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House committee approves Klamath Project water bill
by STEPHEN FLOYD Herald and New Feb 20, 2018
SALEM — A bill that would allow Klamath Project irrigators to transfer water claims from one property to another has received a committee endorsement as it makes its way through the Legislature.
House Bill 4016 received a recommendation for approval Friday from the House Energy and Environment Committee and is now before the House Rules Committee.
The bill was submitted Feb. 5 by the Energy and Environment Committee, whose membership includes local Rep. E. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls. Supporters have until March 11, when the current session ends, to pass the bill through the House and Senate.
HB 4016 would allow irrigators in the Klamath Project to temporarily transfer water claims between properties within the same irrigation district. The rate, duty and total acres watered could not exceed those allowed by the transferred claim, and water must be used for the original purpose described in the claim.
The Oregon Water Resources Department could revert the claim back to the original property if such conditions were violated, or if transfer of the claim would injure existing claims or water rights. Property owners would be required to keep accurate and complete records of water usage to ensure the terms of the transferred claim were being honored.
The bill would take effect immediately upon being signed by the governor. A sunset provision would terminate the bill Jan. 2, 2026.
Officials hope HB 4016 will help claim holders affected by adverse water conditions who may not be able to irrigate all properties during a season. Derrick DeGroot, chair of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners, said the bill is necessary for local irrigators given exceptionally dry conditions expected this this summer.
“We know water is going to be impacted this year because of the drought,” he said.
DeGroot said HB 4016 would help irrigators maintain some agricultural production despite the need to reduce water usage. He said the latest measurements by the state placed local water and snow levels at 28 percent of normal, though snow and rain have since fallen in the Klamath Basin and likely brought that number up.
DeGroot also said commissioners are still planning to declare a drought emergency, which would make state and federal resources available to mitigate losses to water users. Though they planned to declare a drought earlier this month, commissioners have since delayed doing so to ensure access to emergency resources does not expire before the end of the irrigation season.
“We’re being very pragmatic and making sure that when we do declare the drought it’s done so in a way that serves our constituents the best,” said DeGroot. “…This is something we’re going to be very aggressive with to make sure we take care of the Basin.”
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Page Updated: Saturday February 24, 2018 06:52 PM Pacific
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