Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

Dec. 12, 2003


KWUA Releases New Assessment of Hardy Phase II Draft Flow Study

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) this week released a report that raises serious questions regarding the applicability of a controversial draft flow study for the Klamath River. KWUA yesterday publicly released a report prepared by David Vogel, a scientist with 28 years experience in western fish biology. The report, entitled "Salmon Rearing Habitats in the Main Stem Klamath River", was released this week to provide input to a technical group gathered to finalize a draft Klamath River flow study prepared by Dr. Thomas Hardy, an environmental scientist from Utah State University.

An earlier version of Hardy’s recommendations was a primary reason for the elevated Iron Gate Dam flow schedule included in the 2001 Klamath Project operations plan, which resulted in curtailment of Upper Klamath Lake supplies to the Project. Vogel’s report details key concerns with the Draft Hardy Phase II Report:  

  • Without supporting data, the draft Hardy Report relied on assumed habitat usage of Chinook fry in the main stem Klamath as a surrogate for coho fry, despite well-known differences in habitat criteria between the species.
  • It appears the authors have misinterpreted the known rearing habitat characteristics for coho salmon in an attempt to re-create that habitat (in a theoretical sense) in the main stem Klamath.
  • The draft Phase II report introduced mathematical computations into computer modeled fish habitat that skewed outputs to conclude very high flows would create more rearing habitat.
  • The development of habitat suitability criteria for the Klamath River in the draft Phase II Report was severely constrained by data collection during high flow conditions and created unintentional bias in the results. This problem was further compounded by inappropriate sampling techniques that resulted in the misinterpretation of fish utilization of habitats in the Klamath River.

"I examined some of the field sites used for the draft Hardy Phase II report and found that those areas were notably non-representative of the majority of fish habitats in the Klamath River," said Vogel. "It appears that those sites I examined may have been chosen more for ease of access."

The National Research Council (NRC) Klamath Committee also discussed the draft Hardy Phase II report in its October 2003 report. The committee agreed with one of Vogel’s primary concern concerns and found Hardy’s modeling approach to be "flawed by heavy reliance on analogies between habitat requirements for Chinook salmon and those of Coho salmon". This finding echoed an earlier concern with the deficiency of such an assumption in their April 30, 2002 letter report to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Dave Vogel was trained as a fisheries scientist and has a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources (Fisheries) received from the University of Michigan in 1979 and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology received from Bowling Green State University in 1974. During his 15-year tenure with the federal government, he received numerous superior and outstanding achievement awards and commendations, including Fisheries Management Biologist of the Year Award for six western states.

Draft Study Shows that Klamath River Sometimes Ran Dry Prior to Project

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) last week released a draft study intended to provide a glimpse at how the Klamath River might have looked before the Klamath Project was built. The report shows that – especially in drier years – flows in the Klamath River near Keno, Oregon dwindled to a mere trickle. The report provides compelling evidence that supports claims made by local residents for decades – the stored water provided by the Klamath Project may actually provide higher summer flows than what would have flowed down river before the Project was built.

The area of study for the Reclamation investigation is the Klamath River above Keno. Principle aspects of the report include:

  • Determination of the natural flow above Upper Klamath Lake;
  • Losses that would have been incurred due to pre-development marshland and evaporation associated with the lake;
  • Resulting natural outflow to the Link River at Klamath Falls;
  • Evaluation of the pre-development aspect of Lower Klamath Lake ;
  • Losses that would have been incurred to the natural flow at Keno due to pre-Project marshland and evaporation associated with Lower Klamath Lake.

Results of these analyses were presented as hydrographs for monthly inflow, outfall, and monthly average water surface elevations of the lakes. Records used in developing these analyses were derived from stream gaging flow histories, climatological records for nearby stations, and historical documents regarding the natural conditions of these lakes and the surrounding landscape. The report is seen by many as a necessary step towards understanding the role of the Klamath Project on river flows.

"Hopefully, this report will help everyone in the Klamath River watershed understand how the river behaved prior to the Klamath Project," said Marshall Staunton, a Tulelake farmer. "Before this report, the best way we have had to explain the complexities of the pre-Project river system was to take people out on the ground and show them."

The report demonstrates that historic Klamath River flows below Keno were constrained by a variety of factors in dry years. A rock reef at Keno essentially backed up river water that spilled into Lower Klamath Lake. As the dry season wore on, the lake would evaporate and recede, and cease providing inflows to the river. Upper Klamath Lake also did not overflow into the Link River at certain times before the Klamath Project was constructed.

