Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

May 6, 2004


Water Users Meet With State and National Audubon Society Leaders

High-level officials from the national and state offices of the National Audubon Society traveled to the Lower Klamath refuges on Monday to meet with refuge managers, conservation representatives, and local water users. The day tour of the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake national wildlife refuges was organized by refuge manager Ron Cole and his staff, and featured a plane ride over the Basin, presentations by refuge staff, and tours of both refuges, local farms, and refuge lease lands.

John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society, visited the Klamath Basin on Monday, accompanied by Dave Eshbaugh (Executive Director of Audubon Oregon) and Glenn Olson, acting executive director of the California Audubon Society (see inset on page 2 for other tour participants). According to Eshbaugh, Audubon Oregon’s top conservation priority is protecting and restoring the Klamath Basin, a habitat of international importance for millions of birds.

"Within the contiguous United States, the Klamath Basin is probably the most important migratory stopover site on the entire Pacific Flyway," said Eshbaugh. "To achieve our protection and restoration goals, we are developing plans to put forth greater leadership in education, science, and advocacy in the Klamath Basin."

To accomplish this, Audubon Oregon plans to begin offering hands-on, in-the-field experiences in nature to schoolchildren, adults, and seniors in – and visitors to – the Klamath Basin.

"We anticipate that these types of activities will be a precursor to our establishing a permanent Audubon Center in this area, as well as a positive step in nurturing a culture of conservation in the region," Eshbaugh said.

The Klamath Basin is being considered as one of the first Oregon locations for an Audubon Center, a place that would serve as a focal point for community-based conservation activities and as a resource center for people learn how to shape the environmental future of their community. Nationwide, there are 39 established Audubon Centers and another 50 in pre-construction planning.

The Audubon leaders that traveled through the Basin on Monday were impressed with the relationship that exists between agriculture and the national wildlife refuges, a theme that was hammered home in a presentation prepared by U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) refuge managers entitled "Promoting Productive Wetland Habitats and Sustainable Agriculture in California’s Tule Lake Basin". Dave Mauser (USFWS Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge) described recent successes associated with implementing an integrated program of wetlands and croplands to enhance wildlife values, with an emphasis on waterfowl.

"Because of cooperation between landowners and the refuge, we are now implementing successful wetland restoration and enhancement programs," said Mauser. "Waterfowl use of the Tule Lake refuge has increased to levels not seen in approximately 25 years."

Rotating agriculture and wetlands results in early successional wetlands, which are high desirable to shorebirds during spring and fall migration.

Conservationists Show Appreciation for Efforts of Klamath Project Farmers

In the past two weeks, nationally recognized conservation representatives have met with Klamath Project water user representatives to focus on opportunities to improve relationships and work towards meaningful solutions in and near Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Tulelake farmer Rob Crawford, KWUA President Steve Kandra and Executive Director Dan Keppen met with representatives of the Brainerd Foundation last week, and earlier this week Kandra and Keppen participated in a tour of farms and refuges with leading Audubon Society officials (see page 1).

"We are beginning to see more representatives from the conservation community who appear to be willing to work in a collaborative manner with Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers," said Keppen. "We know that extreme elements on both sides of the water management issue will still operate as usual. I’m encouraged that mainstream conservation groups are starting to recognize that Klamath Project landowners share a unique relationship with the refuges, and that they can play a positive role in improving things for farmers and wildlife."

Last week, KWUA met with representatives of the Brainerd Foundation, a Seattle organization involved with ecosystem programs, and toured some of the same agricultural lands visited by the Audubon representatives. One of those properties is farmed by Kandra, who pointed to the first cutting of alfalfa that he annually contributes to waterfowl visiting the adjacent wildlife refuge. Jim Owens, representing the Brainerd Foundation on last week’s tour, remarked that Kandra’s alfalfa field looked as though it had been hit hard by some of the heaviest grazing he had ever seen. Kandra agreed.


Conservationists Show Appreciation for Efforts of Project Farmers (Cont’d)

"Don’t listen to what the radicals claim when it comes to waterfowl and alfalfa," said Kandra. "The birds around here –especially snow geese – can put it away in a hurry."


