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Watermaster to talk at Ag Expo today

Adjudication benefits to be discussed in his address

by SAMANTHA TIPLER, Herald and News 12/8/12

If Scott White gets a call today from an irrigator with an 1878 claim, and the irrigator says he is not getting the water he needs, there is nothing White can do.

White, the watermaster for the Oregon Water Resources Department’s District 17 office in Klamath Falls, has the ability to regulate any water rights formally filed with the state after 1909, but cannot help anyone with claims before that.

Those pre-1909 claims are in the state adjudication process, which started in 1975 and is set to finish by June 30, 2013. White hopes he will get the final order of determination from the adjudication, giving him the ability to enforce water rights, by the time the next irrigation season starts in spring.
Adjudication will give White the ability to help that 1878 water user, he said.
“This will give this guy the right to make that call for water,” he said, “and we can find him some water upstream.”
White is giving talks at the 2012 Ag Expo at the Klamath County Fairgrounds. He gave two talks on Friday and is giving two more on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
At his first half-hour talk Friday, White told about 50 people attending the basics of what his office does and tried to convey to irrigators how adjudication will change things.
The adjudication process has brought 730 claims and 5,660 contests or challenges to those claims. That is why the process has taken 37 years.
When it comes to water law there are senior water right holders — those with the oldest water rights — and junior water right holders — those with more recent water rights. Senior water rights will trump junior water rights.
“This will affect everybody,” Scott said. “Like I said, it’s going to tie the entire Klamath Basin together. … It will all come together and it will get regulated.”
When adjudication finishes, there will be 700 new water rights with more than 2,000 surface water rights in the Klamath Basin alone, White said. This change will require a big transition for irrigators and for the watermaster’s office, which will have the job of shutting off junior water right holders when senior water right holders call asking for their full allotment.
“It’s a very large adjudication. We’ve got the Williamson, the Sprague, the lake, the Klamath River; all that is included in this adjudication. It’s a lot of information. A lot of water rights, a lot of data for us to put into a distribution list and make sense of it,” White said. “Who is going to call for water? Where do we need to go to shut it off? It’s going to take time. There is going to be a lot of trial and error.”


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