Klamath Water Users Association
March 5, 2004
for Additional Species Listings on the
One day after announcing that a
federal court had determined that the federal government must reconsider
listing the green sturgeon on the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA),
environmental activists called for the government to add another
The legal challenge was brought
by the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Center for
Biological Diversity (CBD), and Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC).
Already, coho salmon are protected by the ESA, which has led NMFS to
develop regulations that reallocate water away from the federal Klamath
Project to meet disputed flow standards for the coho. The sturgeon lawsuit
was initiated by environmental activists intent on similarly providing
more water for the bottom-feeding fish.
“Green sturgeon were among the
fish that perished in the large fish kill that occurred in the
The day after the court decision
was announced, ONRC and eleven other environmental activist organizations
filed a 60 day notice of intent to sue the US Fish & Wildlife Service,
under the ESA, over the agency’s failure to take federally required steps
to protect four species of lampreys as threatened or endangered. The
eel-like fish inhabit large streams up and down the
According to a 1991 report
prepared by the Klamath River Basin Fisheries Task Force, populations of
Pacific lamprey trapped above
“Pacific lamprey have co-adapted with their prey, which can include
salmon as well as other marine fish species,” said ONRC’s Wood. “Of the
four lamprey species being petitioned by conservationists, only the
Pacific and river lampreys ever produce adults which prey on other fish
during these lampreys’ shorter marine life stages,” he said.
Reimbursements Delivered to Klamath Project Irrigation Districts
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
this week began delivering reimbursement checks to irrigators in the
"This is great news for the
farmers and ranchers of the Basin," said Walden. "The delivery of
reimbursement checks to the
Last year, Walden made a formal
request for the funds needed to reimburse
Dave Solem, Manager of the
Klamath Irrigation District, applauded the release of the operation and
maintenance reimbursements and praised the Klamath congressional
delegation for its work on behalf of Klamath irrigators.
"We couldn't be more pleased with
the release of these reimbursements," said Solem. "This has always been a
matter of simple fairness, and I'm glad the irrigators who paid the
operation and maintenance fees will finally get back the money they
deserve. We sincerely appreciate the tenacity shown by Congressman Walden,
Senator Wyden and Senator Smith in pursuing these funds."
Solem emphasized the importance
of the reimbursements, not just to the farmers, but to the irrigation
districts, as well.
“Even when the farmers learned
that they weren’t going to receive water in 2001, they still paid their
O&M fees to the district,” he said. “This kept the district’s doors open,
allowed 25 employees to keep their jobs, and supported district purchases
of fuel and materials that year. The bottom line is, even though the
reimbursement goes back to the farmers, and they can break even, the real
beneficiaries are the irrigation districts.”
The reimbursements will be delivered this week to Klamath Irrigation District (ID), Klamath Drainage District, Ady District Improvement Co., Enterprise ID, Pine Grove ID, Malin ID, Shasta View ID, Midland District Improvement Co., Pioneer District Improvement Co., Plevna District Improvement Co., Poe Valley ID, Sunnyside ID, and Van Brimmer Ditch Co.
- Source (in part): Rep.
Walden Press Release -
Klamath Basin Efforts Noted as Walden Receives Private
Property Rights Award
U.S. Congressman Greg Walden
(R-OR) has been honored as a “Champion of Private Property Rights” by the
League of Private Property Voters (LPPV) for his votes in the U.S. House
of Representatives during the first session of the 108th Congress.
Lawmakers with an 80 percent or higher rating received the award of the
LPPV, which evaluated 12 key votes related to the property rights of
American citizens. Walden, who scored 100%, has received the award each
year he has served in Congress.
Votes scored by the League of
Private Property Voters included supporting the Healthy Forests
Restoration Act (HR 1904), which Walden co-authored, and opposing an
amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would have limited
farming on wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin of southern Oregon and
northern California. For two years Walden – along with U.S. Reps.
Doolittle and Herger - has led the opposition to this amendment, which has
been soundly defeated each time.
“I’m always honored to be recognized by the League of Private Property Voters as a defender of the private property rights of the American people,” said Walden. “Safeguarding property rights is a responsibility that I take extremely seriously. Private property ownership is one of the most fundamental rights we enjoy as citizens, and private property owners are some of the most responsible and conscientious stewards of our land. Several of the votes used as the basis of this award – such as the Healthy Forests bill and the assault on farming in the Klamath Basin – were critical to the livelihood and safety of so many rural Oregonians, so this is a special honor.”
