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 email@example.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,
"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
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
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.]