Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Supes ask for Trinity water, once again
As the Klamath River Basin edges ever closer to drought this year, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has repeated its request for cold, clean water from the river's largest tributary.
In what has become an annual plea, supervisors Tuesday sent a letter to the U.S. Interior Department asking for 50,000 acre feet of Trinity River water that could be used to chill and raise the lower Klamath River during the fall salmon run.
The county, supervisors wrote, is entitled to the water at no cost, and will make it available to the entire Klamath Basin for free, to help fish.
"Time is of the essence if we are to protect the lower Klamath River on which so many of our citizens depend," the letter reads.
The county was promised 50,000 acre feet each year -- 16.25 billion gallons -- in the 1955 act that authorized the damming and diversion of part of the Trinity River.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has said the water is under the purview of the State Water Resources Control Board; the Interior Department last year answered the county's request, but dodged the issue.
In short, the county has had no luck. For now, that appears unlikely to change.
"Our position has not changed," said Reclamation spokesman Jeff McCracken.
But many -- including the National Research Council -- believe the water from the Trinity is the best ticket for holding off another fish kill, like that which claimed up to 68,000 salmon in the fall of 2002.
Last year, the bureau bought 36,000 acre feet from farmers in the Central Valley -- beneficiaries of the Trinity project -- to send down the Trinity.
Snowpack and rainfall in the basin are only about 40 percent of normal this year, and the bureau has asked its central Oregon-California border irrigation project contractors to plan to conserve water. At the same time, it's taking bids from farmers interested in fallowing land or pumping groundwater to produce 100,000 acre feet of water from the Klamath side for fish.
A picture of how that program will be put together will be available at the end of March.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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