- Source: Rep. Walden Press
Hoopa Valley Tribe Reacts Coolly to U.S. Trinity Settlement Proposal
A proposal offered up this week
by federal officials to settle contentious flow issues on the Trinity
River – the largest Klamath River tributary – received an initially cool
reception from downstream tribal interests. The Hoopa Valley Tribe – which
believes more water should be returned to the Trinity River by Central
Valley Project irrigators – said the package favored farmers and was
similar to a settlement proposed by the Westlands Water District last
year, which the tribe rejected.
"The proposal was essentially
another regurgitation of a similar proposal from Westlands," Mike Orcutt
of the Hoopa Valley Tribe told the New York Times.
The plan – announced Wednesday by
U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary Bennett Raley – is built upon the
premise of “adaptive management”, where actual hydrologic conditions would
allow flow levels to be managed accordingly. It would also establish a
20,000 acre-ft water bank and set aside an emergency fall reserve of up to
50,000 acre-feet of water, which could be sent downstream to assist with
fish migration, if need be.
“We give a lot of credit to Interior for pushing this forward,” said Tupper Hull, spokesman for Westlands, to KWUA yesterday. “The focus appears to be on flexibility and science-based management, which the Klamath watershed and the entire West desperately need. It looks at a range of science-driven actions – not just flows - that will benefit fish. We have some concerns about the specifics of the adaptive management criteria, but we look forward to learning more about Interior’s plan.”
ODA Offers Detailed Help on Pesticide Buffer Ruling: No Klamath Implications
-Source: ODA “Story of the Week”-
Water Allocation Briefs Prepared by OSU
The Klamath Water Users
Association (KWUA) earlier this week sent a letter to Oregon State
University (OSU) that outlines the association’s concerns with two briefs
recently prepared by OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. The letter
is printed in its entirety below.
Mr. Bill Braunworth
Assistant Extension Agriculture Program Leader
College of Agricultural Sciences
138 D Strand Ag Hall
Corvallis, Oregon 97331-2201
Dear Mr. Braunworth:
On behalf of the Klamath Water
Users Association (KWUA), I would like to thank you for Oregon State
University’s (OSU) continued attention to the water resources challenges
we face here in the Klamath Basin. In particular, we are grateful for the
efforts of local university extension officials like Ron Hathaway, Ken
Rykbost, and Rodney Todd, who understand the dynamics of the local
community and truly want to make our agricultural economy stronger and
more viable. I am writing today in regards to two recent “briefs”
published by William Jaeger, associate professor of agricultural and
resource economics at OSU.
KWUA is a non-profit corporation
that has represented Klamath Irrigation Project farmers and ranchers since
1953. Our members include rural irrigation districts and other public
agencies, as well as private concerns operating on both sides of the
California-Oregon border. Last January 27th, we were surprised
to learn that Mr. Jaeger and his staff
two new briefs on the economic value of irrigation water and the potential
benefits of water markets in the Upper Klamath Basin. While we support
OSU’s willingness to investigate opportunities to solve Basin challenges,
Mr. Jaeger’s recent work, unfortunately, is only the latest in a series of
actions that have emanated from Corvallis, with virtually no opportunities
for those most affected by these activities – the ranchers and farmers of
the Klamath Project – to provide meaningful input. In the case of Mr.
Jaeger’s two briefs, we were disappointed that our association – which
spent thousands of dollars and over 1,000 man-hours in 2002 preparing a
water bank proposal – was not contacted to provide assistance or review on
this subject topic.
know that your efforts are well intended, but, as we repeatedly predicted
to you in 2002, selective material pulled from several recent OSU reports
has provided the most vocal critics of Klamath Project agriculture with
ammunition that has materialized in hostile press releases and in
litigation driven by these critics. Despite meeting directly with you and
your staff in 2002 on this very issue, we continue to feel that we may be
working at cross- purposes with your department, a concern that we would
like to soon remedy.
the present, this letter outlines concerns we have with the two briefs
prepared by Mr. Jaeger.
Brief #1: The Value of Irrigation
Water Varies Enormously Across the Upper Klamath Basin
We agree with the following
general conclusions made in Brief #1: The value of water per acre (or per
acre-foot) is far greater for growers on high value land, and more
economically optimum decisions can be made if all irrigated lands in the
watershed are included in the program. The brief correctly states that the
value of water varies enormously across the Upper Klamath Basin and infers
that irrigation water is the primary source of land value. While
generally correct, this assumption does not take into consideration such
things as recreation value, lifestyle choices, proximity to Klamath Falls,
scenic value, wildlife, and other uses.
Water Value Assumptions
We question the brief’s
implication that the figures used represent the actual value of water.