Visiting Guests – May 3rd Refuge Tour

  • John Flicker, President, National Audubon Society
  • Dave Eshbaugh, Executive Director, Audubon Oregon
  • Glenn Olson, Acting Executive Director, California Audubon
  • Dan Taylor, Vice President for State Programs, California Audubon
  • Peter Stent, rancher and former Audubon board member
  • Patrick Collmer, Manager of Audubon’s Paul L. Wattis Sanctuary.
  • Bill Gaines, Legislative Director, California Waterfowl Association

The Audubon Society visitors were also impressed, especially after Kandra told them that his annual losses to the birds come to around $25,000. Kandra noted that he was happy with what he’d done, and that he wasn’t looking for any compensation, other than acknowledgement for his efforts. Eshbaugh quickly piped up.

"On behalf of the conservation community, I would like to thank you for what your land provides to these birds," he said.

Kandra also showed the group his plans to develop a wetland to treat drainage return flows from Westside Improvement District to Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge Lake Sump 1A.

OWRD Director Paul Cleary Recommended as New PERS Chief

The Chairman of the Board of the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) announced Monday that he will recommend Paul R. Cleary as Executive Director when the PERS Board meets May 11. Cleary currently serves as Director of the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD), where he has played an active role representing the state in Klamath Basin water issues.

Chairman Michael Pittman cited Cleary's quarter-century experience in state government policy development and program administration as reasons for his recommendation. Governor Theodore Kulongoski echoed Pittman's praise for Cleary.

"Paul Cleary will help move PERS from a time of uncertainty forward to a time of reliability," said Gov. Kulongoski. "Paul's extensive experience in government and his track record in management will provide needed stability to PERS."

Cleary, if appointed to the PERS position, is expected to start on or around June 1, 2004. The Director serves at the discretion of the Board and is responsible for the PERS administrative staff.

Mr. Cleary has previously served as Director of the Oregon Division of State Lands; Deputy Director of the Wyoming State Land and Farm Loan Office; and as a natural resource advisor in the Wyoming Governor's Office. He began his professional career at the University of Wyoming's Water Resources Research Institute. He earned his M.S. in Water Resources from the University of Wyoming and B.S. in Biology from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Cleary was a familiar face in the Klamath Basin in recent years, as he oversaw programs that, among other things, provided assistance to develop backup water supplies when Klamath Project deliveries were curtailed in 2001.

Cleary worked closely with the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) and federal water managers to tackle the crisis-driven problems of the area in recent years.

"I have always appreciated the willingness of the KWUA and its members to work with the Water Resources Department in good times and in bad," Cleary said on Tuesday. "You have worked hard to advance practical on-the-ground solutions that serve multiple interests, and to ensure that decisions are informed by the best available science."

Cleary encouraged local water users to continue efforts to find common ground and develop working relationships with other Klamath Basin interests.

To replace Cleary, Gov. Kulongoski has appointed Phil Ward – currently OWRD’s deputy director - as Acting Director of the department.

"Phil Ward brings extensive experience in the natural resources field to the position of Director. With his managerial abilities and substantive background, I am sure that he will hit the ground running," said Governor Kulongoski.

"The Department is in good hands with Phil Ward taking the reins and will continue to support proactive water management and conservation throughout the Klamath Basin," Cleary told KWUA on Tuesday.

KWUA to Participate in U.C. Davis Conference: "Protecting CA Rivers"

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) in June will be represented on the closing panel of a rivers conference hosted by the University of California at Davis. Paul Simmons, KWUA’s legal counsel, will join Holly Doremus, a professor from the UC Davis School of Law, in a panel discussion of Endangered Species Act (ESA) implementation.

Simmons will focus on the concerns Klamath Project water users have had with regards to ESA consultation activities, particularly those that led to the 2001 curtailment of water supplies.

"Through the fog of all the controversy, few people understand how badly the scientific process was broken that year," says Simmons.

Dr. Doremus will assess the broader policy implications associated with recent Klamath ESA developments. The panel will be moderated by Jeff Mount, a professor at UC Davis who also was a member of the National Research Council Committee on Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin.

