drop count'; Klamath, Modoc Counties face drought possibilities
estimates for water allocation to the Klamath Project for
2020 are significantly lower than that of the 2019 level of
325,000 acre feet, according to Klamath County Commissioner
The Snow Water
Equivalent for the Klamath Basin as of Monday is 73% of
normal and precipitation is 67% of normal, according to
Oregon Water Resources Department.
number of acre feet allocation of water is usually not
released to the public by the Bureau of Reclamation’s
Klamath Basin Area Office until March, or even April 1.
“We are going
to be in a drought situation,” Boyd said.
“This is going
to be an extremely tight water year,” he added.
water allocation estimates circulating are not firm,
according to Laura Williams, public affairs specialist for
Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Basin Area Office. She also
said that official numbers will be based on the March NRCS
number that we go by,” Williams said. “It’s really too early
to make any predictions before that date and we’re not
really firm on it until we get the April NRCS forecast.
“What we do is
look at the inflow forecast for Upper Klamath Lake and make
our calculations from there,” she added.
“It’s been a
very dry Winter and we’re hoping for a ‘Miracle March’ like
we’ve had in past years and we’re going to deal with what
happens as best we can.”
sobering,” Williams added. “To look at the amount of water
that’s fallen from the sky this year and the weather
predictions … it’s alarming.”
Boyd said the
Board of Klamath County commissioners has not voted
regarding bringing in Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to declare a
drought, but he anticipates the commission will highly
“The best that
we can do is ask the governor to declare the drought, which
will put us into opportunities to receive federal funding,
and then I think we can work with the Bureau of Reclamation
and other agencies to try to get drought relief money,” Boyd
“It’s going to
be hard and we’re going to have to be advocating for
everything we can, Upper Basin and lower Basin to try to
help get our producers through it,” he added.
“All the water
comes through the Upper Basin so I would assume that the
Upper Basin is going to be extremely short, too. There’s no
extra water anywhere in the Klamath Basin – Upper Basin or
executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said
the association met on Monday and plans to notify growers
within the week of a public meeting regarding the water
Simmons said he
hopes to hold a meeting with as many growers as possible as
early as sometime next week.
“It’s not a
good place at all,” Simmons said. “The months or so ahead of
us – we’ll see what happens with the precipitation. That
will be the ultimate, major variable.
warm and clear today and that’s not good,” he added.
manager of Tulelake Irrigation District, is equally
concerned about water shortages in TID and throughout the
doubt in my mind that there’s going to be impacts across the
(Klamath) Project,” he said.
Kirby says he’s
been concerned about the potential for a 2020 drought in
Klamath County since Oct. 1, 2019.
He knew that
more than likely, unless on- and off-Project growers got an
above average winter from the November 2019 through January
2020 time frame, that growers would be facing a “pretty dire
One of the
factors that could also impact the drought is the
re-consultation of a new biological opinion underway and
litigation involving the 2018 Biological Opinion.
The case is the
Yurok Tribe and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s
Association vs. Bureau of Reclamation and the National
Marine Fisheries Services. The Yurok Tribe and Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen’s Association object to the data
provided in the 2018 Biological Opinion, according to a
previous H&N story. Klamath Water Users Association is a
defendant in the case.
A hearing is
planned for 2 p.m. this Friday at the U.S. District Court of
Northern California in San Francisco. Judge William Orrick
will preside over the case, which has had its court date and
time moved twice.
of growers are anticipated to be in attendance at the case,
according to Kirby.
what, we’re still going to be in dire straits here across
the Klamath Project,” Kirby said. “I’d say that would go for
any scenario that would result from any of the paths that
we’re currently on.”
hoping some “hold-over” winter weather in January would have
“I was hoping,
just crossing my fingers that that would just continue into
the springtime, but about two or so weeks ago, that just
kind of went away,” Kirby said.
days have mostly replaced precipitation since.
help our snow pack build at all when it’s just nothing
coming,” Kirby said.
“There is a
drought scenario even if we get what we refer to often as a
scenario where the Project receives an unprecedented amount
of moisture for this time of year.
Kirby said growers can’t count on this happening.
“As it sits
right now, we’re trying to plan for the worst, and get the
necessary information out to our patrons and water users
trying to figure out how to get all irrigators throughout
the entire Project the information necessary, in order for
everybody to understand what the situation is that we’re
looking at this year and how we’re trying to mitigate … to
try and minimize the impacts as best as we possibly can,”
“We will do
everything in our power to stretch whatever allocation we do
get,” Kirby added.
“We’re going to
get what we get as far as the allocation goes, and then
we’re going to do everything we can to conserve and make
every drop count operationally, and that’s basically what we
Kirby said TID
officials have talked with counties on both sides of the
state line about what it would take to have a drought
declared in Modoc County.
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