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Water deliveries devastated.
Allocations slashed to less than half of average annual use
 by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 5/14/15

     The Klamath Project’s 2015 water allocation has been slashed to less than half of average annual use.

   According to Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, water managers were notified earlier this week that poor instream flows and necessary diversions into the Klamath River have reduced the irrigation Project allocation from 254,500 acre-feet to 175,000 acre-feet.

   “To lose 80,000 acre-feet, or 30 percent of an already reduced supply, in 30 days is devastating to planning and management,” he said.  

   “Alone, this will have significant impacts on the local economy. When coupled with potential shutoff ’s in the Upper Basin, the impacts will be staggering and felt by many,” Addington said in an email.

   Addington explained that warm, dry years mean greater demand and in years like 2015, Project water demand could exceed 400,000 acre-feet. Historical full Project demand is 390,000 acre-feet, according to the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) 2015 Operations Plan.

   “We know the drier the year, the more water it takes to saturate the ground and water evaporation is greater,” Addington said.  He noted that as a result of poor water conditions, 11 out of 15 Project irrigation districts that take water from the Klamath system are already shut down and unable to receive water.

   Soon after the BOR announced the Project allocation in April, Project irrigators were asked to scale back surface water deliveries through the end of May. The mitigation measure, according to the agency, is to ensure federally required inflows into the Klamath River can be met without forcing water water shutoffs in the Project.

   The instream flow requirements were published in 2013, in a first-ever joint biological opinion crafted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

   The opinion spans 10 years and outlines flow requirements for keeping enough water in the Klamath River to protect threatened coho salmon and in Upper Klamath Lake to protect endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers.  

   Sometimes additional water in the form of “pulse” flows is required. These flows release a rush of cold water fish can spread out in, keeping them from stacking up in cool water pockets and reducing opportunities for disease transmission   .

   Representatives from the BOR and the National Marine Fisheries Service could not be reached for comment.

   Addington said he believes the science calling for the additional Klamath River pulse flows is inconclusive.

   “In my view, it benefits chinook and not coho,” Addington said.

   “National Marine Fisheries Service has overspent their environmental water account, which is affecting the Klamath Project irrigators in a negative way,” Addington said. “There’s no consequence for them not managing the water properly.”

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN



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