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Need for (Klamath) land idling unknown
by JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 4/5/12
About 260 Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators have applied for a land idling program, but it’s still unknown if a water shortage will be severe enough to warrant land idling.
The deadline passed last week to apply for the Klamath Water and Power Agency’s 2012 Land Idling Program, which pays irrigators to leave fields dry and therefore spare water for other producers.
KWAPA will have a better idea of how much, if any, land will need to be idled next week, when an engineer’s report projecting how much irrigation water will be available late in the growing season is complete, said KWAPA executive director Hollie Cannon.
Bureau of Reclamation officials have said all Project irrigators will receive water at the beginning of the season, but it’s unknown if there will be enough water to continue full water deliveries through the end of the growing season.
Despite a recent increase in precipitation and rising Upper Klamath Lake levels, irrigators’ allotment of water likely will be limited due to water requirements for endangered sucker and coho salmon, Cannon said.
“We have 100 percent of normal snowpack, a full lake and 92 percent of year-to-date precipitation,” he said. “It seems ridiculous that we’re even talking about a (water) cutoff at all.”
KWAPA could implement a split-season land idling program, which would pay producers to stop taking irrigation water from July on, Cannon said.
It’s possible groundwater could make up for any shortage in surface water and make land idling unnecessary he added.
Snowpack in the Klamath Basin Wednesday was 102 percent of average for that date. This week marked the first time snowpack has been above average all season.
Outflows from Upper Klamath Lake, a primary source of irrigation water, have increased in the past week, but lake levels continue to rise. Outflows at Link River Dam were measured at 1,390 cubic feet-per second Wednesday.
The elevation of Upper Klamath Lake Tuesday was 4,143.14 feet, up from 4,140.54 feet on the same date in 2010 (a drought year) and 4,143.05 in 2011 (a full-water year).
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Page Updated: Saturday April 07, 2012 06:08 PM Pacific
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