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Relation between rivers, groundwater under scrutiny. New committee to draft upper Basin groundwater regulations
The stakeholders, gathered to form an Oregon Water Resources Department rules advisory committee, are tasked with helping develop and refine groundwater rules for the Williamson, Sprague and Wood River drainages.Doug Woodcock, administrator of the OWRD field science division, said the meeting was the first of at least three advisory meetings that will be held for the rulemaking. Woodcock said he plans to recommend a 45-day public comment period and at least one public hearing before the proposed rules are submitted to the Oregon Water Resources Commission. “This committee’s job is to provide input into these rules so they may be modified for public consumption,” Woodcock said.
The draft rules are being prepared to reinforce groundwater regulation guidelines outlined in the recently signed Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA). The agreement is a pact between the Klamath Tribes and upper Basin irrigators that strives to ease waterrelated conflict and to ensure stakeholders have enough water to support their goals.Woodcock said the Wednesday meeting’s primary purpose was to introduce the proposed rules to committee members and the public.
Finding certaintiesFollowing implementation of 2013 adjudication regulation, which provides surface water rights based on priority date of property claims, stakeholders reached an agreement intended to mitigate water challenges in the Basin’s upper reaches.
The UKBCA pact, signed by the Klamath Tribes, dignitaries and irrigators, in April identifies how groundwater will be regulated. The new rules are intended to be consistent with requirements the UKBCA, according to Woodcock.“It can provide some certainty within our existing authorities,” he said.
OWRD Groundwater Section Manager Ivan Gall said groundwater wells will be regulated only if scientific data supports that the source is causing substantial interference with surface water and that the regulation is going to result in effective and timely relief to surface water users.“We don’t just want to take water away from a junior users and not be able to provide any relief to a senior user,” Gall said.
The proposed rules have provisions based upon the distance of wells from surface water and the timeliness of a water call.Jesse Ratcliffe, assistant attorney general for the Oregon Department of Justice, explained that based on upper Basin fishery needs, the UKBCA outlines minimum water levels required in the Williamson, Sprague and Wood rivers. However, the requirements vary each month. The rules propose that if a valid water call is made after the 25th day of a month, OWRD may not regulate a well unless thresholds exceed a specified value.
Gall pointed out that the volcanic strata underlying the Basin is highly permeable, and said that well water comes from one of two sources: storage in the aquifer or a change in flow in or out of the aquifer.“We have to acknowledge the very direct and very important connection between the aquifer system and surface water,” Gall said.
Gall said available science indicates that no physical barriers separating groundwater above and below the lake exist.Some exemptions apply
According to Woodcock, the proposed rules do not directly apply to industrial or city wells in Klamath Falls or any well outside the defined areas in the upper Basin.“The qualifier is that if you have a senior user downstream that is making a call, then there could be some impact from that,” Woodcock said, citing a call from the Klamath Project as an example. The Project’s water right is senior to the city of Klamath Falls.
According to the draft rules, the rules will have no effect on groundwater applications, control of wells as a result of interference with another well, control of wells in any other part of the Klamath Basin or the state, or rules governing scenic waterways.After the UKBCA was signed in April, it became one portion of a three-part piece of legislation intended to ease water woes in the Klamath Basin. The Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act (SB 2379) was heard in a Senate committee in June, but has since stalled.
Ratcliffe said because the proposed rules are a result of negotiations of the UKBCA, if the agreement terminates, the proposed rules do as well. “It’s effective but it’s not permanent,” Ratcliffe said. If the rules do not become permanent, they could remain in effect until they are otherwise amended or repealed. The next advisory committee meeting is scheduled for mid-November.firstname.lastname@example.org ; @LMJatHandN
Open house aims to answer public’s questions on waterIn an effort to promote transparency with the public regarding local water issues, the Oregon Water Resources Department held an open house Wednesday evening at Oregon Tech.
The session followed the first meeting of the Rules Advisory Committee held earlier Wednesday afternoon, and drew about 40 people to the campus to learn more about the state rules.Several state water staff members, including Doug Woodcock, from the OWRD field science division, held the additional questionand-answer session as a way to provide more answers on a topic that has kept Klamath Basin irrigators guessing in recent months.
“We wanted to have open houses where the public could show up and get their questions answered,” Woodcock said. “We’re trying to be very transparent.”Kent Patton was one of a handful of irrigators who trickled into the open house to find more answers about the impact of state water rules on irrigators. Patton, a large animal veterinarian and Beatty hay farmer, worries that his junior groundwater rights could be jeopardized with some groundwater use.
“I came tonight to learn the rules,” Patton said. He said wished he had come earlier for a Rules Advisory Committee meeting held Wednesday afternoon.“I did get to visit with these guys,” Patton said. “They haven’t taken any groundwater yet.”
State hydrogeologist Karl Wozniak chatted with Patton during the session, and said the Beatty irrigator is in a tough spot when it comes to state water use regulation.Wozniak said if Patton’s surface water is connected to a tributary, he may lose some water use in the event there’s not enough to go around.
“It’s tough for him to back off on the water use much more than he already has,” Wozniak said. “It puts him in a tough position. I told him to just make sure that he keeps up on what the committee is up to, and make sure they’re looking after his interests. Rules are always complicated to some degree or another, and small changes in the rules make a big difference.”Wozniak suggests anyone in need of more information about how state water rules might affect them or others should attend the OWRD’s open houses. Another open house is planned for mid-November.
“If people aren’t involved, they’re not going to be part of the solution,” Wozniak said. “It’s their livelihood, and they ought to be involved.“I expect the next meeting, there will be more (attendance).”
Woodcock encouraged those interested to sign up online for an email notification system to learn about future OWRD meetings at http:// bit.ly/1pFSjtzhdillemuth@heraldandnews.com
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Page Updated: Sunday October 26, 2014 10:06 PM Pacific
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