Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Hardy flows exposed by Western
Does this sound like a political horror movie? Welcome to the Hardy-flow studies that are decimating the Klamath Basin economy and ecosystem.
Last night, the Klamath County Commissioners hosted a public forum with Dr. Ken Rykbost giving a power point presentation entitled Klamath Watershed in Perspective: A review of historical hydrology of major features of the Klamath River watershed and evaluation of Hardy Iron Gate flow requirements.
Dr Rykbost, Professor in Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University, is currently superintendent of the Klamath Experiment Station, part of Oregon State University. Schooled at Cornell University in agronomy and Oregon State University with a PH.D in Department of Soil Science, his minor is in civil engineering, particularly in relation to the hydrology and water quality issues. For the past 30 years, Rykbost has been involved involved with groundwater studies, water quality, irrigation management practices, and water conservation through irrigation systems. Most recently he is studying water quality issues in upper Klamath Lake, and hydrology issues in the Klamath watershed.
Some of the points of Rykbost's
Following the power point presentation, questions were asked of the 6-man panel regarding the Klamath Project, conservation measures, and possible future actions. Members included Dr. Harry Carlson, University of California, Rick Woodley, Klamath County Soil and Water Conservation District, Dan Keppen, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), Dave Solem, Klamath Irrigation District, Ron Hathaway, OSU Extension office, and Rodney Todd, OSU Extension. Commissioner Steve West chaired the forum.
Ron Hathaway expressed the audience's general sense of dismay that the Klamath Project Operation Plan has been based upon selective use of data based on the wettest years in recorded history, and the lack of data from which the studies were derived. Todd discussed the excellent efficiency of the Klamath Project, which the farmers paid for, and the fact that agriculture brings in over $100 million to the economy. Since Oregon has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, $100 million is significant.
Regarding water efficiency, Solem pointed out that when we do things like improve drainage to increase return flows, we can do that, but we are robbing the area's wildlife and waterfowl whose habitat in that water. We are depriving our entire local ecosystem for single-species management in other areas.
Keppen praised the Klamath irrigators for the Leadership in Conservation award from the state of Oregon, that they just received for their excellence in irrigation and conservation practices. Since the mid 90's, farmers have been involved in dozens of habitat programs. They were also supporting two land retirement/water bank programs with reluctance, since they received no credit or benefit from these actions. The actions were done with the idea that they would help fish and provide credit and flexibility for the project to receive irrigation water. The absolute only credit or recognition that the irrigators received was this award.
Keppen stated that with ag accounting for only 3.4% of the water at the mouth of the Klamath River, Klamath Basin ag should not be responsible for fixing the entire watershed..."we need a watershed-wide fix." The USFWS came up with 8 reasons for the decline in coho salmon, and the Klamath Project was not included in that list. Currently lake-level, single-species management is dictating our operations and management. "We need sound science, and we need to educate the media." We need leadership in our watershed groups....we must listen to local, on-the-ground local groups and people. "We don't like Portland environmental groups telling us what a win-win solution is for us."
Woodley continues on the same thread, reiterating that they have done millions of dollars worth of conservation measures, much at the irrigators expense, to increase efficiency and habitat. And no matter how many $millions are spent, it is entirely thrust on Klamath Basin agriculture. "We need conservation measures that preserves wildlife, replenishes groundwater, and sustains agriculture. "There is no cohesive effort...no one coordinating this effort. Why do more studies on the Chiloquin dam (which blocks 90% of sucker habitat according to USFWS studies). Do something about it." Make storage, don't forever study it.
In discussing future actions to aid water conservation in the basin, Solem explains that we need to define our supply to know what we have to work with. "This is virtually impossible when we get undefined 'left-over' water. When OWRD makes water conservation plans, we need to know what the benefits are and who gets those benefits. Knowing our defined supply would enhance our support of the conservation programs."
Hathaway encouraged everyone to read about the endangered species act. He said you would find that nothing is resolved by single species management, lake level or river flow management. We need cooperative management, credits and incentives. "Sound science is the essential starting point along with local cooperative management."
Who has the water rights? Who will pay for the storage? Todd says that these items need to be addressed, as well as informing the public. "A lot of the ecosystem is functioning well--providing economical and ecological benefits."
Peer-reviewed science, non-selective data, watershed-wide conservation (not just Klamath Project), local solutions involving all stakeholders, benefits from conservation, non single-species management. Is this too much to ask for a valley of veterans who built their own storage, increased the Klamath River historic flows, and contributes over $100,000,000 annually into the economy?
KBC, within the next few days, will present Dr. Ken Rykbost's entire power point presentation on the Hardy flows.
Page Updated: Monday March 18, 2019 03:44 AM Pacific
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