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Water for irrigators: KWUA announces Project delivery

Herald and News 4/11/19 by Holly Dillemuth

Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office will deliver at least 322,000 acre feet of water — or a 92% allocation — rather than a full 350,000 from Upper Klamath Lake to the Klamath Project this summer and fall.

The official number was announced Monday evening by Jeff Nettleton, manager of the Klamath Basin Area Office, at the Klamath Water Users Association’s annual meeting.

“In addition to that 322,000 acre feet out of Upper Klamath Lake, we will have what we estimate to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 90,000 acre feet available on the Lost River there in the Klamath Straights Drain,” Nettleton told water users gathered at Reames Golf and Country Club in Klamath Falls. “Again that’s based on estimates based off the 36-year period of record that we have. Hopefully the combination of those two things will add up to a good year for the Klamath Project .... With the new ‘BiOp’ (biological opinion) in place, we were able to start Project operations (April 2).”

Nettleton also updated water users on the state of precipitation to date — 104% — and snow pack — 126% of normal.

‘Wrapped in bacon’

“We heard you loud and clear that it’s pretty important to get a new BiOp in place by April 1,” Nettleton said, noting Reclamation officials and Fish and Wildlife officials worked hard to complete the two 2019 biological opinions.

“I know we don’t always see eye to eye but, sometimes it’s kind of like threading a needle on these things,” Nettleton added. “Then there’s other days where it’s like being wrapped in bacon and thrown in an alligator pit. It’s a challenge. We understand that you’re not completely happy with the BiOp. We’re working toward changes that will afford the Project a good supply ... we may be looking at some changes sooner rather than later.”

Nettleton also said Reclamation’s goal is to build relationships and continue talking and working on longterm solutions for the Project.

Klamath Water Users Association plans to file a lawsuit against BOR soon regarding limitations to water supply in the two biological opinions released earlier this month.

Longtime legal counsel for KWUA Paul Simmons, who was selected as executive director of the association, will serve in a significant role in the case once filed. The case is separate from one filed by Klamath Irrigation District against BOR last week.

First goals

Simmons said one of his first goals is to try to return the Klamath Project to a stable and reliable water supply.

“The weather’s unpredictable everywhere,” Simmons said.

“The weather was unpredictable back when water supplies were sufficient for full deliveries. So it’s primarily a matter of managing the ESA (Endangered Species Act). For that just like everywhere else, you work on that on legal and technical and policy fronts and try to find opportunities on all of those places.”

Simmons served as interim executive director for four months following the resignation of former director Scott White prior to being selected by the board of directors.

“It’s probably not a typical career move for somebody like me, I have learned a lot over the years about the situation and I feel like I’ve got something to offer,” Simmons said. “I just really don’t want to waste that. I’m going to use it to the best of the people here.”

Simmons said he will continue to work for his law firm, Somach Simmons and Dunn, and as legal counsel for KWUA.

The annual meeting’s featured speakers also included Ernest Conant, BOR mid-pacific regional director; newly elected KWUA President Tricia Hill, and recorded messages from the Congressional delegation: Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Greg Walden (R-OR).

The 2019 operations plan for the Project is available at www.usbr.gov/mp/kbao.



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