t increase the overall supply.”

The additional water would come from both Copco and Irongate reservoirs, according to Kirby, though several variables remain.

“It would allow us to continue to divert at the drastically reduced rates,” Kirby added. “Hopefully through the end of the month.”

PacifiCorp, which is bound to comply with dilution flows required of BOR, cannot lend water for irrigation use until the dilution flows are complete later this month. It’s the second time since 2014 that PacifiCorp has adjusted operations to lend water for irrigation use, Gravely said.

The reason the company cannot spare the water any sooner is that reservoirs must be kept at certain levels in order for the spillways to meet dilution flow requirements, according to Gravely.

“Once the dilution flow is over, we will be able to lower the reservoir further to help Reclamation meet downstream flow requirements, which then allows Reclamation to divert an equivalent amount for the Klamath Project,” Gravely said.

“It’s a timing issue and it’s an issue of what Reclamation is expecting to need over the summer,” Gravely added later in a phone interview.

While the utility is lending water, which will need to be repaid, efforts are also underway to secure up to 6,000 cubic feet per second from eastside neighbors in Langell Valley and Horsefly Irrigation Districts. A portion of this amount would go toward senior water right holders Van Brimmer Irrigation District and Henley-Ankeney (a former ditch company absorbed by KID).

“The water will come out of both Clear Lake and Gerber (Reservoir),” said Laura Williams, public affairs officer, for Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office.

What’s left for the majority of the Klamath Project is uncertain at best, at least until late May.

“That still leaves us with a nasty week to get through,” said Jerry Enman, vice-chairman of Klamath Irrigation District.

A full delivery of water to the Klamath Project — estimated to be between 205,000 and 250,000 acre feet — is delayed until anywhere between June 1 and 15. Any amounts of water diverted prior to a full delivery will not add to the overall delivery for the Project.

“This is the first time in Project history that any of these operations have been going the way they are,” Kirby said. “From river operations, to within the Project itself, this is uncharted territory and we’re doing the best we possibly can, and trying to survive the month of May.”

Even with 125 to 150 cubic feet per second of additional water that KID is expecting from Langell Valley and Horsefly Irrigation districts on the east side, the month of May remains uncertain for irrigators.

“We’re in a very tenuous situation with a lot of variables that can move in a lot of different directions,” said Ty Kliewer, KID board chairmain.

At this point, Enman said many irrigators are gambling one way or another when it comes to the irrigation season.

“Either water will show up or it won’t,” Enman said.




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              Page Updated: Tuesday May 22, 2018 02:39 AM  Pacific

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