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Irrigator assistance possible
Kulongoski makes request for disaster determination
by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 1/12/10
Irrigators in the Langell Valley and Horsefly irrigation districts could receive financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture if they incurred heavy losses from a water shutoff this past summer.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski sent a letter to Tom Vilsack, the USDA secretary, last week requesting the agency conduct a natural resource disaster determination in the affected area, where dozens of irrigators lost access to irrigation water from the Clear Lake Reservoir because of a water shortage.
It’s unclear how long it would take the USDA to go through its disaster determination process, but Commissioner Cheryl Hukill said she was glad to see progress on the issue while one irrigation district manager said the assistance would likely be welcomed by individual irrigators.
“When you don’t have any water, it has some pretty severe consequences for people,” said Frank Hammerich, Langell Valley Irrigation District manager.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation shut water off to the two irrigation districts in early July. Irrigators in the affected area were told a shutoff would be necessary earlier that spring.
The Klamath County Board of Commissioners sought a drought declaration from the state because of the shutoff, but it was denied because it did not impact a significant enough portion of the county. That resulted in a meeting with the Oregon Drought Council, when commissioners recommended droughts be based on an impacted watershed and not an entire county.
Mike Carrier, Kulongoski’s natural resources policy adviser, said the governor’s request would not be a drought declaration, but could still provide aid such as low interest USDA loans.
Commissioner Cheryl Hukill said she was pleased with Kulongoski’s request and chalked up the response to the board’s meeting with state drought officials.
“I believe we’ve made some real inroads with helping Klamath County in the future,” she said.
Hammerich said he also appreciates the governor’s efforts and that of the commissioners, as basing drought declarations on watersheds rather than whole counties makes much more sense.
Page Updated: Saturday January 16, 2010 09:21 PM Pacific
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