Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

March 28, 2003



Bush Administration Releases Klamath Basin Agency Work Plans

In a move that signals improved coordination between federal agencies managing Klamath Basin resources, the Bush Administration today released "work plans" outlining actions being taken to ensure that farmers in the Klamath Basin have access to sufficient water, while complying with environmental law and Indian trust obligations.

The Klamath River Basin Federal Working Group (Working Group), a cabinet-level task force established by President Bush one year ago, is making available work plans for the Klamath Basin from the following departments and agencies:

 Interior Department – Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Land Management;
 Agriculture Department – U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service;
 Commerce Department – National Marine Fisheries Service.

These plans will be listed as a notice in the Federal Register and are available on the Internet at http://www.doi.gov/klamath. The notice presents an assessment of current and future federal activity and will be used over the next six months as the basis for federal and state interagency coordination.

The work plans detail the hundreds of long- and short-term projects the Federal government is working on to solve the economic and environmental challenges confronting the Klamath Basin.

Some of the highlights during the course of the last year include:

 Initiation of comprehensive, basin-wide conservation and restoration planning.
 Completion of the first year of a pilot program to increase the supply of water to portions of Upper Klamath Lake.
 Completion of a state-of-the-art fish screen to ensure that endangered fish will not be introduced to the irrigation system.
 Collaboration with The Nature Conservancy to dramatically increase spawning habitat.
 Voluntary expansion by upper basin farmers of an environmental water bank to increase supply, exceeding the obligations of the Klamath Project operating plan.

Importantly, the notice references documents summarizing many of the federal agency actions in the Basin over the last several years – demonstrating the federal government’s previous and ongoing commitments to its environmental and tribal responsibilities.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who chairs the Klamath River Basin Federal Working Group, said officials were making the work plans available to the public "so that all stakeholders can know what we have been doing and what we hope to accomplish in the future.”

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said the documents demonstrate the Bush administration's "continued dedication to Klamath Basin agriculture and the local community."

Walden Announces Release of Conservation Funding for Klamath Basin

U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) on Wednesday announced the federal government’s release of $7 million in conservation funding to the Klamath Basin. This sum represents a portion of the $50 million in funding earmarked for the Basin in the 2002 Farm Bill under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The funds will provide cost-share payments to farmers and ranchers to employ water conservation measures. Joining Walden in making the announcement was USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mack Gray.

“I’m encouraged about the conservation projects that this investment is going to make possible, and I’m especially glad to see it delivered on an expedited timeline,” said Walden. “Normally, this money would not be released for at least another month, and possibly upwards of two months, under the normal process. This expedited delivery will allow contracts to be signed with farmers and ranchers immediately and before the irrigation season begins.”

“Once again the Bush Administration has gone to bat for the people of the Klamath Basin, and I’m deeply grateful for their support,” said Walden. “Working with President Bush’s team on a near daily basis concerning the Klamath Basin, I know how dedicated they are to trying to do the right thing.”

Conservation contracts with farmers, ranchers and other landowners are expected to be signed this week. Over 500 interested parties have applied. The $7 million release will fund approximately 30 of these contracts in Oregon and 30-40 in California. Funding totaling $3 million each will be delivered for Oregon and California water conservation projects, in addition to $500,000 each to the two states for technical assistance to carry out the projects. The high level of local interest in the EQIP program is remarkable, considering that participants are required to pay 25% of the project cost at a time when many Basin irrigators are still recovering from the 2001 water cutoff.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked closely with local working groups in Oregon and California, which are led primarily by local landowners, to prioritize the applications based on those that are expected to produce the maximum water conservation benefit.

Examples of conservation projects include juniper removal, conversion from flooding to sprinkler based irrigation, and pasture management. The majority of applications received to date by local conservation districts in both states propose improving on-farm irrigation efficiency by converting flood irrigation lands to piped systems, upgrading sprinkler systems, and laser-leveling land. All applicants are required to develop conservation plans for the affected properties.

Dan Keppen, the Executive Director of the Klamath Water Users Association, echoed Walden’s praise for the Administration’s focus on the plight of Klamath Basin producers.

“Today’s expedited delivery of EQIP funding is yet another example of the consistent and unwavering support the farmers and ranchers of the Klamath Basin have received from this Administration,” said Keppen.

Justice Department Recommends Higher Trinity Flows to Avert Fish Die-Off

The U.S. Department of Justice on March 18th filed a report with a federal court in Fresno that recommends establishing an emergency allocation of Trinity River water to avert another adult salmonid die-off on the lower Klamath River. The report, prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), was submitted to the court in response to a judicial directive at a hearing held on March 5, 2003 for Westlands Water District vs. U.S. Department of the Interior and Hoopa Valley Tribe. Justice attorney Charles R. Shockey addressed this issue in a notice submitted to the Court last week.

“Based on the Service’s report, the federal defendants submit that a sound scientific justification exists for the Court to exercise its equitable discretion….to authorize the Department of the Interior to release additional flows of water from Lewiston Dam into the Trinity River during August and September 2003…to avoid a repeat of the 2002 die-off.”

The Service prepared the report to address the concern that a significant adult fish die-off, similar to the situation experienced in the lower Klamath River last summer, could recur this year. The report notes that conditions similar to those that existed in the lower Klamath prior to and during the fish die-off are likely to occur again this summer. The report suggests that providing additional Trinity River water above normal year flows may reduce fish densities in the lower Klamath and draw Trinity fish out of the Klamath and into the Trinity River. The report recommends a flow release option, ranging between 34,805 acre-feet and 57,976 acre-feet, to put additional water into the Trinity River to ameliorate conditions in the lower Klamath River.

The Service notes that, while these recommended “pulses are intended to protect Trinity River stocks that were especially impacted by last year’s fish die off, they will likely collaterally benefit Klamath stocks as well.”

Downstream environmental advocates, tribal representatives, and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) quickly concluded last fall that the fish die-off was due in large part to Klamath Project operations, despite the fact that the fish died below the confluence of the Klamath and Trinity rivers. Dave Vogel, a fisheries biologist with 28 years of experience, believes that the effects of Trinity River flows were overlooked in a recent report prepared by CDFG. Vogel examined and compared the maximum water temperatures during September 2002 immediately below Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River, on the Trinity River below Lewiston Dam, and in the area of the fish die-off. Vogel found that water temperatures downstream of Iron Gate Dam were as warm or warmer than the area of the fish kill during most of September. At the same time, water temperatures in the upper Trinity River were much cooler and within the suitable, if not optimal, range for salmon.

“Unlike the upper Klamath River during September, the Trinity River does have cold water suitable for salmon,” said Vogel. “Increased Iron Gate Dam releases could not have cooled down the upper main stem Klamath River but increased Lewiston Dam releases undoubtedly could have cooled down at least a portion of the main stem Trinity River downstream of Lewiston Dam providing thermal refuge for salmon in that area of the basin.”


Klamath Hydro Relicensing Meetings

Monday, April 7. 12:00 – 6:00 p.m. Water Quality Work Group

Tuesday, April 8. 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Recreation Work Group and Aquatics Work Group

Wednesday, April 9. 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Cultural Resources Work Group and Fish Passage Technical Modelers Workshop- KlamRAS. 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Fish Passage Work Group.

Thursday, April 10. 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Socioeconomics Work Group. 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Plenary

Friday, April 11. 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Lamprey Workshop

All meetings will be held at the Windmill Inn in Ashland, OR


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


Content and Logo: Copyright © Klamath Water Users Association, 2002 All Rights Reserved
Page design: Copyright ©  klamathbasincrisis.org,   2002,  All Rights Reserved