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Upper Klamath Basin cattle revenues dip 50 percent

Several Upper Basin irrigators shared concerns with Klamath County Commissioners on Wednesday about the approximate 50 percent loss in cattle revenue in the region, a dive that irrigators link to a call on water by the Klamath Tribes, validated by Oregon Water Resources Department.

The Klamath Tribes, which have a senior water right, made the call on March 8. Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD), using water gauges in the Wood River to monitor flows, validated the request in April.

Some of the concerns shared by irrigators include no stockwater delivery for Modoc Point irrigators.

“Historically Modoc Point has never been cut off (from) water,” said Linda Long, a longtime irrigator in Modoc Point. “To drive by there and see everything brown and no water or cattle or anything,” Long added, “it breaks your heart.”

The group of irrigators came to the commission meeting on request from Commissioner Donnie Boyd, who initially spoke with fifth-generation rancher Randall Kizer in the Wood River Valley regarding water in the region.

Boyd wanted Kizer and others to update the commission on the status of water in areas in the Upper Basin, including between Beatty and Bly.

‘Crisis was created’

“It’s insane what’s going on,” Kizer told commissioners. “This crisis was created by the state of Oregon, and it’s been going on for the last 15 or 20 years.”

Kizer served as president of the former Landowner’s Entity, which dissolved as result of the end of the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA). The UKBCA, which terminated in December, addressed needs of water users in the upper basin not affiliated with the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project.

Kizer believes OWRD has given too much water to the Tribes.

“They just went out and just basically gave the Tribes all the water without basically giving consideration to anybody else,” Kizer said. “We have asked for them to remand this back, now that we have more data. We do have gauges that are measuring the amounts of water, although we’re still struggling with getting those measurements right.

“We’d been keeping our water until 2013,” Kizer added, noting that was the first year of water shutoffs to the area.

Prior to 2013, when OWRD started regulating water, Kizer said he believes the Wood River was pristine, and the economy thrived.

“We had a healthy cattle economy,” Kizer said. “Production was the same as it had been for over 100 years.”

Now, Kizer said the cattle industry is down at least 50 percent of what it used to be.

“(For) the first time in 146 years that we have had this piece of property, our riparian area is in jeopardy,” Kizer said.

Gauge concerns

Boyd expressed concerns with the gauges utilized by OWRD on the Wood River, one guage monitors flows for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and another for OWRD personnel. Boyd believes the two conflict.

“The gauge isn’t in a place that they’re capturing 100 percent of the water,” Boyd said. “The water’s either going into a diversion that is leaking or it’s spilling into the Crooked Creek. So OWRD’s not capturing 100 percent of the water going down the Wood River.”

“They don’t read the same,” Boyd added. “They don’t interpret the data the same.”

Ivan Gall, administrator for OWRD’s field services division, in a phone interview told the Herald and News, that OWRD is evaluating the water gauge locations.

“We have implemented additional measurements at those locations with our staff, and we’ve been working in close coordination with the U.S. Geological Survey on a number of occasions, to do what we call side-by-side measurements,” Gall said.

Gall said OWRD and USGS personnel compare measurements from the same location, and then split up into teams and go out and measure throughout the Wood River system to make sure the gauges are accurate.

“Our gauges are measuring accurately at the location that they’re sited,” Gall said. “I think the landowners are concerned that they may not be sited at the right spot, and we are continuing to evaluate that the best we can, to find out if there are better locations that would meet the criteria within the determined claims.”

Commissioners expressed concern for irrigators in the Upper Basin, though no commission action was taken at the meeting.

“I think we need to start figuring out ways to help the Upper Basin people, the Williamson River watershed, or the Sprague River watershed, and the Wood River watershed, how we can make sure that they’re getting their fair share of the water of what has been allocated to the Tribes, and what’s been allocated to them,” Boyd said.




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              Page Updated: Friday August 03, 2018 02:03 PM  Pacific

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