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Irrigators have payment options for water supply
  by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 3/25/14
     Facing serious water deficits this year, Basin water managers have decided to offer eligible on-project irrigators a more direct payment method for water use reduction.

   The 2014 Klamath Water and Power Agency (KWAPA) on-project Water User Mitigation Plan (WUMP) will pay irrigators the cost of electricity to pump irrigation water plus $20 per acre-foot.

   “This gives us an opportunity to take (water) from where we don’t need it and put it where we do. Hopefully, we’ll get through this year,” said Bill Heiney, KWAPA board of directors chairman.

   WUMP is a cooperative agreement between KWAPA and the Bureau of Reclamation that allows irrigators to “bid” an application requesting a dollar amount per acre they would like to be paid in return for not diverting surface water to grow crops. Now, instead of receiving lump-sum payments for water usage reductions, irrigators will be paid according to electricity and water use.  

   The power-cost program replaces the WUMP “wet” option, under which an irrigator agrees to not receive surface water, but may have the option to draw from on-property wells. Although groundwater supplements surface water in this option, too much pumping may lead to interference between wells and could set off additional groundwater regulations, according to Ed Bair, a board member of KWAPA and of the Klamath Irrigation District.

   According to Heiney, the WUMP “dry” option is not changing, and irrigators who bid for that option still agree to not use water from any source other than natural precipitation if a contract is signed.  

   Only irrigators who submitted a WUMP bid application before the February deadline and qualified for the program are eligible for the power-cost option. However, applicants don’t have to make a decision to sign a WUMP contract until April 15, after the water supply determination is made for the year.

   “Given the severity of the situation we’re facing, it might be a better program for this year,” Bair said. “It gives us better control over the amount that might or might not be pumped.”

   In the original 2014 WUMP agreement, applicants who formally sign onto the program also become liable for a $500-per-acre penalty if the water usage contract is violated. According to Heiney, irrigators who sign up for the new power-cost provisions will not be subject to those fines because WUMP payments will only apply for the amount of water pumped.  

   According to KWAPA board member Gary Derry, although demand may be low, pumping early and at high volume is one strategy for water management this year. He said managers should try to equate water into real-time applications with the help of the water districts.

   “Much like last year, district participation is key to make sure we have that volume,” Derry said.

   District-operated wells, which were excluded from the WUMP wet program, will be allowed to participate in the power-cost program, according to Heiney.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN



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