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Difficult season ahead, insufficient water for full Project deliveries. No water will be released from Clear Lake Reservoir
 by LACEY JARRELL, Herald an dNews 4/10/14

     Klamath Basin water managers said Tuesday the 2014 Klamath Project irrigation season will be difficult but not as devastating as expected.

   At the annual Klamath Water Users Association water meeting, Jason Phillips, former Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Klamath Basin Area Office manager, revealed Klamath Project farmers and ranchers will have 239,000 acre-feet for the 2014 irrigation season.

   “The good thing is if April is wet, and May is wet, that number can go up,” said Phillips, who is now the deputy regional director for the BOR Mid-Pacific Region.

   Based on current lake levels and forecasted inflows, the anticipated water supplies available for the 2014 irrigation season are zero acre-feet for Clear Lake Reservoir   and 19,500 acre-feet for Gerber Reservoir, a news release said.

   “At Clear Lake, unless we get a significant storm system that comes through centered on the Clear Lake watershed, we’re not predicting to even open up this year, much like what happened in 2010,” Phillips said.  

   As of April 1, Upper Klamath Lake had an elevation of 4,142 feet, resulting in approximately 425,744 acre-feet of storage. The Natural Resources Conservation Service forecast for April 1 to Sept. 30 inflows to the lake are 46 percent of average, according to the release.        “It is going to take a huge effort. We’ve got to tighten our belts more than we did last year,” Greg Addington, executive director of the KWUA, said.

   “The fact is we’ve got a block of water, but when that block of water is gone, we’re in trouble. We have to make sure that block of water gets us through the season,” he added.

   The available water supply is based on Upper Klamath Lake inflows reported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and on a new 10-year joint biological opinion drafted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

   The opinion outlines water allocations required to support threatened coho salmon and endangered Lost River and shortnose sucker in the Klamath Basin.  

   According to Phillips, the 239,000 acre-feet set aside for irrigators isn’t 100 percent guaranteed, but a situation to cause it to be reduced would be rare.

   In 2013, more than 289,000 acre-feet of water was available to irrigators — almost 50,000 acrefeet more than this year. In 2013, 64,623 acre-feet was pumped from groundwater and more than   7,000 acres were idled.

   “The message really is like last year, water supplies need to be managed as tight as possible. We are going to need full participation in the WUMP program,” Phillips said. “It’s extremely important that we be as conservative as we can with the water supplies available.”

   WUMP is the Water User Mitigation Plan, a land-idling water reduction, program offered to irrigators through the Klamath Water and Power Agency (KWAPA). Phillips said if 2014 conditions were the same as last year, the BOR would have to shut the Project down on Aug. 21.  

   Phillips said 239,000 acrefeet is not a sufficient amount of water for full Project deliveries, and emphasized the importance of irrigators utilizing management tools like idling and groundwater pumping.

   “If we didn’t have any other tools and we just opened the Project and started going, we would run out of water way before the end of season,” Phillips said.

   To learn more about Klamath Project water management, see the Klamath Project’s 2014 Operations Plan at usbr.gov/mp/kbao.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN
  H&N photo by Steven Silton

  ABOVE: Pictured are the headgates of the Link River.



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