Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Bureau asks for drought declaration
Published January 5, 2005
Less than a week into 2005, Bureau of Reclamation
officials want it officially declared a drought
Project Manager Dave
Sabo appeared before the Klamath County Board of
Commissioners on Tuesday to ask them to write a
letter to the governor to formally declare 2005 a
drought year. The commissioners agreed.
This winter, snowpack
in the Klamath Basin is at 66 percent of average for
this time of year and inflows into the lake are at
75 percent, Sabo said.
With the drought
designation, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can kick
in supplemental groundwater pumping if needed, using
what state water engineer Barry Norris called
"emergency use" permits.
Along with meeting
water obligations to American Indian tribes, keeping
Upper Klamath Lake high for endangered suckers and
supplying the irrigation project with water, the
Bureau is required to have a "water bank" of 100,000
acre-feet to aid flows for threatened coho in the
The size of the water
bank has grown in three years from 50,000 acre-feet
to 100,000 acre-feet.
By having the wells
under one permit, Norris said, the state department
was able to monitor them closely and exercise more
control over the wells than if the permits had been
"The governor is the
one who ultimately makes the recommendation," Norris
Cecil Lesley, project
operations chief, said the lake is higher this year
than last, but the snow pack is low. The lake was at
4,139.6 feet above sea level at the time last year,
this year it's at 4,141.1. Full pool is at 4,143.3.
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