The methods employed in this brief are much too simplistic to be taken
seriously as actual values or even relative values. The brief’s primary
premise appears to be one where everything boils down to the dollar value
of the land, and all other findings and conclusions are inferred from
that. While this may be useful in drawing general relative conclusions, we
do not believe terms like “net revenue per acre” are actually identical to
value of water. Rather, it is an estimate of implied productivity from
the land values.
Other Factors to Consider When Assessing Value of Water
The brief states, “We can infer
that the difference between the purchase price of similar irrigated and
nonirrigated land reflects the benefits from irrigation.” This is only
one of the factors impacting the value of the land, as further detailed
The brief discusses the value of the water but does not
address the impact on other businesses, suppliers, dealers, tax revenue,
loss of employees, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.
The brief does not address the impact on the value of land
if there is a one-year contract vs. a multiple year contract. The farmer
may have a personal right to the funds; thus, this may impact the
owner/lender relationship due to an adverse impact on the land value. A
one-year contract would have a smaller impact than a longer-term
contract. A property with a contract in place may be more difficult to
finance depending on the assignability of the contract.
For such a preliminary assessment, a broad-brush
approach may need to be taken. However, the reader should be warned that
this approach does not consider the financial situation of various
producers. The study brief suggests that a 6% return on the difference in
value between irrigated and nonirrigated land may be fair. However, the
situation of the individual producers is not taken into consideration.
Some are better managers, and therefore able to consistently produce a
larger, higher quality crop and, most likely, more profit. Others have a
higher debt to service, and a capitalization rate approach may not cover
their fixed expenses. Still an irrigation district that has a higher cost
to deliver the water may serve others. All of these - and many more -
factors make it difficult to determine the economic impact that the loss
of irrigation water will have on each individual and the community as a
Again, Brief #1 has merit because it illustrates that
the value of water is likely to vary within the Basin. However, the
conclusions derived from this brief appear to go too far by estimating the
range of values, or more critically, by implying that these figures
reflect the actual value of water in one region or on a given soil type.
The bottom line to us is this: Our current agricultural systems in the
Basin cannot work without water. Only the operator – based on the nature
of his / her unique position - can determine the value of continuing an
Potential Benefits of Water Banks and Water Transfers
We have some serious concerns with Brief #2, entitled
“Potential Benefits of Water Banks and Water Transfers”. While the topic
of this brief is “water banking”, the discussion does not focus in detail
on the actual water bank programs that have been implemented in the
Klamath Basin for the past two years. Instead, it proposes what appears to
be a theoretic exchange program occurring between Project irrigators and
water users above Upper Klamath Lake. As correctly noted in this brief,
such a paradigm cannot exist until the water rights certification process
if completed, which many legal experts believe will not occur for ten
years or more.
The description of the 2003 Klamath Project water
bank presented in this brief is also not entirely accurate, as noted
KWUA Role in 2003 Pilot
The 2003 Klamath Project water bank was initiated by
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), not the Klamath Water
Users Association, as noted in the brief. KWUA in March 2003 announced it
would support, and assist the Department of Interior in the implementation
of, a Klamath Project Pilot Environmental Water Bank in 2003 to provide
over 50,000 acre-feet of additional water for environmental purposes.
While noting that Reclamation’s pilot program does not closely resemble
KWUA’s vision for a long-term bank, water users agreed last year to
continue to work with Reclamation and Interior to complete a long-term
water bank proposal.
Reclamation’s 10-year Biological Assessment (BA)
developed in February 2002 proposed an environmental water bank through
which willing buyers and sellers will provide additional water supplies
for fish and wildlife purposes and to enhance tribal trust resources.
Reclamation’s BA estimated the size of the water bank to be up to 100,000
acre feet – depending on water year type - with “deposits” coming from a
variety of sources, including on-farm storage, temporary crop idling, and
Water users committed to pursue developing a bank
with Reclamation in January 2002. At that time, KWUA was asked by
Reclamation to develop a Project-wide water bank to assist with meeting
environmental water demands in drier years. KWUA’s Water Bank and Supply
Enhancement Committee (Committee), chaired by Malin farmer Dave Cacka,
held over 30 meetings in 2002-03 to develop the 65-page report/proposal
for a long-term water bank, which differs substantially from the pilot
water bank implemented by Reclamation in 2003. Reclamation chose not to
recommended proposal, primarily due to concerns
regarding supply certainty.
Certainty of water supplies is a key principle
imbedded in KWUA’s draft long-term water bank proposal. Endangered Species
Act - driven limits on Upper Klamath Lake mean there are no guarantees
that water banked or transferred will in fact be available should
hydrologic conditions or high down stream flow requirements “bust” the
lake limits. This is similar in concept to a bank giving out money until
it is gone, and then sending customers home when they try to withdraw
their savings. Local water users in 2002 insisted that, in exchange for
voluntary participation in a Project water bank, 100% of the irrigation
demand for remaining Project acreage would be satisfied, season-long.
