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Oregon Water Resources Department says drought permits 'unlikely'

Agriculture in the Klamath Basin might be in for another dry year with little in the way of emergency water provisions.

THE Oregon Water Resources Department issued a news release last Thursday, Feb. 9 stating that, if a drought emergency is declared in Klamath County, it is “unlikely” the department will issue emergency use permits, also known as drought permits.

This would be the second year without the permits in the Upper Klamath Basin.

Throughout previous drought-stricken years, producers in the area have often relied on these permits which grant access to and use of groundwater.

“When a governor declares drought in a county, that opens up additional resources for how [OWRD] assists people on the ground with managing water,” OWRD Public Information & Resiliency Specialist Alyssa Rash told the Herald & News on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

This year, Rash explained, the groundwater levels are too low.

“There’s just not enough groundwater to allocate,” Rash said.

The OWRD news release stated the water levels in the Klamath Project area had dropped nearly 30 feet in the past few years due to “seasonal declines” during the 2021 and 2022 irrigation seasons.

This decline has left many domestic wells dry, the news release stated.

Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director Paul Simmons said he is disappointed by the state’s decision.

“It is disappointing that the state of Oregon stands back, indifferent to federal regulators shutting down surface water deliveries to irrigation water users in Oregon,” Simmons told the Herald & News, “and only responds by its own regulatory action of shutting down wells that could help mitigate the damage.”

Simmons expressed concern for the status of the water levels as well, but said KWUA would prefer to work with OWRD on a “case-by-case basis” to determine when emergency use is acceptable.



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              Page Updated: Thursday February 23, 2023 02:29 PM  Pacific

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