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Zero acre-feet of water; East Side Klamath Project irrigators to see little or no water; idling funds also are in short supply
by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 4/15/14

     Almost 2,000 feet of brand new irrigation line at John Moxley’s 400-acre Langell Valley farm won’t see a drop of water this season.
  New pivots: Nick Moxley stands next to irrigation pivots installed at his father’s Langell Valley farm. The newly installed pivots could conserve irrigation water volumes up to 50 percent. Instead, a recent announcement that no water deliveries will be made this season to Langell Valley means the equipment will remain dry.    H&N photo by Lacey Jarrell

  Moxley said the newly designed pivots can reduce his irrigation water use up to 50 percent. But last week, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) announced that irrigators, who rely on water supplies from Clear Lake Reservoir, will get zero acre-feet for the 2014 irrigation season. Those relying on water from Gerber Reservoir will receive only 19,500 acre-feet.

   Affected districts are the Langell Valley Irrigation District and the Horsefly Irrigation District, known collectively as the “East Side.”
Moxley said 2014 is the fifth out of six years that Langell Valley farmers have had little or no water. In 2009, Moxley was forced to sell his cattle. Since then, water uncertainty and losses from unrealized crops have kept him from buying more.

   “I rent pastures out now because I can’t keep cows. I couldn’t keep cattle for nine months out of the year if I can only have pasture for two or three months,” he said.

   Now, instead of growing hay, Moxley supports his farm by trucking it and delivering hay to others.  

   Moxley said much like this season, no water deliveries were made to his district in 2010.

   According to Hollie Cannon, executive director of Klamath Water and Power Authority (KWAPA), this year’s   situation is similar to 2010, except that in 2010 the KWAPA Water User Mitigation Plan (WUMP) did not apply to the East Side until July 13. He said this year’s East Side farmers were able to apply for WUMP before the BOR water determination was made.

   WUMP is a cooperative land idling agreement between KWAPA and the BOR. Irrigators “bid” their applications by providing a dollar amount per acre they would like to be paid in return for not diverting water to grow crops.  

   Cannon said 8,224 acres were submitted as “dry” bids, meaning an irrigator agrees to not to use water from any source other than natural precipitation. If a bid is qualified for payment, the landowner formally agrees to the terms by signing a forbearance contract.  

   According to Cannon, all WUMP bids of $350 and lower were approved, but KWAPA does not have enough money at this time to fulfill contracts for the 7,937 acres that were bid. Although Moxley’s WUMP application to idle 110 acres for $250 each qualified for payment, it is not eligible to enter into contract because of the shortfall.

   Moxley’s son, Nick, farms alfalfa and orchard grass in the Horsefly Irrigation District. Like his father’s application, Nick’s bid to dry idle 180 acres at $250 apiece qualified for the WUMP program, but   hasn’t been funded.

   “I don’t know how much we’re going to get to irrigate — maybe just first cutting, maybe second,” Nick said.

   The East Side fund is currently $164,565. More funding may be available   from the BOR, but Cannon doesn’t know when that may be or how much will be available.

   “We have funding for 955.7 acres. I anticipate all of those we sent contracts to will sign. If more funding is directed to the East Side by Reclamation, we will continue with contracting with those acres approved, unless there is a change in area subject to the WUMP,” Cannon said.

   Regardless if Nick gets one cutting or none, he said his alfalfa yields will be affected for more than one season. His perennial crops can be harvested for up to seven years, but when the fields dry up, it stunts annual growth.

   “It’s not going to make us go broke, but you can’t really survive without any water,” Nick said.  

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN



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