"The peculiar fact is that Link River is occasionally blown nearly dry and the water is blown back into the lake when a strong south wind blows," says one historic account included in the Reclamation report. The report also references accounts of Indians "scooping up fish from the dry bed of the stream when south wind stopped the waters from the lake to the river."

The report has been released for public review and will also be peer-reviewed by the Argonne Laboratories in Chicago. The complete report is entitled "Undepleted Natural Flow of the Upper

Klamath River" and can be downloaded at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/kbao/.

KWUA Meets with Idaho, Oregon and Washington Water Uses in Portland

A group of water users from three states met in Portland on December 10th to discuss the challenges facing irrigated agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. Dan Keppen of the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) attended the meeting and provided a 30-minute overview of Klamath Basin issues. The meeting was hosted by the Oregon Water Resources Congress.

Keppen’s overview focused on the past two years, with emphasis placed on the recent proactive efforts undertaken by local irrigators.

"Two years after Klamath Irrigation Project water deliveries were terminated by the federal government, local water users are attempting to proactively address water supply challenges while at the same time trying to stave off a furious round of attacks launched by environmental activists," he said.

Paul Cleary, Director of the Oregon Water Resources Department, discussed Oregon’s effort to address the urbanization pressures on irrigation water rights. According to Cleary, 1.95 million acres of Oregon farms are currently irrigated, an all-time high. Despite the high number of irrigated acres, however, Cleary pointed out that Oregon agriculture is actually using 17% less water than a decade ago.

Norm Semanko, executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association, outlined current litigation issues associated with operations plans on the Upper Snake River. Late last month, a powerful alliance of Idaho water users filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue several federal agencies as part of an aggressive strategy to protect Idaho water.

TID Canal Lining Project to be Featured at Upcoming Water Users Conference

A recent water conservation project completed by the Tulelake Irrigation District (TID) will be the topic of a one-hour seminar next month at the Mid-Pacific Region Water Users Conference in Reno. The conference is an annual event attended by irrigation district representatives, consultants and government agency officials associated with areas served by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in California, Oregon and Nevada.

The TID seminar will be presented by R.K. Frobel & Associates Consulting Engineers and will focus on TID’s highly successful installation of an exposed rubber canal lining in 2002. That project effectively rehabilitated a section of old, earth-lined rocky reaches that historically lost over 50% of deliverable water. The discussion will review the installation by TID personnel and will provide irrigation district perspectives, as well as "lessons learned" on the aging, mechanical durability, and maintenance characteristics of the exposed membrane system after several irrigation seasons.

The Klamath Project will also figure prominently in other parts of the Mid-Pacific Conference program, including panel discussions on water use changes and water supply enhancement. KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen will speak at a January 22 conference luncheon. The conference key note speaker is Mark Limbaugh, USBR Deputy Commissioner.

Please contact the Mid Pacific Region Water Users Conference planners at 916-448-1638 if you are interested in attending the conference. The special rate for conference attendees at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino is $65 per night single or double, plus applicable taxes.

Agricultural Research Emphasized at University of California IREC

The University of California Intermountain Reseach and Extension Center (IREC) has begun hosting public focus group sessions to help guide local field research efforts over the next three years. Last week, sessions were held on improving agricultural production and wildlife habitat on the Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge, and on enhancing potato production and marketing. Both meetings were seen as successful by IREC representatives.

"Sessions similar to these, conducted in the past, have been highly productive and changed research directions at the Center," said Harry Carlson, IREC Superintendent and Farm Advisor.

Next week, two additional sessions are scheduled:

  • "Sustaining Onion Production in the Klamath Basin". December 16th – 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
  • "Sustaining a Mint Industry in the Klamath Basin". December 16th – 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Both sessions will be held at IREC in Tulelake and are intended to target growers, buyers and purchasers of onions and mint. Both sessions are open to the public.


Wednesday, December 17, 2003 – Friday, December 19, 2003. California Alfalfa and Forage Symposium. Monterey, California.

Thursday, December 18, 2003. KWUA Executive Committee Meeting. KWUA Office – 2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3, Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Thursday, January 15, 2004. University of California and Oregon State University Pest Management Seminar. Oregon Institute of Technology, Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Wednesday, January 21 – Friday, January 23, 2004. Mid-Pacific Region Water Users Conference. Reno, Nevada.

Tuesday, February 24 – Thursday, February 26, 2004. Klamath Watershed Conference. Oregon Institute of Technology, Klamath Falls, Oregon.


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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