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Irrigation season delayed

H&N photo by Gary Thain
Debris clogs the Southwell Check Gate at the start of B Canal near Reeder Road on Wednesday. The wet spring has prevented canals from being cleaned, delaying the Klamath Basin’s traditional April 1 start of irrigation season.

March 30, 2006 by STEVE KADEL  H&N Staff Writer

Wet soil conditions are worrying Klamath Basin farmers because they can't begin planting crops.

“We're past the point of moisture being good,” said Bob Gasser of Basin Fertilizer and Chemical Co. “Onions are supposed to be planted in the next three weeks, but we can't get into the fields.

“If you can tell me it will dry out and be OK the rest of spring, that would be fine. But now we're in crunch time when a lot of prep work needs to be done.”

Wet ground has delayed Saturday's traditional April 1 opening of the Basin's irrigation season. The A Canal was scheduled to start flowing this weekend, but officials are waiting until Monday to assess the situation.

“We're up in the air about when it's going to start,” said Dave Solem, manager of Klamath Irrigation District.

Canals and culverts need to be cleaned of debris before water begins running. However, Solem said, ditches are still too muddy to get the work done.

“In the long term it's a good thing, but folks are very anxious to get out and get their fields planted,” Solem said. “That isn't happening. Even the grass isn't growing.”

Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association understands the concern.

“It's a Catch-22,” he said. “We're never going to complain too much about (excessive) water, but when this time of year rolls around these guys get pretty anxious.”

Ed Bair raises potatoes, grain and hay. He agrees the soil is wet, although he doesn’t consider it critical at this point.

“If the weather straightens around, we’ll be OK,” he said. “Last year we had a late wet spring. March is a month that can bring us any kind of weather.” 

Lynn Long, who farms wheat, barley and oats just north of the state line, called conditions “favorable” because of an abundance of moisture. 

“It’s a little early for planting season,” he said. “I have a tractor working today getting a seed bed ready for planting. I like to see this higher-than-normal precipitation. Hopefully it will translate into water for irrigation later this year.” 

Long said he’s more concerned about a federal judge’s decision on Monday than he is about soil conditions. 

He was referring to U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong’s ruling that put a Klamath River water allocation plan into effect immediately rather than over a five-year period. It could mean withholding water to irrigators if river flows get low enough to hurt coho salmon. 

“That casts a very dark shadow over the Klamath Basin,” Long said. “It way overshadows the other factors we’re looking at on the farm today.”




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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