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Irrigator support funds running out
Water shortage needs longterm solution
by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News July 9, 2015

     Stakeholders are looking to future water management concepts as the last year of the Water Users Mitigation Program (WUMP) wraps up.

   “The bottom line is you can talk about precision farming, but we need to mitigate the water shortages. Period,” said Gary Wright, a farmer in the Tulelake Irrigation District and member of the Klamath Water and Power Agency (KWAPA) board of directors.

   KWAPA board chair Ed Bair said it’s essential irrigators find long-term, sustainable, realistic solution to water shortages.

   “The short-term WUMP approach, I don’t think is sustainable at that level,” Bair said.

   According to KWAPA Executive Director Hollie Cannon, WUMP is expiring because program funding, which is provided by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), has run out.

   For several years, the program has compensated landowners for agreeing not to divert surface water to grow crops. The 2015 WUMP also included a program that reimbursed irrigators for energy costs to pump groundwater, plus $20 per acre-foot.

   Water managers have been banking on a followup mitigation program called the On-Project Plan (OPP), which provides guidelines for reducing water diversions to the Klamath Project. However, the OPP can only be implemented if the 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and related water settlements are approved and funded by   Congress.

   The water program — whether it is the OPP or another — that will follow WUMP, will be designed by the BOR and other water stakeholders, and be managed by a contractor, Cannon said.

   According to Cannon, a draft OPP is complete. He said the current draft is the third that has been submitted. BOR is reviewing the draft for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under the federal regulation, agencies proposing oversight of natural resources must complete prepare an environmental assessments and an environmental impact statements. Cannon said the draft has 500 comments, although most of them are editorial.

   “We think we have a defensible document,” Cannon said. “We may be to the point where we tell Reclamation that we’re not going to spend a bunch more money on this back and forth, on comments   that, to be honest, they should have covered the first or second time through the document.”

   According to Brad Kirby, assistant to the Tulelake Irrigation District manager, to date about 100,000 acrefeet has been diverted to the Klamath Project.

   “Based on the latest numbers from the Bureau, we have about somewhere between 100,000 and 120,000 acre-feet available of the reduced Project supply. We’re tracking fairly decently in comparison to the past two years,” Kirby said.

   According to Bureau of Reclamation Hydromet Data, as of Tuesday, Upper Klamath Lake was 64 percent full.

   Kirby noted that the wet May helped farmers scale back water use. In May, the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport received 1.54 inches of precipitation, about 105 percent of normal.

   “As long as we stay on   trajectory with what’s in the lake, we should be able to divert the water the Bureau says is available as of last week.

   “I think we are getting down to where demand is going to drop off considerably, getting into the second cutting. We’re going to be down to minimal demand fairly quickly,” Kirby said.

   Cannon said two landowners contracted with WUMP have violated the agreement and are diverting surface water to their cropland. The agency has also received a few complaints about landowners who have let their fallow land become overrun with weeds, invasive and otherwise.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews  . com; @LMJatHandN



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