Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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BOR to award tribal members drought funds, Relief program offers those with 1864 water rights $250 per acre
Amidst drought conditions and a contentious water year, Klamath tribal members could soon be paid for farm and ranchlands in the upper Klamath Basin left dry by water shutoffs.Members of the Klamath Tribes will be reimbursed $250 per acre by the Bureau of Reclamation, borrowing upon drought relief programs on the federal Klamath Project.
The program applies to tribal members holding allottee water rights dating back to 1864 on the tribe’s former reservation, said Reclamation spokesman Pete Lucero. Non-tribal members holding 1864 water rights are not eligible for the funds.“This is the first time we’ve done this type of grant because prior to this there was no adjudication that had occurred,” Lucero said, indicating the Klamath Basin’s first year of enforceable state water rights. Gov. John Kitzhaber’s drought declaration for the Klamath Basin in April expanded the array of available federal funds.
Since essentially all surface water irrigation has been curtailed in the upper Basin, local watermaster Scott White said actual impacts on water availability remain unclear. White doesn’t expect any significant increases in stream flows before significant rain storms reach the area.White said there are 73 allottee claims in the upper Klamath Basin, matched by 136 Walton claims — non-tribal claims holding the same 1864 priority dates from the original reservation.
Tribal Chairman Don Gentry and council member Anna Bennett explained the program Monday evening in Chiloquin to tribal members.Reclamation intends for any remaining water diversions to cease by Aug. 2 and payments to be made by Oct. 31.
“The idea here is to have some relief for the Basin — how it’s gonna have an impact remains to be seen. The more water in Upper Klamath Lake, the better off all users will be,” Lucero said.Just over $800,000 is available for total payments, plus administrative costs of nearly $20,000, according to Reclamation.
Asked whether remaining funds of the Klamath Tribes Drought Relief Program could be used for non-tribal irrigators, Lucero said, “I don’t know how or what we can do relative to other water users. That’s where we stand today.”Exact standards for eligibility and monitoring are yet to be hashed out by Reclamation and the tribes.
“It’s new to us and we’re just learning the ropes,” Gentry said. “You have to have actually been using the water to get the money.”It’s unclear at this time where remaining funds would go if not enough users sign up or are deemed eligible.
Larry Nicholson, representative for the Fort Klamath Critical Habitat Landowners, said at this point he hadn’t heard of any similar drought relief programs for off-project, upper Basin, non-tribal irrigators.Further information on the grants funds is available at http://tinyurl.com/ n2xdeum.
Reclamation says no to tribal drought relief, Appropriated funds will not be paid out this year
The Bureau of Reclamation has confirmed that funds appropriated for tribal drought relief in the upper Klamath Basin will not be paid out this year.
Reclamation announced last week that Klamath tribal members holding allottee claims could seek reimbursement for lands they could not irrigate due to state water adjudication.That announcement was soon downgraded from definitive to possible to postponed. “Due to the severity of ongoing drought and ongoing regulation of the entire upper Basin, the proposal will not move forward this year,” said Reclamation spokesman Pete Lucero. “We will start evaluating future opportunities for all upper Basin irrigators, should the need arise.”
The fund was said to be about $825,000, including payments for unirrigated acreage and program implementation costs.Lucero now said the goal would be to help the situation in future irrigation seasons, prior to anyone having their water usage curtailed.
Don Gentry is chairman of the Klamath Tribes. About the drought relief funds and the water situation, he said, “It doesn’t look like there will be irrigation before the end of the year so the opportunity to use those funds just isn’t there.”The funds for this year’s tribal drought relief program will return to Reclamation’s larger budget and will have to be applied for, Lucero confirmed.
“We’ll be looking at opportunities to do something similar Basin-wide,” he said. Yet the Reclamation spokesperson was unable to mention any programs involving non-federal parties (the Klamath Project and the Klamath Tribes both have federal status).“Anything we can do to assist our tribal allottees would be helpful,” Gentry said.
Lucero said plans for the program hatched when the Klamath Tribes came to Reclamation this spring, prior to calls for water made by the Tribes and the Klamath Project in June.firstname.lastname@example.org
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Page Updated: Saturday August 10, 2013 01:48 AM Pacific
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