The one-day conference, scheduled for Wednesday, June 9th, explores laws, cases, polities and scientific approaches that can help protect California’s significant river systems. Entitled "Protecting California’s Rivers: Confluence of Science, Policy & Law", the conference will address several key topics, including:

  • Ecosystem Functions of Rivers;
  • Applying the Public Trust Doctrine to Rivers;
  • Historic Cases in River Protection;
  • Water Acquisitions and Transfers;
  • Innovations and Tools for In-Stream Flows; and
  • Offstream Storage.

Klamath Basin Groundwater Impacts Highlighted in Recent Media Coverage

The Klamath controversy of the week: groundwater.

A front- page article that ran in the May 2nd edition of the Sunday Oregonian has brought new attention to the supply challenges facing local irrigators and has Klamath Project critics renewing calls to eliminate farming in the Basin. "Klamath Wells Deep in Trouble - Klamath groundwater levels fall at alarming rates after the government pays farmers to use reserve wells" proclaimed Sunday’s headline.

Local water users generally agreed with the content of the article, but felt the headline was misleading, since well levels in some areas appeared to first start declining in 2001, after farmers frantically installed new wells – at their own expense, and with uncertain success – in response to the federal government’s curtailment of Upper Klamath Lake water supplies. Individual farmers were not paid to pump groundwater until 2003, in order to meet the requirements of the Klamath Project biological opinion developed by NOAA Fisheries for coho salmon. Most Project irrigators believe the coho biological opinion's rigid water bank schedule, which steps up the magnitude of the bank each year between 2003-2006, regardless of actual hydrology, is difficult to justify. They say this type of water bank does not reflect the intent of a water bank proposal developed by water users (see inset, page 5), or of the original U.S. Bureau of Reclamation assessment, which proposed implementation of a water bank in drier years, not every year. 


The original Oregonian story morphed into widespread national Associated Press coverage. An editorial in the Medford Mail Tribune later in the week used the issue to renew calls for a government buy out of Klamath Project farms.

KWUA’s Position on Groundwater Pumping Associated with the Water Bank

Developed 4/4/02 by KWUA Water Bank and

Supply Enhancement Committee Prior to Issuance of 2002-2012 NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion

Any proposed water bank would be temporary and activated in normal, dry and critically dry years only, with a total contribution target ranging from 0 to 90,0000 acre-feet per year, increasing in drier years. For a maximum water bank target of 90,000 acre-feet to be developed within the Klamath Project, at least three primary tools would be used. Approximately 25,000 acre-feet of water would be developed first from surface storage. Additional water bank needs would be fulfilled through a combination of temporary land idling and adaptively managed groundwater substitution. Initially, 25,000 acre-feet of groundwater substitution water would be contributed to the bank and up to 40,000 acre-feet would be acquired through temporary idling of Project lands, not to exceed 20,000 acres in any year. As groundwater management and knowledge of the underlying groundwater resources improves, the groundwater substitution portion could be expanded to de-emphasize reliance on land idling.

Groundwater under this program will be used only for irrigation purposes - Groundwater development related to this program will first be used to offset the need for idling ground. Through close coordination with other groundwater programs, effort must be directed to better define local and regional groundwater flow direction, discharge and recharge characteristics to ensure that the cumulative effects of pumping do not impair aquifer conditions.

Coordination with States and other Groundwater Management Entities - it is essential that this program be developed in close coordination with the states of California and Oregon, local groundwater management entities, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Work to ensure that the program avoids or minimizes impacts to third parties.



Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - Klamath Fish Passage Technical Committee. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. USBR Klamath Basin Area Office, 6600 Washburn Way, Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004 – KWUA Executive Committee Meeting. 6:00 p.m. KWUA Office, 2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3, Klamath Falls.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004 – KWUA Power Committee Meeting. 7:00 p.m. KWUA Office, 2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3, Klamath Falls.

Thursday, May 20, 2004 - Chiloquin Dam Fish Passage Collaborator Meeting. 10:00 a.m., United Methodist Church, Chiloquin, Oregon.

Friday, May 21, 2004 – Trinity River Tour. Hosted by the Association of California Water Agencies, the tour will start and finish in Redding. Contact John Chandler at (916)-441-4545 for further information.


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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