Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Published March. 31, 2004
Klamath Reclamation Project to fill irrigation canals
Bureau of Reclamation to issue water-year type designation next week
By BRIAN COLE
At 9:30 a.m. Friday, Klamath Reclamation Project water will begin to fill irrigation canals in the Klamath Basin.
Although the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will not be able to forecast the water year until next week, Bureau chief of water and lands division Cecil Lesley said Tuesday that water had been flowing into Upper Klamath Lake "at a fairly good clip."
"The snowpack is better this year," Lesley said, "so runoff flows should be better (than last year)."
But in the last week, runoff into the lake has slowed with the cooler weather, said Bureau special projects manager Gary Baker. It will take several days of 70-degree weather to begin to release inflow from higher snowpacks, he said.
The Bureau cannot issue a water designation for the Klamath Reclamation Project until it gets a streamflow forecast next week from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Baker said that should happen by Monday or Tuesday, and the Bureau may, in turn, issue its water year type by Friday, April 9.
There are four water year types for Upper Klamath Lake: critical dry, dry, below-average and above-average. And there are five water-year types for the Klamath River: dry, below average, average, above average and wet.
This year will "probably be below average for both," Baker said. "The water-year type changed twice last year."
The Bureau will also draft an operating plan that spells out the number of acre-feet expected to flow into the Gerber and Clear Lake reservoirs.
The reservoirs provide irrigation for the east part of the project, including Langell Valley.
"Gerber and Clearlake reservoirs are in pretty good shape, with sufficient quantity for full irrigation," Baker said.
Baker added that the Bureau's priorities in the disposition of project water are, in order: endangered species, tribal trust responsibilities, irrigation and wildlife refuges.
"Each has a legitimate claim to the water," he said.
This year, some 4,000 acres of project land will remain idle under the provisions of the Bureau's Water Bank program. Plus, about 8,000 acres will rely totally on ground water from wells.
"We are concerned about overdrafting ground water supplies," Baker said. "We will evaluate the water year throughout the year."
Water year types
The four water-year types for Upper Klamath Lake, determined by expected inflow to Upper
Klamath Lake from April through September, in acre-feet:
Dry - 312,000 to 185,000
Below average - from 500,000 to 312,000
Above average - more than 500,000
The five water-year types for
the Klamath River, in acre-feet:
Below average - from 458,400 to 286,800
Average - from 568,600 to 458,400
Above average - from 785,200 to 568,600
Wet - more than 785,200
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