Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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(Klamath Project) Groundwater program is a go
The Klamath Water and Power Agency has funds to help Klamath Project irrigators draw up to 40,000 acre-feet of groundwater this season.On Monday, the Klamath Water and Power Agency (KWAPA) board of directors voted to include a groundwater program in the 2015 Water Use Mitigation Program (WUMP). The groundwater program will reimburse irrigators for energy costs to pump groundwater, plus $20 per acre-foot.
KWAPA Executive Director Hollie Cannon said the WUMP dryland program — which compensates irrigators for not irrigating fields — had enough funds to idle 35,000 acres; however, Project irrigators only applied to idle 33,095 acres. Cannon said the board does not anticipate all those acres being contracted into the dryland program, which could allow the agency to fully fund the groundwater program.Cannon emphasized that 40,000 acre-feet is a maximum estimate. He said how many acre-feet the groundwater program includes will depend on how many dryland acres are contracted. The groundwater program is only open to irrigators who submitted WUMP applications before the April 17 deadline.
Groundwater levels at riskIvan Gall, an Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) groundwater section manager, said the OWRD recommends irrigators only pump 15,000 acre feet this year. Gall said the recommendation is based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey, and it is intended to help conserve water in the aquifer. “We felt it would minimize any groundwater declines,” Gall said.
Gall said Project irrigators pumped roughly 84,000 acre-feet last year, causing the water table to fall up to 4 feet in some areas. He said pumping another 40,000 acre-feet could cause it to fall further.“I’d expect to see another 1 to 2 feet of decline from that,” Gall said.
At the Monday meeting, the KWAPA board also voted to extend the domestic well mitigation program, which provides aid for homeowners with domestic wells impacted by irrigation groundwater pumping. The program will help homeowners have pumps lowered or wells deepened, Cannon said.The domestic well program will run through 2015 or until the agency depletes the $500,000 allocated for the program — whichever happens first.
Early season pumpingCannon said he is encouraging irrigators to pump early in the season. He said utilizing groundwater instead of surface water will help water managers continue diversions to the Project while maintaining levels in Upper Klamath Lake and flows in the Klamath River required by the joint biological opinion to protect endangered fish.
The 10-year joint biological opinion, drafted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), provides guidelines for water levels required to support threatened coho salmon and endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers in the Klamath Basin.Cannon said in past years, groundwater program participants have also received Pacific Power demand charge. Cannon said KWAPA board members won’t know until May 20 if there is enough funding to pay the demand charge. Cannon said any funds available to help pay the demand charge will be evenly divvied up among groundwater program participants.
ljarrell@heraldandnews . com; @LMJatHandNContact Lacey Jarrell by email or follow her on Twitter @LMJatHandN.
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Page Updated: Saturday April 25, 2015 12:20 PM Pacific
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