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Growing season coming to a close

H&N photo by Dylan Darling
Buck Island rises in the background and Hanks Marsh covers the foreground in this photo of Upper Klamath Lake taken Thursday. The lake is nearing its lowest point of the season, as the close of irrigation season approaches next week.

October 7, 2005 By DYLAN DARLING H&N Staff Writer

Farmers are digging up potatoes. The last cuttings of hay are waiting to be baled. Another growing season is coming to a close in the Klamath Basin.

The summer went smoothly, as far as water was concerned.

”We made it through the season without a crisis, so I think it went well,“ said Mark Stuntebeck, assistant manager of the Klamath Irrigation District.

Flows from Upper Klamath Lake into the A canal, the Klamath Reclamation Project's main irrigation conduit, will be stopped on Oct. 14, when the Klamath Irrigation District closes its headgates. At that time, water will begin storing up for the next growing season, which will start about April 1 when the headgates are opened again.

Cecil Lesley, land and operations chief for the Klamath Project, said the lake should have 167,000 acre-feet of water left in it when the headgates are closed next week.

”It's more than we have had in a couple of the recent years,“ he said.

When the lake is full to the brim - which happens only in the springtime - it holds about 500,000 acre-feet, or enough to cover half a million acres with a foot of water.

Held back by the Link River Dam, the shallow, marshy lake provides water for about 180,000 acres of farmland and two national wildlife refuges.

The spigot isn't completely turned off though.

Some water will be drawn from from the Ady Canal on the Klamath River at the rate of 50 cubic feet per second, or 1 acre-foot per day, for the the national wildlife refuges, Lesley said. The water will be supplied as long at the refuges need it to wet their wetlands during the winter.

Six months ago, going into the growing season, things looked like they could be tight for irrigators.

The mountain snowpack above Upper Klamath Lake was piddly - about 20 percent of average as federal officials were issuing forecasts for water supplies.

Once the water started flowing, Bureau officials asked irrigators to trim back their use by 15 percent and the year was labeled as ”dry.“

Then the rains came. And came and came.

April got 1.86 inches of precipitation and May got 2.46 inches, adding up to be 2.77 inches above the normal amount for those two months.

”We had a lot of rain in the early part of the season, which reduced the need for irrigation,“ Lesley said.

The wet spring resulted in Bureau officials changing the water year type to ”below average,“ meaning more water needed to be sent down the Klamath River for threatened coho salmon and stored in Upper Klamath Lake for endangered suckers. With the boost of spring rain and the use of well water, pumped on contract with the federal government, there was enough water for irrigation this year.

The last day for irrigators to order water will be on Oct. 13, Stuntebeck said.

On the Net: www.usbr.gov/mp/kbao.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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