Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

April 9, 2004

Reclamation Rolls Out 2004 Klamath Project Ops Plan at KWUA Meeting

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) on Wednesday rolled out its plan for operating the Klamath Project in 2004. This year’s plan –which was presented at a public meeting hosted by the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) – contains important agency commitments that should minimize the potential for the types of management crises that occurred in 2003, when the Project was nearly shut down for a week in late June:

  • Water "spilled" above the requirements set for Iron Gate Dam will be credited towards the 75,000 acre-ft environmental water bank; and
  • Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) levels will be governed by the use of a "curved" function that is intended to eliminate the abrupt change in lake level requirements in instances where projected inflows differ substantially from those predicted.

Klamath Project irrigators in late June 2003 experienced a roller coaster ride of emotion as growing concerns over plummeting Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) levels led federal officials to take drastic action regarding Project diversions. Early on the morning of June 25th, Reclamation officials told local irrigators that UKL diversions to the Project later in the day would be shut down for a minimum of 5 days. By day’s end, after further consideration of the dire ramifications associated with such a move, Reclamation backed off its initial request and instead notified farmers to continue their efforts to reduce diversions from the lake.

Sabo explained to an audience of over 100 people that the 2004 Operations Plan provides an estimate of Project water supply and is intended as a planning aid for irrigators, Tribes, wildlife refuges, and other parties. As of Wednesday, snow pack stood at 92% of normal and the estimated inflow into Upper Klamath Lake for irrigation delivery will be 355,000 acre-feet. Supplies out of Clear Lake and Gerber Reservoir to east side irrigators are estimated to be 71,300 acre-feet. The refuges are expected to receive at least 25,000 acre-feet of water, due to a "below-average" water year type classification for both lake levels and river flows.

Sabo also spent time on Wednesday outlining the 2004 Environmental Water Bank. This year, 75,000 acre-feet of banked water will be generated through idling of approximately 3,000 acres of Project farmland, groundwater substitution from Project landowners, storage on the national wildlife refuge and Agency Lake Ranch, and idling of over 10,000 acres of rangeland in the Wood River Valley.

As previously noted, spill from UKL will also contribute to the 75,000 acre-ft water bank target. As long as Iron Gate Dam releases, beginning on April 1 and continuing throughout the irrigation season, comply with agreed-upon flow schedules, regardless of whether spill conditions contributed to achieving those flows, Reclamation will have fulfilled its river flow obligations. Last year, downstream interests argued that, due to high inflows and surging Klamath River flows resulting from a very wet spring, water bank flows intended for spring months should be rescheduled for use later in the summer. The schedule they advocated would take the water bank flows that would have

been used in April and May and "save" those flows


KWUA Representatives Update Community on Association Activities

While the focus of Wednesday evening’s public meeting was on the 2004 Klamath Project Operations Plan, several water user representatives provided the local community with an update on Klamath Water User Association (KWUA) activities. KWUA President Steve Kandra reminded the audience that April 6th was the three- year anniversary of the federal government’s announcement that Project supplies from Upper Klamath Lake would be curtailed to meet the alleged needs of sucker fish and coho salmon.

"We’ve come a long way since 2001, and this year, KWUA will celebrate its 50th annual meeting in July," said Kandra. "I’m hopeful that we’ll be around to celebrate our 100th annual meeting."

Kandra, KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen, and KWUA Public Relations Committee Chair Rob Crawford all emphasized the positive, proactive efforts that the association is involved with. The apparent improved public acceptance that a watershed-wide approach is needed to fix the problems of the Klamath River was a consistent talking point throughout the evening.

"We’ve turned the corner," said Crawford. "People are starting to understand that continued focus on the Klamath Project alone will not solve our environmental challenges."

KWUA Committee Chairs Dave Solem and Lynn Long also provided updates of science / legal and power matters, respectively. Keppen emphasized the federal commitment to the Klamath Basin, where over $260 million will be spent in three years, assuming President Bush’s fiscal year 2005 budget request is met by Congress. He expressed "puzzlement" over claims made by critics of the Bush Administration that science has been discarded for politics in environmental decisions.

"What we’ve seen in the Klamath Basin in the past two years defies these flawed claims, said Keppen. "The Bush Administration in 2001 inherited biological opinions that shut down our family farms. In order to sort things out, the Secretary of Interior later in the year asked the premier independent science body in the land – the National Academy of Sciences - to assess what happened and to provide long-term recommendations. With recommendations in hand, the Administration in its FY 2005 budget request, asked for $105 million to tackle programs throughout the watershed, consistent with the National Academy findings. So – tell me again - what’s wrong with this approach? The answer is – nothing. It’s how you get business done."

Barry Norris, an engineer with the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD), traveled to Klamath Falls from Salem to update the audience on OWRD’s efforts in the Klamath Basin, which have focused on studying groundwater conditions, assisting Reclamation with review of water bank groundwater applications, and implementing Governor Kulongoski’s drought declaration for Klamath County. Norris thanked landowners for

allowing access to their wells and for contributing to the success of OWRD groundwater studies.

