Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

April 25, 2003


Oregon Groundwater Update Meeting Scheduled for May 1st in K Falls

The Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) will provide a progress report on several Klamath Basin groundwater studies at 7:00 P.M. on May 1 in Exhibit Hall 2 at the Klamath County Fairgrounds. The 90-minute meeting will include updates on the OWRD-U.S. Geological Survey ongoing basin groundwater study, ground water demonstration projects and well drilling, and groundwater study in the Bonanza area.

OWRD is examining basin ground water resources to determine the degree to which groundwater can be used to supplement surface water supplies.

"As demands on basin water supplies evolve, the Department will be called upon to make some difficult water management choices,” said OWRD Director Paul Cleary. “Ground water will play a big role in those choices. We want to base our management decisions on the best information possible."

Several ongoing or recently completed ground water studies focus on local areas within the basin. One is in the Bonanza area where, during the 1990's drought, local farmers sought to develop ground water to irrigate over 11,000 acres. The second is within the Shasta View Irrigation District, where OWRD conducted a long-term ground water production test. OWRD is also continuing to monitor ground water conditions throughout the Klamath Project area to learn how the aquifers respond to climatic variations, surface water irrigation and canal leakage, and ground water pumping.

OWRD is further cooperating with the U.S. Geological Survey in a basin-wide ground -water investigation. This six-year study is assessing recharge to basin aquifers, quantifying current ground water use, determining total ground water storage within the basin, documenting direction and rate of ground water movement, and examining the hydraulic connection of ground water and surface water resources.

Progress to date on all of these studies will be reported at the May 1 meeting. In addition, there will be time for Department and U.S.G.S. staff to respond to questions. If you have questions about this meeting, please contact OWRD’s Fred Lissner at (503) 378-8455, extension 204.

White House Advisor Addresses
Klamath Water Users

David Anderson, the White House’s point man on President Bush’s federal Klamath Basin Working Group, emphasized the president’s commitment to agriculture and the need for locally-driven solutions to Basin water challenges at last night’s 49th Annual Meeting of the Klamath Water Users Association.

“It’s not going to work without local support,” said Anderson.

Anderson received the largest ovation of the evening from the crowd of 240 when he responded to a question about the federal government’s role in acquiring more private land.

“We have probably already acquired enough land to last us a long time,” he said. “What we need to do first is improve our management of the lands we already own.”

CDFG in 2002: “Fish Die-Off” on Butte Creek, “Fish Kill” on the Klamath

Shortly after the September 2002 Lower Klamath River fish die-off, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and some lower Klamath Basin groups were quick to claim that the Klamath Project, located more than 200 miles upstream, was the contributing cause. Widespread media reports used a CDFG report as the primary source to claim that the fish die-off was caused by Klamath Project operations. Recent work completed by David Vogel, a fisheries biologist with 28 years experience, has clearly shown that highly relevant, important information was not disclosed in CDFG’s report or in many media reports on the issue.

“A disturbing aspect of the CDFG report is the agency’s inconsistent standard in addressing certain issues,” said Vogel.

Vogel points to an incident that occurred in the summer of 2002 in Butte Creek, a tributary to the Sacramento River that drains the Sierra foothills. There, approximately 3,000 adult spring-run Chinook salmon, a federally listed threatened species, died last summer downstream of Centerville Head Dam. According to CDFG officials in Chico, California, the official count for returning Butte Creek spring-run during 2002 was 8,785 as compared to the generation three years prior of 3,679.

CDFG attributed this fish die-off to a combination of warm water and overcrowding of fish causing a disease outbreak of columnaris – similar to the disease that spread in the lower Klamath River later in the summer. However, unlike the situation on the Klamath, CDFG suggested the kill was a result of natural conditions and did not cite the fundamental cause of the fish kill to water project operations in Butte Creek. Unlike Butte Creek, where very large numbers of a threatened species died, a small number of threatened species died on the Klamath River. Of the 33,000 dead fish on the Klamath River, CDFG reported that only 13 dead coho salmon were observed during the agency’s surveys and, of that number, only 3 were wild fish and the rest were hatchery fish. Coho are a federally-listed threatened species on the Klamath River; most of the Klamath fish that died last fall were fall-run Chinook salmon, a non-federally listed species.

Also, unlike the situation on the Klamath, CDFG referred to this unfortunate event in Butte Creek as a “die-off” not a “fish kill”.

The topic of the September 2002 Klamath River fish die-off was discussed in further detail at last evening’s Klamath Water Users Association Annual Meeting in Klamath Falls. Vogel prepared a slide show that was presented at the meeting, which summarized other recent findings:

 An unusual, earlier peak timing of a large salmon run occurred in 2002 compared to prior years;

 Two dramatic and uncharacteristic cooling and warming trends occurred during late August and September (when the Upper Klamath River was still naturally unsuitably warm) that probably both attracted fish into the lower River and exposed the fish to chronically and cumulatively stressful conditions.

“These circumstances were ideal for a disease outbreak among crowded numbers of salmon,” Vogel said.

Kulongoski Speaks Out

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski visited the Klamath Basin last week, and spent most of one morning meeting with local water users and community leaders. In the past seven days, various accounts in the media have reported on the governor’s comments made at the “A” Canal Headgates on April 17th:

The new “A” Canal fish screen, constructed in seven months: “I’m very, very impressed. It’s a commentary showing that, when the government wants to move, it can move.”

Watershed-Wide Solutions: “It’s time that we start trying to find those on-the-ground solutions that actually get people working together….This will help us get to a basin solution, which is what I think needs to happen.”

Importance of Klamath Farmers to Oregon’s Future: “Agriculture plays a vital role in this state’s economy. An economic issue is one thing, for the farmers who need the resource, need the water, to be able to make a living. There’s another piece to this that’s much larger for all Oregon, and that is a cultural issue. The people here are very, very important to the future of this state.”

Agriculture’s Role in Oregon’s Future: “I would not want Oregon just to be like Portland. I think that Oregon – it’s diversity, it’s strength, it’s independence, all the things we believe of ourselves–are a reflection of the people who work here and spend their lives working off the land. The natural resources-based economies are critically important to this state’s future, and I’m going to do everything I can to see that they stay in business.”

PCFFA Hearing Rescheduled

The hearing originally set for Tuesday, April 29th for PCFFA et. al v. USBR et. al has been rescheduled for May 20th in Oakland at 1:00 p.m.


Monday, May 5, 2003 – KID, et al. v. United States of America. 2:00 p.m. EST, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, May 6th, 2003, Klamath Hydro Relicensing Plenary Meeting. 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Miner’s Inn, Yreka, CA

Tuesday, May 20th, 2003 – PCFFA et al v. USBR, et al. 1:00 p.m. 1301 Clay Street, #400 South, Oakland, Cal.

Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893 kwua@cdsnet.net

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