Reclamation boss balances issues
When Pablo Arroyave joined the Bureau of Reclamation, he hoped to deal with key water issues.
The new area manager for the Klamath Falls office has gotten his wish.
Arroyave, who began the job in August, says several Basin projects are so important they have the attention of the Department of Interior commissioner — the endangered species act, water allocation in the Klamath Reclamation Project, Chiloquin dam removal and relations with tribes.
“It means there’s a lot of interaction between my office and the regional director and the commissioner,” Arroyave said.
“Reclamation is at the forefront of water policy development.”
Here, that means allocating enough water for project irrigators while also meeting federal biological opinions that mandate Klamath River flows and Upper Klamath Basin water levels. The difficulty of that juggling act was demonstrated this year.
Despite a wetter-thanaverage winter and healthy snowpack in the spring, Upper Klamath Lake was a foot lower during July, August and September than federal guidelines mandated.
Arroyave went to the A Canal to tally suckers entering Upper Klamath Lake himself about two weeks after arriving in town.
He was shocked at the activity he saw, saying he could barely tally the suckers caught in the screw trap just downstream of Link River Dam.
Although larval and juvenile sucker numbers were up significantly this year, Arroyave said there is still lots to do over the long-term.
If success comes, it will be because each entity that depends on Klamath River and Upper Klamath Lake water is willing to compromise.
Part of Arroyave’s work so far has involved the Conservation Implementation Program, which takes a Basinwide approach to water issues and requires cooperation among various interest groups.
“Collaboration is going in the right direction,” Arroyave said.
“There’s the farmer and fisherman alliance. And the tribes are now working with the irrigators.
“Where it has failed in the past is thinking one agency can fix it. Finding common ground is generally achievable.”
Arroyave said the the Klamath Basin was treated as two separate areas through the 1980s and 1990s — an upper Basin and lower Basin.
The 2001 water shutdown ended that mindset, he said, encouraging the watershed to be treated as a whole.
One of the most promising solutions to water availability lies in better storage capacity, Arroyave said. An “appraisal-level” study of Long Lake for that purpose should be completed next year.
If it looks good, Reclamation will conduct a feasibility study required to seek funding from Congress.
How much water could be stored in Long Lake?
Arroyave said water depth could be 100 feet in some spots, which would provide the cold temperatures salmon need.
Upper Klamath Lake’s capacity ranges from 240,000 acre feet to 420,000 acre feet. By comparison, Long Lake has potential to hold from 350,000 to 500,000 acre feet.
So far, the Long Lake study is encouraging.
“We haven’t seen anything not positive yet,” Arroyave said.