Chris Karas of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also provided a brief overview of the Conservation Implementation Program, which is intended to serve as a mechanism by which the participants can implement actions fish recovery actions.

NRCS Meets With Local Producers to Discuss Klamath Conservation Program

Heated questions from Oregon producers were directed at representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) at a meeting hosted by the Oregon Wheat Growers League (OWGL) earlier this week. OWGL, responding to concerns voiced by grain growers in Klamath County, arranged for NRCS officials to interact directly with local producers to address implementation of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in the Klamath Basin.

The 2002 Farm Bill authorized $50 million to develop EQIP on-farm conservation projects in the Klamath Basin. In recent months, many Oregon producers have perceived that their brethren on the other side of the state line were getting conservation projects completed at a much faster rate. At Tuesday’s meeting in Klamath Falls, it became apparent that discrepancies exist between the two states relative to timeliness of project completion and the types of projects that have been funded. Kevin Conroy (Klamath NRCS) and Bob Graham (Oregon NRCS State Director) explained that complying with Oregon laws regarding cultural resources and environmental compliance is more challenging and that this was partly responsible for some of the delays. For example, because much of the area around Tulelake, California was once submerged under water, the potential for disturbing cultural artifacts there is much less than in Oregon.

The NRCS officials noted that 214 applications for EQIP were submitted on the Oregon side, while 600 were submitted in California. Graham committed to improving communications, apprising landowners early on as to the potential success of applications, and developing a more effective local advisory group.for use in late summer months. KWUA on May 20, 2003 warned Reclamation in a letter that, "shifting a new, higher demand to later in the year may lead to an unnecessary water conflict".

NOAA Fisheries in an April 2, 2004 letter to Reclamation apparently agrees with Reclamation’s decision to credit spills towards the water bank.

Reclamation has also reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on improving management of UKL levels. The lake elevation operational criteria contained in the Project Operations Plan specify certain elevations at certain time steps (end-of-the-month). During Project operations in 2002 and 2003, Reclamation found that transitioning from one time step to the next succeeding step resulted in abrupt changes in elevations, especially when the water year type was changed to either a wetter or drier year type after April 1. Such abrupt changes were at times viewed as being adverse to the lake resources. For 2004 operations, Reclamation developed a curve, rather than abrupt steps, to permit a smoother transition of lake elevations from one time step to the next. The curve was developed in consultation with USFWS, Tribes and water users. A similar curve is being developed for river flows but will not likely be available for use during 2004.

Sabo on Wednesday acknowledged that, while no one is happy with the current biological opinions, Reclamation and the fishery agencies are working to provide more flexibility to meet all needs.

"I am cautiously optimistic that this year will be an improvement over 2003," Sabo told the audience.


USFWS Releases Draft Economic Impact Study for Proposed Bull Trout Habitat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) last week released a draft analysis of the potential economic impacts of a proposal to designate critical habitat for bull trout in the Columbia and Klamath river basins. Bull trout are protected under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species. In 2002, in accordance with a court settlement, the USFWS proposed to designate critical habitat for the species.

The draft economic analysis, prepared by Bioeconomics Incorporated of Missoula, Montana, estimates that protecting bull trout and their habitat in the Columbia and Klamath basins could potentially have economic impacts of $230 million to $300 million over the next 10 years (about $23 million to $30 million per year), mostly on Federal lands. The critical habitat proposal for the Columbia River Basin includes parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The proposal for bull trout in the Klamath River Basin includes a small part of the Klamath basin in Oregon.  The draft economic analysis does not separate costs associated with the designation of critical habitat from those already incurred by the listing of bull trout in the Columbia and Klamath basins in 1998.

The draft analysis will be available for public comment until May 5, 2004. A notice of Availability of the draft Economic Analysis was published in the Federal Register. The Notice and the draft Economic Analysis, Appendix, and Summary are posted at http://pacific.fws.gov/bulltrout/.

KWUA Representatives Meet with Commercial Fishing Interests


KWUA President Steve Kandra and Executive Director Dan Keppen on Monday met with commercial fishing representatives in Sacramento to further discussions between the groups that began in August 2003. The fishermen were in town as part of weeklong activities surrounding meetings of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC). Kandra and Keppen spent 2 ½ hours Monday morning meeting with representatives of several key fishing groups:

  • Fishermen’s Marketing Association
  • Port of Brookings Harbor
  • Klamath Management Zone Fisheries Coalition
  • Oregon South Coast Fishermen, Inc.
  • Oregon Salmon Commission
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Discussions focused on the importance of the Klamath Management Zone to fishing communities in southern Oregon and northern California. Upon conclusion of the meeting, it was decided that a larger group of farmers and fishermen will meet this summer with the intent of developing a position paper that outlines common interests and proposed actions that will benefit salmon and local economies.


Wednesday, April 14, 2004 – KWUA Executive Committee Meeting. 6:00 p.m. KWUA Office, 2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3, Klamath Falls.




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

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