Klamath water supply shrinks
 
(Note: a knowledgeable lifelong resident of the Klamath Basin and researcher 
of all things pertaining to lake levels, suckerfish and Gang Green-predicated 
micromanagement by the BOR, USFWS, etc., has commented within the parameters 
of this article. In order to keep the eye-opening impact intact, those 
comments are bracketed.)
 
July 12, 2002
 
By Jonathan Brinckman jbrinckman@news.oregonian.com or 503-221-8190 
 
Soaring temperatures and low rainfall in Southern Oregon have prompted the 
federal government to reduce water flows for threatened coho salmon in the 
Klamath River and to ask area farmers to begin conserving water.
Federal officials said Thursday they do not expect a repeat of last year, 
when they cut off irrigation water to more than 1,000 farmers to aid three 
species of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act. 
But a year that began with enough water for all has changed dramatically, 
officials said. 
"The year just turned really dry," said Jeff McCracken, a spokesman for the 
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. "We'll need to work with all of our users now to 
squeeze our way through." 
The bureau's Klamath Project irrigates 1,400 farms on 230,000 acres 
straddling the Oregon-California border. The water level in Upper Klamath 
Lake, the main source of that water, is dropping by nearly half an inch a 
day, bureau officials said. 
Tribal leaders criticized the agency for reducing water flow to the Klamath 
River without first ordering agricultural cutbacks. 
Four species of salmon and steelhead, including threatened coho, spawn in the 
river, which flows from Upper Klamath Lake to the Pacific. The lake is home 
to two types of sucker that are listed as endangered. 
"They're saying, 'Farmers, volunteer to cut down your water use,' " said 
Susan Masten, chairwoman of the Yurok Tribe. The tribe, which has 4,500 
members, has treaty rights to fish for salmon and steelhead on the Klamath 
River. "It's not OK that families may not be able to put food on their tables 
because water that was promised to us is not being delivered." [ This is a 
total lie.  Sounds like all the Yuroks eat every day is either salmon or 
steelhead.  No burgers, no meatloaf, no salads, no potatoes, nope; nothing 
but fish.  Give me a break! ]
The Bureau of Reclamation downgraded its forecast for the period through 
September from "below average" to "dry" after federal hydrologists said 
one-third less water than expected is likely to flow into Upper Klamath Lake. 
The Natural Resources Conservation Service predicted in April that 385,000 
acre-feet of water would flow into the lake from April through September. It 
now projects a flow of 265,400 acre-feet. The lake received 230,000 acre-feet 
of water during those months last year. An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons of 
water. 
McCracken said the Bureau of Reclamation would immediately begin reducing 
releases from the lake into the Klamath River but also will meet its legal 
responsibility to release an additional 20,000 acre-feet of water this year 
for the Yurok and two other tribes. [ This additional 20,000 acre-feet of 
water has just about all been delivered down the river.  The tribes told the 
BOR how much and when to send it down.  BOR has complied, but the tribes are 
still grousing? Bet they'll be telling the BOR they need more and the BOR 
will jump to do whatever it takes to make them happy. ]
On Aug. 1, the bureau will cut water flow to the Klamath River from about 
1,000 cubic feet per second to 649 cubic feet per second, he said. That's the 
amount of water the federal salmon recovery plan says must be released during 
dry years. 
Temperatures topped 95 degrees Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Klamath 
Falls, setting records and parching fields. 
But a representative of area irrigation districts said he was confident 
farmers could reduce water use enough to avoid a water shutoff. 
"It's been low humidity and low water inflows, but it looks like we'll make 
it," said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users 
Association. Irrigation districts will conserve water by tightening up valves 
on pipes, suspending the practice of spreading water on gravel roads to 
control dust and carefully monitoring irrigation of land, he said. 
In addition, he said, the Tule Lake Irrigation District will pool water from 
farmers' wells and pump water from the ground instead of using surface water. 
[ This is farmers and TID pumping the 20,000 acre-feet for irrigation use 
from the 'water bank' to replace the 20,000 acre-feet that the lower river 
tribes ordered the BOR to release to them during hot July.  Luckily, TID and 
individual California farmers who pump their wells will get at least 
$50/acre-feet for their water.  Total should run around $1 Million. ]
During last summer's drought, the bureau cut off irrigation water to most of 
the project to meet Endangered Species Act mandates for water to maintain 
endangered Lost River suckers and shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and 
threatened coho in the Klamath River. 
The cutbacks triggered tense confrontations between farmers and the federal 
government, which called in guards to protect the main headgates of the 
irrigation project after protesters forced the headgates open. [Note: As one 
who was there, this is not but a half-truth. Those whose water was being held 
hostage -- water that had already been paid for -- congregated at the 
Headgates Camp for months, upset and tense, yes, but trying to tell any and 
all who came, the TRUTH.]
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