Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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From Tulelake private well pumpers
May 6, 2004
Twelve private well owners on the California side of the Klamath Basin have been asked by the Bureau of Reclamation to provide well water to assist with maintaining higher levels in upper Klamath Lake for endangered fish. Minimum lake levels are mandated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological opinion and are reflective of the "year type" determined by precipitation and runoff predictions. As water supply concerns mount, every effort is being taken to avoid the threat of a water cutoff to the agriculture industry in the Klamath Reclamation Project.
Those well owners who have agreed to pump ground water to maintain higher lake levels will pump only the water needed to irrigate the lands that they farm, up to 3 acre feet per acre. At this time the Bureau of Reclamation will call for the ground water on an "as needed" basis.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s 2004 Pilot Water Bank Program has been implemented. Some farm lands have been idled and some well owners are participating in the ground water substitution program. Under contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, participating farmers will not use lake water for irrigation but will be compensated for using their wells for irrigation. This program is to provide more water for endangered fish in Klamath Lake and Coho salmon downstream in the Klamath River. By maintaining higher lake levels the possibility of a water cutoff is decreased.
Those well owners participating in the two pumping programs are being reimbursed for providing more water to the entire project, the Klamath River and Klamath Lake. The water that they will be pumping will be used to irrigate their own farms.
"The water is not being sold," said Tulelake farmer Monte Seus. "The water that is being replaced by the well water will be available to all who depend on and use water from Upper Klamath Lake."
Ongoing aquifer studies by the Oregon Water Resources Department, the California Department of Water Resources, and the USGS will continue to monitor ground water levels in an effort to better understand the aquifer.
In the past well owners have pumped "environmental water" gratis in an effort to assist fish and wildlife in the basin and to avoid costly litigation.
"Hopefully the future will not require continued well pumping and farmers will enjoy a more abundant supply of Klamath Lake water that will sustain fish, wildlife, agriculture, and Native American rights," said Gary Wright, who owns a ranch near Tulelake
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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