Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


Klamath Project irrigators face challenging water year

Irrigators could see 50% or less of the normal water supply for irrigation this spring and summer, though water is anticipated to be available to the Klamath Reclamation Project by or before mid-April, according to Gene Souza, manager at Klamath Irrigation District.

Souza said initial estimates based on data from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as well as possible impacts from pending legislation estimate that between 118,000 and 168,000 acre feet could be available to the Klamath Project this spring and summer. A re-consulted biological opinion also plays into the initial estimate and could lower the number of acre feet available. The numbers were presented to a crowded joint Klamath Water Users Association and Klamath Project Drought Response Agency meeting Thursday at Klamath County fairgrounds.

“As we look at the 30-day forecast, there are some weather events that are projected out there, but those weather events are not producing much,” Souza said.

“We’ve been promised rain for the past three weekends and none of it has materialized,” he added.

“The conditions for the next three months look to be drier and warmer than what is traditionally on average here in the Klamath Basin. What does that mean? That means less water.”

The snow water equivalent as of Thursday morning is 64% of normal, according to Souza.

“That percentage is dropping by the day,” Souza said.

“We’re about five inches below normal for precipitation in the Klamath Basin,” he added.

“Conditions right now look similar to what they were in the early 90s.”

KWUA and the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (KPDRA) hosted the joint meeting as a way to keep irrigators informed and share plans to connect them with upwards of $10 million in resources, pending coordination and approval from Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office for financial aid to help them through potential financial losses.

The announcement of estimated water supply was made on the heels of a drought declaration signed by Gov. Kate Brown on Monday. Klamath County is currently in a D-1 level or moderate drought. Even still, current estimates of the water supply is anticipated to impact the economy, according to Paul Simmons, executive director of KWUA.

“I’m very hopeful that we will avoid the low end possibility,” Simmons told growers in attendance.

Jared Boettcher, deputy manager of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office, told Herald and News that Reclamation understands that 2020 is slated to be a “challenging” water year.

“Our allocation for the Project will be locked in on April 1 with the April 1 forecast,” Bottcher said. “This Project supply could actually increase with the May and June forecasts as well. We’re continuing to coordinate with them (KWUA) on anticipated supplies.”

In the meantime, irrigators are encouraged to consider applying for aid through the KPDRA. The agency, set up in 2018, ran a land idling and groundwater program for those impacted by drought in 2018.

“We’re looking to do the same thing this year,” said Nathan Ratliff, attorney for KPDRA.

“The programs that we set up in 2018 were set up after the fact due to the timing, with respect to how the contract that funded our agency was implemented. We’re looking at trying to set these up at the beginning of the irrigation year because we know it’s easier for everybody to plan. We don’t have these finalized yet.

“The groundwater program that we’re looking to set up – it’s initially scheduled to be implemented with the $1.7 million that we already have,” Ratliff added.

“We’re looking to have that set up within the next couple of weeks … A groundwater program – we’re looking at putting water that we can pump into the ditches or onto our crops instead of water from the lake. Hopefully we can free up some of that water from some other things and we’re looking at compensating irrigators for that.”

Ratliff said there is also an additional $8 million in possible funding that the agency is working with Bureau of Reclamation to acquire.

“The board has authorized entry into an acceptable contract that would allow the $8 million to come into our agency for the purpose of then distributing that as much as we could to irrigators, likely in conjunction with a groundwater and (land) idling program.

“We’re trying to get these programs going as quickly as we can,” he added.

Ratliff said the agency plans to work in conjunction with both the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge and the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge in identifying water that could be used for refuge purposes.

The annual water meeting is planned for April 7, where Paul Souza, regional director for the S.W. division of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is anticipated to be keynote speaker. A location is to be announced.

For more information regarding groundwater and land idling programs as well as updates from the KPDRA, go online at www.klamathwaterbank.com.




In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

Home Contact


              Page Updated: Friday March 06, 2020 06:12 PM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2019, All Rights Reserved