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Plan in place to ease moderate drought
Basin irrigation officials say idling will save 10,000 acre-feet of water this summer
by JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 5/31/12
A three-pronged plan to mitigate a moderate drought is in place and now Klamath Basin irrigators are just waiting on the weather.
Irrigation officials unveiled a plan this week to save about 10,000 acre-feet of water by paying farmers and ranchers to leave their crops or pastures dry later in the growing season. There also are plans to pump groundwater and store water above Upper Klamath Lake to ensure producers can irrigate late in the summer.
“I think everybody is doing all they can to stay within the law and make this irrigation season work for everybody,” said Ross Flemming, a Klamath Irrigation District board member and Henley-area farmer who grows potatoes, hay, grain and sod.
The severity of the drought could change with the weather, but Bureau of Reclamation officials predicted earlier this month irrigators on the Klamath Reclamation Project would face a water shortage of about 70,000 acre-feet, roughly one-sixth of their annual demand of about 400,000 acre-feet.
This will be the first year the Klamath Water and Power Agency has offered partial season land idling, said KWAPA executive director Hollie Cannon. Waiting to idle land until late in the season will ensure that those who sign up from the program will be able to produce some crops from their land, he said.
For alfalfa farmers, who cut the perennial forage crop several times throughout the summer, it may mean they get one fewer harvest this summer. For ranchers with irrigated pasture, it may mean they have to feed their herd hay earlier in the season.
“We want as many irrigators receiving water as possible because that’s what creates the economy here,” Cannon said.
The partial-season land idling program will involve at least 8,000 acres, Cannon said. During a more acute drought in 2010, irrigators left more than 43,000 acres dry on the 210,000 acre Project as part of a full-season land-idling program.
In addition to land idling, KWAPA plans to pay irrigators to pump 40,000 acre feet of groundwater. The agency also has contracted with Reclamation to store about 13,000 acre feet of water in diked areas near Agency Lake above Upper Klamath Lake for irrigators to use late in the summer.
“Between those three, we think we will be very close,” to covering the predicted water shortage, Cannon said.
Side Bars
Klamath Water and Power Agency paying irrigators to let land sit idle
The Klamath Water and Power Agency will pay irrigators to idle their land for part of the growing season in order to spare irrigation water for other producers.
The program is first-come, first-served and, the agency is accepting applications now. Payment rates differ based on when irrigators begin idling land and what type of crop they are idling. The earlier they forgo irrigation water, the more they get paid.
Payment rates are prorated from the amount irrigators bid earlier this year to idle their land for the entire season, when it is was believed full- season land idling would be necessary.
The first land idling period begins June 15 and the deadline to apply is Tuesday, June 5.
To be eligible, the parcel of land must cover at least five acres on the Klamath Reclamation Project and receive surface water from Upper Klamath Lake or the Klamath River. The land must be growing crops now and cannot be irrigated with surface or well water through the end of the growing season.
Applications are available at from KWAPA at 735 Commercial St., Suite 4000, by calling 541-850 -2503 or online www.kwapa.com .



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