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Upper Basin ranchers get reprieve to water cattle

by Gerry O'Brien, Herald and News 3/15/18

Ranchers in the Upper Basin of Klamath County — and the town of Chiloquin — received an emergency exemption from the call on water Friday allowing them to use water for their stock cattle and for human consumption.

The exemption is for 180 days, or six months. It affects ranchers who use water along the Sprague, Sycan and Williamson rivers. It does not give the ranchers the right to use water for irrigation or for flooding fields. The last time the emergency decree was used was in the summer of 2015. Then, 43 individual landholders applied for the exemption.

Meanwhile, the ranchers along the Wood River, opted out of applying for the exemption.

Roger Nicholson, president of the Fort Klamath Critical Habitat Landowners, told the commission, “There have been many stock water wells drilled and equipped with pipelines and water troughs, in addition to having managed frontage for access to the streams in the Wood River Basin.”

The Wood River Valley incorporates the Wood, Crooked Creek, Fort Creek, Sun Creek and Annie Creek.

With total precipitation in the Basin at 80 percent so far this year, and snowpack at only 45 percent, the need for the exemption was obvious to the staff and the state Water Resources Commission. The Commission voted unanimously for the emergency exemption after a three-hour telephone conference. About 17 ranchers and officials listened in on the call at the Klamath County Government Center Friday.

The call on the water is in effect in the Sprague River and its tributaries due to the low water flows. The Klamath Tribes has the first rights to the water, which it uses to protect endangered short-nosed sucker and Lost River sucker. It was noted that any emergency allocation for stock water will reduce the water that is available to the senior water right holder, i.e. the Tribes. (The Tribes issued a response to the temporary rule; see it in full online).

Since Jan. 1, 2013, landowners in Klamath County have drilled 132 wells for stock watering, making them more resistant to drought and the calls on the surface water.

Crater Lake National Park, also installed a new well for human consumption, as it had fallen under the call. Last year, the park had to haul water by truck for park visitors.

Chiloquin has purchased a parcel of land to install a new municipal well that will not be subject to regulation as well. It should be operational by the end of the year.

The emergency decree calls for 45 gallons of water, per minute, per 1,000 head of cattle to be diverted from the rivers or 65 gallons per day per single head of cattle.

Details of the temporary rule is on the H&N website with this story as is a response by the Klamath Tribes.



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