Regulation headed for Wood
Water regulation on the Wood River system is likely to begin
as early as Monday, said Ivan Gall, administrator of the
Field Services Division at Oregon Water Resources
Gall shared a
regulatory update Thursday with members of the Natural
Resources Advisory Council on water conditions in and around
the Upper Klamath Basin. The update comes on the heels of an
April 13 water call by the Klamath Tribes on their claims in
“We validated that
call for the lower Williamson River site within about 24
hours,” Gall said. “And then began regulation of junior
water rights on Monday, April 17 on the Sprague and
Williamson river system in order to try to provide more
water to meet that in-stream claim.
“The Wood River system
— it’s right at the claim level where flows have dropped to
the point that they’re near...where regulation’s likely to
occur. On May 1, that determined claim value actually
increases where regulation is likely to begin on the Wood
“Although this was a
stunning year as far as precipitation goes, it’s not clear
to me how much of the base flow of the Sprague River system
is made up of groundwater that was recharged four or five
years ago,” Gall said. “We still may see some lower than
normal base flows because of the effects of the previous dry
“I think the Upper
Basin is going to see both surface water and groundwater
regulation likely to occur unless we continue on with a very
wet cycle. When that (regulation) occurs is really the
High-water call explained
Gall explained that
2017 has served as a different year for water calls than in
“The call that the
Tribes made this time (April 13) was for a riparian habitat
high-flow, so that’s a specific portion of their determined
claim that exists between March 1 and the end of May on the
Lower Williamson site there. It’s actually for high-stream
flow values relative to their traditional claim that we’ve
regulated for over the last couple of years.”
Gall described a lower
threshold of 2,180 cubic feet per second and an upper
threshold of 4,190 feet per second.
“The water is to be
protected when it gets into that range,” he said. “When the
stream flow gets up above that lower threshold limit, that’s
when we would begin that regulation during that March
through May period of time.
OWRD staff have
visited water users on the Williamson and Sprague Rivers
about a week and a half ago, Gall said.
“We prepared some new
outreach materials and informational material for people to
help them understand this new twist, kind of the timing of
the regulation, which is earlier this year than it’s been in
the past,” Gall said.
Gall’s hope is to
answer the question of why are there regulations when flows
are so high?
“Quite frankly, some
fields are still under water,” he added. “So we’ve had lots
of interesting conversations with landowners out there.
We’re providing them information and the watermaster’s
office has set up recorded message phone line so people who
don’t have internet access can call in and check on
regulation conditions and whether their particular streams
system is being regulated at this time.”
New approach, short window
chairperson of the council advisory, said that there was
some confusion among some water users who normally receive a
“yellow” card for water regulation.
“Are we still going to
get yellow cards or is this the new approach?” Rabe asked.
“This is the new
approach for this specific period of time,” Gall said.
Gall described a graphical
interface online where
users can see the band of low and high threshold flows, and
where the actual stream flow is at and the particular trend
at any current time.
“The Lower Williamson
right now is trending down, flows are starting to come down
and are very near the lower threshold,” Gall. “Once they
drop below that lower threshold, we’ll be contacting the
Upper Basin users and they’d be able to turn back on,
assuming the other various claims are being met.”
“The reason we’re
trying a different approach really focuses around getting
the water user to be as informed and involved as possible is
because of the nature of this new call,” Gall said.
“We don’t have an efficient mechanism to get out with three
watermaster’s staff here in the Basin to deal with the
several hundred water rights that are on the Sprague and
Willamson River alone. So we sent out an informational
letter — not a regulatory notice – trying to point people
toward the website and
the phone line so they’re going to become more aware on a
daily basis as to what flows are doing and whether they are
subject to regulation or not.
“We are regulating
people and providing them a formal regulation notice if we
find that they’re actually diverting water. Very few people
are diverting water this time of year.
“If their stream is
regulated, they should not be irrigating,” Gall said.
“Everybody above the
Lower Williamson system, all the way up to Sprague and Sycan
and on up into the Williamson itself are effectively
regulated off until that lower one (level) is met. Once
that’s met, there’s a series of individual claims that need
to be evaluated.
Rabe asked for more
clarification in the future for water users to know when
they can irrigate.
“We’ll continue to do
that,” Gall said.
In other business,
council advisory members heard an update by Jason Cameron,
deputy area manager for the Klamath Basin Area Office,
described a snowpack that was still accumulating up until
recently, and ranges anywhere from 130 to 146 percent (in
some areas) of average for the water year.
wettest water year that we’ve had since 2011, and probably
since before then,” Cameron said.
“It’s a much needed
recharge to groundwater as well as other some soil moisture.
Following the drought in 2016, we had a pretty average year
but spring flows and hydrology within the basin still is
still well below average. We’re kind of climbing out of that
drought still. This year should really pull us out of that
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