BOR recommends reduced water allocation.
Pending court action, no water start date guaranteed
Herald and News by Holly Dillemuth 3/27/18
The Bureau of
Reclamation is proposing to start charging canals on April
19 and to deliver water to Klamath Project irrigators by
late April, pending court action.
filed a proposed Klamath Project Operations plan on Friday
in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
California to allocate 252,000 acre feet for Project
irrigators, which is 65 percent of a normal allocation of
390,000 acre feet of water.
filing, as well as the motion by Klamath Water Users
Association (KWUA) filed March 9, would need to be approved
to release water deliveries to the Basin irrigators. A
hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11 in U.S.
District Court for the Northern District of California, the
same day as KWUA’s annual meeting at 6 p.m. at Reames Golf
“If the judge
were to look at this proposal favorably, that’s a pretty
good scenario, given the conditions we’re experiencing
today,” said Scott White, executive director of the KWUA.
“We don’t know
if the judge is going to rule from the bench, so it may be
even a few days or a week after the hearing date before we
hear back from the court.
White said he
hopes to have more concrete information about the 2018 water
year at the water users meeting, though there are no
guarantees. The meeting is open to the public, and will
feature Alan Mikkelsen, senior advisor to Secretary of the
Interior Ryan Zinke on water and Western resources, as guest
that the judge will look at the current scenario and be
mindful of that, and appreciate our situation, and realize
that this is a matter of survival for many people this
year,” White said.
requested relief from a March 2017 court-ordered injunction
that called for Klamath River water flows to mitigate
parasite concerns affecting endangered coho salmon in the
There are two
ways to flush out the river; so-called “surface flushing”
and “emergency dilution flows.” The second one could
adversely affect water levels in Klamath Lake.
court-ordered injunction requires a three-day surface
flushing flow on the Klamath River between Nov. 1 and April
30, and emergency dilution flows later in the spring or
summer if necessary. The injunction also states the release
of water should not interfere with lake levels necessary to
protect ESA-listed Klamath Basin sucker species in the lake.
Reclamation is proposing implementation of a full surface
flushing flow, augmented with non-Project water; foregoing
additional emergency dilution flows due to the likelihood
that it could cause water levels in Upper Klamath Lake to
fall below minimum levels to protect endangered sucker
Refuge nesting could
proposal calls for 7,000 acre feet of water provided by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the Lower Klamath
National Wildlife Refuge and about 4,000 acre feet of water
from two tracts of land adjacent to Upper Klamath Lake,
which is part of the refuge complex.
Susan Sawyer, a
spokesperson for Fish and Wildlife Service, said, “The
timing of (the release) is critical to whether or not it
would have an impact on the refuge resources.”
Sawyer said it
is not peak migration season yet for birds, but it is in its
there will be little to no long-term impacts to refuge
resources and Pacific Flyway migratory bird populations. The
refuge will lose some nesting and bird habitat by returning
water to the river in that 7,000-acre-feet allotment,
however, we believe the greater need is to support the
management of lake levels and flushing flows in the river,
which overall are going to provide a much greater benefit to
the Klamath Watershed during this difficult water year.”
also voluntarily contributing 10,500 acre feet of water from
reservoirs to augment the Project’s limited supply.
officials said new information indicates limited scientific
support for dilution flows, and the National Marine
Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have
indicated that implementation of a surface flushing flow
should be a priority over emergency dilution flows.
believes this proposal provides the best solution for
addressing disease concerns for coho salmon in the Klamath
River Basin while also ensuring water levels necessary to
protect endangered sucker in the Upper Basin,” said Alicia
Forsythe, BOR deputy regional director of the Mid-Pacific.
allows Reclamation to protect important Tribal Trust
Resources while allowing for water supply certainty and
economic stability for our agricultural communities in the
will repay the voluntary water contribution from PacifiCorp
and USFWS by fall or winter 2018 in time for fall migration,
greatly appreciates the hard work and willingness of the
Fish and Wildlife Service and PacifiCorp to help identify
and offer alternative water sources to meet the
court-ordered surface flushing flow for 2018,” Forsythe said
in a news release.
“We are hopeful
that the court fully considers Reclamation’s proposal so
that the 2018 water year addresses competing water demands
and stakeholder interests within the Klamath Basin.”
inflows to Upper Klamath Lake since the beginning of 2018
have been some of the lowest observed on record, according
to the BOR, and Reclamation has determined there is not
enough water in the Klamath Basin system to produce a
surface flushing flow with Klamath Basin Project water and
still meet elevation requirements for sucker species.
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