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More water security for Basin irrigators, new corporation aims to solidify terms of the settlement pact
  by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 11/8/14
     Upper Basin irrigators are moving closer to water certainty.  

   Two organizations — established in July to form a corporation required in the upper Basin agreement — will elect board members next month, according to rancher Randall Kaizer.  

   Kaizer, who is the interim board president for both organizations, said Saturday, Nov. 1, was the cutoff registration date to vote in the Dec. 3 board of director elections, but landowners can join the organizations any time.

   Together, the two organizations — the Upper Klamath Landowners Corporation and   the Upper Klamath Landowners Improvement District — make up the “Landowner Entity” assigned a host of duties for moving forward conditions in the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement.

   The agreement, which was finalized in April, is a settlement pact between the Klamath Tribes and upper Basin irrigators, and strives to balance the needs of upper Basin water stakeholders and curtail years of disagreements over water.

   The entity will represent interests from six upper Basin regions: Upper Sprague, Sycan, Lower Sprague, Middle Williamson, Lower Williamson and Wood Valley.     About 62 percent of the required stream mileage has been committed  

   Kaizer said upper Basin landowners are not required to join either organization, but joining provides opportunities to participate in water management and decisionmaking. He said landowners who don’t join will not be negatively impacted.

   “We’re not saying we’re going to take anyone’s water,” Kaizer said. “The advantage is being in a position to have a say about how the rotation is done.”

   Interim board member Becky Hyde said this year upper Basin landowners implemented a communitywide irrigation rotation to ensure instream flows required for fish and environmental   health were met in upper Basin tributaries.

   “We saw tremendous cooperation between farmers and ranchers in a drought year,” Hyde said.

   Under the agreement, the Landowner Entity is responsible for carrying out conditions of the pact’s Water Use Program (WUP), which requires landowners to retire 30,000 acre-feet of water through permanent contracts or partial seasonal leasing, and landowner participation in a riparian restoration program.

   Kaizer said about 7,200 acre-feet have been retired.  

   “The farming and ranching community met and exceeded the 5,000 acre-feet of water,” Hyde said of the water retirement required in 2014.

   Kaizer noted that each landowner’s contract will be different, but most conditions will require that landowners don’t irrigate after July 1.

   About 62 percent of the required stream mileage has been committed, according to Kaizer.

   “That’s a good number,” he said. “This year we will have 10 different projects that will hopefully be completed.”

   It may take multiple years to complete some of the larger projects, he added.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN



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