Project water delivery discussed following judge's decision
to address irrigators today
tentative time frame for Klamath Project water delivery of
somewhere between June 1 and 15 was announced Tuesday by the
Bureau of Reclamation.
announcement came on the heels of an order issued Monday
evening by U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick,
denying a motion to modify release of water meant to protect
threatened coho salmon in the Klamath River.
Klamath Basin Area Office officials also said irrigators can
expect a water delivery in the neighborhood of 200,000 acre
feet, and up to 250,000 acre feet, if the Bureau can secure
water from other sources, or if testing shows low infection
rates in Klamath River coho.
certainly not a lot to work with but we’ll do our best,”
said Scott White, executive director of the Klamath Water
Users Association, noting that 200,000 acre feet is more
than half of a 390,000 acre-foot allocation, the standard
for a Project water year.
past years, such as 2017, the Project has been allocated
325,000 acre feet, but normally has higher demand, up to
390,000 acre feet.
just don’t know what the summer holds,” White said.
Rep. Walden visiting today
talk more about the path forward for the Basin’s water year,
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s office announced that he will speak
at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday in the South Portal building at the
Klamath County Chamber of Commerce. Jeff Nettleton, Klamath
Basin Area Office manager, will join Walden and Basin
irrigators in discussing the court’s order and impact. The
meeting is open to the public and seating is limited.
Farm Service Agency also will be available at the meeting to
offer drought crop assistance to eligible irrigators.
of BOR’s plan going forward, according to officials, is that
the agency is considering asking for a total 14,500 acre
feet of water from the Horsefly and Langell Valley
irrigation districts. That amount, coupled with 10,500 acre
feet borrowed from PacifiCorp reservoirs, could help
irrigation districts make it through the month.
feel like that would cover KID (Klamath Irrigation District)
and Tulelake Irrigation District through the month of May,”
said Laura Williams, Klamath Basin Area Office spokesperson.
order issued by Orrick references the cases of Hoopa Valley
Tribe vs. Bureau of Reclamation and Yurok Tribe vs. Bureau
of Reclamation, wherein the Bureau was a federal defendant.
upheld the arguments of the Hoopa Valley and Yurok tribes,
which counters that their cultural heritage and economic
well-being revolve around the salmon’s health, as well as
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations,
Institute for Fisheries Resources, and Klamath Riverkeeper,
according to the ruling.
and KWUA and others had asked for relief from an injunction
issued by the court Feb. 8, 2017, which was denied Monday.
The case involved an injunction issued by Orrick on Feb. 8,
2017, that requires 50,000 acre feet of stored water be used
for increased Klamath River flows to protect coho salmon,
listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, from
a disease outbreak caused by the parasite C. shasta.
issued the injunctions because the law demands that
endangered species are entitled to primary protection,”
Orrick wrote in the ruling.
Intervenors’ argument mainly rests on the effects of the
Klamath River Project on the family farms and ranches in the
Project’s irrigation districts. I am sympathetic to those
concerns, but as I have already discussed at length in the
Injunction Orders and is very plainly the law, I am not free
to favor economic or other interests over potential harm to
Hoopa Valley and Yurok tribes could not be reached as of
press time, but a news release issued by the Yurok Tribe on
April 11 details how fish are viewed by the Tribe.
the Yurok people, there is nothing more important than the
Klamath salmon,” said Thomas O’Rourke, Sr., chairman of the
Yurok Tribe, in the release issued April 11. “Our fish are
an essential part of our way of life and right now, because
of the current drought, they are vulnerable to crisis-level
every decision we make, we consider what it will mean for
our fish and for our people several generations into the
future,” O’Rourke added. “We would like the court and the
BOR to take the same approach to prudently managing the
Klamath River, the lifeline of the Yurok people.”
Defendants and intervenors include Sunnyside Irrigation
District, Tulelake resident Ben DuVal, Klamath Drainage
District, Klamath Irrigation District, and Pine Grove
Irrigation District, intervened on the side of the Bureau
and the National Marine Fisheries Service in both cases,
according to the order, and advocated for protecting their
“Obviously we’re disappointed and obviously this doesn’t
help with our issues this year,” White said. “But look, our
approach since the ‘90s has been to conserve water and
support activities based on best available science that were
supposed to help the fisheries. Twenty-five years later, and
we continue to wait to see those benefits. We’ve taken over
25,000 acres out of production and sent more water down the
river for the sake of the fishery and they’re apparently
worse off now than before. Maybe we need to change our
mindset and rethink their approach.”
Kirby, president of the KWUA board of directors, spoke via
phone with members of irrigation districts Tuesday,
including Klamath Irrigation District, Klamath Drainage
District, and Van Brimmer Irrigation District.
expressed optimism that irrigation districts could work
together to divvy up 10,500 acre feet of water shared
between them from a borrowed amount from PacifiCorp. No
action was taken to guarantee how much each district will
receive of the 10,500 acre feet but a meeting is planned for
2 p.m. on Thursday at KID’s headquarters, KID Lane, off of
court’s ruling, Kirby in a news release said: “This leaves
very little water to be delivered to the Project during this
time. We’ve threaded the needle in the past, and will do
what we can to do it again. We’re not going to have much to
work with, but we’ll work non-stop.”
said his jurisdiction is “limited” in the case, but also
that he chose his decision based on evidence.
“Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 62.1, I
consider the merits of intervenors’ motion and DENY it
because they do not show newly discovered evidence
sufficient to justify suspending or modifying the
injunctions,” Orrick said.
said staying enforcement would not preserve the status quo,
and that he does not have jurisdiction to grant water users’
requested stay while an appeal is pending.
would I in light of the evidence of record,” Orrick said.
said, with respect to federal defendants’ proposed plan,
that federal defendants’ obligations under the injunctions
are for partial compliance with the injunction if full
compliance isn’t possible.
again I urge that the able bodied scientists who are working
on this issue attempt to reach consensus on whether the best
available science has changed since issuance of the 2013
Biological Opinion to the extent that the injunctions should
be modified prior to water year 2019,” Orrick said.
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