While we expressed cautious support for Reclamation’s
2003 pilot program, we still see the Project water bank as one element in
a package. Other measures – like development of new, permanent storage
facilities and acknowledgement of restoration benefits - will assist in
minimizing, and ultimately eliminating the need for - water bank
requirements in the future. Water users also believe that the water bank
concept proposed in the coho salmon biological opinion must be modified
before a long-term water bank can be finalized. The concept of providing
flexibility in operations management by relaxing rigid lake levels or
stream flow requirements is one that has long been pushed by local water
2003 Klamath Project Pilot Water
Bank Key Facts
We have questions about some of the statements – as
well as important omissions - made in this brief. For example, based on
information provided to us from Reclamation, more than 14,000 acres of
idled land were enrolled in the water bank, not 12,000 acres, as noted in
the brief. Also, we saw no mention made of the groundwater substitution
component of the water bank, which essentially resulted in forbearance of
Klamath Project water on over 11,000 acres of additional land. We have
prepared the following information for your consideration in the event
that further briefs are planned on Klamath Project water banking issues.
Contracts were entered into Reclamation and Klamath
Project landowners for the 2003 Project Pilot Water Bank. The following
figures, provided by Reclamation, summarize the program that was
implemented. The pilot project water bank was intended to help meet the
environmental water targets specified in the 2002-2012 Klamath Project
Contracts Signed…………………………..… 223
Acreage Enrolled (Total)……………….…14,456
Acreage Enrolled (Total)…..……………...11,133
Acreage Enrolled (California)………..…….5,133
Acreage Enrolled (Oregon)………….……..6,000
We believe the current brief should be withdrawn and
modified to explain that the concept proposed by Mr. Jaeger appears to be
based on economic theory, rather than a summary of what actually happened
with the 2003 pilot water bank. While his approach to the water bank
appears to be driven by his assumptions for pricing irrigated land (see
Brief #1) and the theory that a Klamath Basin water market can be driven
by competitive market forces, it simply does not address what actually
happened in 2003 in the Upper Klamath Basin. In that case, a price per
unit of environmental water was developed, based on similar programs
developed in the western United States.
KWUA in 2002-03 evaluated and assessed similar water
purchase programs conducted in the West in order to use those experiences
to benefit the 2003 pilot water bank program. Various experiences
included the following:
Based on our assessment of these similar programs, it
was clear that unique and individual circumstances drive the overall water
pricing for the various programs, but that a price of $75 per acre-ft was
justified, and agreed upon in 2003.
Coordination Between OSU and KWUA
We remain perplexed by your department’s apparent
hesitation to work directly with the individuals who best understand
demand reduction programs in the Klamath Basin – the board members,
producers and district managers that comprise the membership of our
association. Further, our engineering consultant – MBK Engineers of
Sacramento – has on-the-ground experience with actual administration of
water banking programs in California. I personally was also involved with
some of these programs when I was working in Sacramento for Reclamation
and Sacramento Valley irrigation districts. While theoretical exercises
are interesting to ponder, we have found that empirical results derived
from working with people who are actually involved with project
implementation provides an invaluable means of applying “lessons learned”
to future endeavors.
Again, we view the water bank as one element of an overall approach. A part of that approach must also
be the re-introduction of flexibility in annual operating procedures to ensure that water supply
certainty requirement is met. The biological opinions and Project operations plans must
recognize variability, and incorporate flexibility. As previously stated, local water users view the
environmental Water Bank as an interim measure that can be employed to compensate irrigators in drier years. Ultimately, the legitimate water
demands of the Klamath Basin can best be satisfied through the development
of new water storage facilities. We believe Reclamation must move with all
possible haste to undertake feasibility studies authorized by the Klamath
Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2000.
I hope you will understand that these comments are
intended to be constructive. We believe that improved coordination
regarding OSU researchers and the local irrigation community can only
further enhance what we both seek: realistic and effective solutions to
the resources challenges we face in the Klamath Basin.
I look forward to your response to our concerns.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Thursday, March 11, 2004. Water Education
Foundation Executive Briefing. Radisson Hotel, Sacramento, California.
Wednesday, March 16, 2004. KWUA Power
Committee Meeting. 3:00 p.m. KWUA Office, 2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3,
Wednesday, March 17, 2004. KWUA Executive Committee Meeting. 2:00 p.m. KWUA Office, 2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3, Klamath Falls.
Klamath Water Users
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