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Klamath Water Deal Faces First Big Test

March 4, 2010, Oregon Public Broadcast BY ROB MANNING

Farmers and environmentalists signed a deal just weeks ago to manage the Klamath basin’s water. Now the agreement faces its first big test. State officials say water levels in Klamath Lake and the nearby rivers are nearly 30 percent below normal. That means there’s unlikely to be enough water for both endangered fish and irrigated farmland.

Governor Ted Kulongoski is planning a visit to Klamath County next week. And he’s asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to connect him with the federal officials responsible for allocating water for fish.

Mike Carrier advises the governor on natural resource issues. He says the governor will likely declare a drought, shortly after local officials request it.

Carrier: “We expect to receive it on about March 10th. He’s convened the Water Availability Task Force and the Oregon Drought Council, to consider that request, and he will act on it just as soon as they review it. Part of that would be him requesting a federal drought disaster declaration.”

The governor’s letter also asks Interior officials not to wait for Congress to ratify the recent basin agreement, before beginning work on a long-term drought plan.

Carrier says the governor plans to have state agencies intensify services in drought-affected areas. But he says the state doesn’t have the money to go beyond what agencies have in their budgets.
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