Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Basin turns nervous eye to snowpack
the sun keeps eating away at the mountain snowpack,
Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers are trying to
digest a drought plan implemented Wednesday by the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
the drought plan, most parks, cemeteries and
athletic fields will go dry, and smaller water user
districts will have to figure ways to get by with
less as water keeps flowing to the Klamath
Irrigation District and Tulelake Irrigation
District. Those two districts have the highest
priority for water under the drought plan.
"But we want to get out in front of it and not
wait," Karas said.
Unseasonably warm temperatures baked the Basin for
the past week, shriveling the snowpack in the
mountains. Jon Lea, a hydrologist with the Natural
Resources Conservation Service, said March is
usually a month when the snowpack is still building.
The Klamath Basin snowpack on Wednesday was measured
at 38 percent of average. By Friday it was down to
34 percent. Saturday it was 32 percent.
Already bad at the beginning of the month, the
snowpack is now in worse shape than it was in 2001,
Lea said. In 2001, Bureau officials didn't put water
through the Project's canals because of a water
shortage and endangered species regulations.
March 13, 2001, the snowpack was at 53 percent of
average for the date.
The drought plan has been put into effect twice
before - in 1992 and 1994. Response to the plan is
those years was mixed.
Many farmers and ranchers didn't like the priority
system because it pitted them against each other, he
said, but the prioritization of Project water users
was written into the more than 200 contracts
irrigators signed with the government. Some didn't
know they had a contract for water, Bryant said.
The Project ended up getting through both 1992 and
1994 with relatively full water deliveries. Since
then Endangered Species Act requirements have
tightened, and the Bureau doesn't have the
flexibility it did in those years.
Many in the agricultural community still don't like
the plan, said Dave Solem, manager of the Klamath
a result, Solem said, a parcel of highly productive
land planted with a crop that uses little water
could go dry, while a less-productive parcel planted
with a thirsty crop could get water because of the
contract the land owner holds.
"We don't know how many acres will be idled in our
district," Solem said.
"The bottom line is we have to devise a system to get as many acres their water to the end (of irrigation season) - that's the goal," Solem said.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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