Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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checks will be in the mail
Published March 3, 2004
By DYLAN DARLING
Irrigation district managers throughout the Klamath Reclamation Project are working on dividing federal reimbursement money to cover fees for delivery of water paid by customers in 2001 when the federal government shut off irrigation water.
For some districts, such the Klamath Drainage District and its about a dozen customers, it's pretty easy to track down who paid fees for operation and maintenance.
But for other districts that have many small acreage users, such as the Klamath Irrigation District and Enterprise Irrigation District, getting the checks to the right people will be more of a challenge.
"It's not going to be a fun one," said Ernie Wigget, manager of the Enterprise Irrigation district.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Monday released more than $2.3 million for project irrigation districts to pay back customers for operation and maintenance fees paid during for the 2001 irrigation season, when the federal government shut down the project.
Although only a scant amount of the normal irrigation deliveries flowed through project canals in 2001, irrigators still paid full fees for operation and maintenance of the system.
The Enterprise district has 1,834 acres and about 1,700 customers, most of whom are suburban users with less than an acre of land. In 2001, Enterprise customers with an acre or less paid $75 for district water. Suburban customers pay $75 per acre and the nine farmers in the district pay $30 per acre.
Wigget knows how much the customers from 2001 need to be paid back. Now he just needs to track them down.
"The problem with my district is a lot of changes have happened - houses have sold," Wigget said.
He said getting the checks to the customers should take about a month, with two to three weeks of that time spent by district workers compiling a customer list and then matching the list to any new addresses.
"It's going to be a pretty expensive chore," he said.
The postage for the checks should cost about $600 and the district will need to pay for a month's worth or work for one or two workers, Wigget said.
In the Klamath Irrigation District, there are 1,900 customers who have less than five acres and 650 who have more than five acres, said Dave Solem, district manager.
Like Wigget, Solem said the district is going to need to track down who owned what land in 2001.
But that still might not lead to who paid for the water in 2001.
"We don't have any records on who paid, only that it was paid," Solem said.
Some renters pay the water bill for the land they lease, but the reimbursement check will be sent to the owner.
Solem said checks will range from $20.50 to about $20,000, depending on how much land the customer has. In 2001, the operation and maintenance fee was $25.50 per acre. District customers were credited $5 per acre in 2001.
The checks from the Klamath Irrigation District should be in the mail by next Monday.
Although it took years for the federal money to come in, Solem said it came quickly in terms of a legislative process.
Both Solem and Wigget said the districts were appreciative of the Oregon congressional delegation's efforts in securing the funds and President Bush's signing them into law.
Solem said he was also grateful that district customers paid their bills in 2001. Although the customers didn't get the water they wanted, their money kept the irrigation districts afloat.
Ross Fleming, a KID customer in 2001 and now a district board member, said he wished the money could have come earlier, but was glad that its on the way.
"It sure took a long time, but they tell me that is how government works," he said.
Fleming should be getting a check for about $7,000 for the 300 acres he paid to have watered in 2001. He said the money will help offset the cost the water bill for this summer, which was due Monday.
After two years any unclaimed checks the districts end up with will be sent to the Oregon Division of State Lands as unclaimed property.
For more information call KID at 882-6661 or Enterprise Irrigation District at 884-4986.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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