Irrigation may be cut for farmers

July 11, 2002

By Ryan Harper Herald and News Klamath Falls, Oregon Email c/o:  To submit a Letter to the Editor (but they only print letter from their print edition area):

Farmers in the Klamath Reclamation Project may have to curtail irrigation this summer because of dwindling streamflows in the Upper Klamath Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday.

Lower flows into Upper Klamath Lake prompted the Bureau to reclassify the water year from “below average” to “dry.”

“We don’t have what we expected,” said Bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken.

According to a statement released by the Bureau Wednesday, the water flowing into Upper Klamath Lake has not been as abundant as predicted by the Natural Resource Conservation Service in April.

“We had to make a determination because of the reduced flows,” McCracken said. “We're reacting as best we can.”

The reclassification will change the way water moves through the Basin and will affect irrigation, lake levels, refuge habitat, and downstream flows. The precise effects of the change, however, are still unclear.

Local irrigators will meet with Bureau representatives Thursday afternoon to discuss the change, which comes at a time when water demand in the Klamath Reclamation Project is very high.

“Coincidentally, it happens when we're running about the maximum amount of water we can run,” said Dave Solem, manager of the Klamath Irrigation District. “It's going to be difficult.”

The Bureau is advising irrigators to conserve water and has warned that if flows continue to decline some irrigation reduction may be necessary.

The change will also affect fish and wildlife to an uncertain degree, though McCracken said the Bureau will meet all of its biological and tribal trust responsibilities, including the completion of a 20,000 acre-foot water delivery begun last month intended to support tribal fisheries downstream.

Wendell Wood of the Oregon Natural Resources Council said he is concerned that meeting the fish and wildlife requirements of the “dry” year still won't be enough.

“There's too many demands on the available water,” Wood said. “It isn't anybody's fault ... water is over-appropriated.”

He said the ONRC is waiting to see how the situation unfolds.

“We'll be watching it to see that the law's complied with,” he said