Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Klamath Water Users
Association/KWUA activities and accomplishments
Phone (541) 883-6100 Fax (541) 883-8893 ~ 2312 South Sixth Street, Suite A, Klamath Falls, Oregon 97601
September 30, 2021
At the direction of KWUA leadership, staff has completed this overview of KWUA’s work. The information is adapted and updated from a memorandum sent to the KWUA and Klamath Irrigation District boards in February of this year.
We identify below some concrete examples of recent and ongoing beneficial activities. That information is followed by an itemization of representative activities during the past two calendar years.
Specific Beneficial Actions with Long-Term and Ongoing Value
The "no call" or "stipulated agreement." In the Amended and Corrected Findings of Fact and Order of Determination (ACFFOD) in the Klamath Basin Adjudication, Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) approved water right claims on behalf of the Klamath Tribes for water elevations in Upper Klamath Lake. If Klamath Project diversions were regulated in order to provide these elevations, there would be massive shortages nearly every year. Due to the work of KWUA exclusively, that sort of regulation cannot occur and cannot occur unless and until the Klamath County Circuit Court, after Project irrigators have had a chance to present their facts and arguments in opposition to the ACFFOD, have done so and the court has issued a decision. Since 2013, "off-Project" irrigators have been curtailed due to tribal calls. The Klamath Project has never been curtailed due to tribal calls. The value to Project irrigators is extremely high.
2018 Klamath Tribes’ litigation, other recent litigation. In 2018, the Klamath Tribes filed a lawsuit and motion for a preliminary injunction under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The relief the tribes requested would have required that diversions for the Klamath Project be shut off entirely in late July 2018. The expertise and work of KWUA, including at the hearing, were the primary reason that Judge Orrick did not order diversions be cut off at that time. In my opinion, the value to water users is enormous but incalculable.
A number of years ago, there was a similar risk when PCFFA sought a temporary restraining order at the very beginning of an irrigation season that would have shut off Project diversions entirely. We believe KWUA’s participation, familiarity with the issues, and advocacy before the court were the sole reasons that the court did not issue the order PCFFA requested.
In 2019 and 2020, the Yurok Tribe and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) filed motions for preliminary injunction in their pending litigation in the federal district court in San Francisco. KWUA intervened in that case and filed strong legal and technical opposition. We believe KWUA’s work was a strong reason that the first motion was withdrawn and that the Yurok Tribe was disposed to settle for less than what it requested in the second. In addition, after the March 2020 stipulation in that lawsuit that included a stay, the Yurok Tribe and PCFFA filed a motion to lift the stay and impose a temporary restraining order. KWUA as intervenor, filed a strong opposition and provided an argument at the hearing, and the request for a temporary restraining order was denied.
In 2021, the Klamath Tribes filed a new lawsuit and sought a temporary restraining order to retain more water in Upper Klamath Lake. KWUA intervened in that case and successfully opposed the temporary restraining order. In hindsight, that outcome did not change Project water availability in 2021, but that was not known at that time. In addition, an unfavorable ruling or finding on technical issues related to suckers would likely have had negative future effects.
As another data point, it is little known that KWUA won a case in the United States Supreme Court involving the Freedom of Information Act, at no cost to the water users.
There has been other litigation that has not gone as well. That is the nature of our situation and that of many other western water users. But we do not believe the cases decided adversely to KWUA’s interest have been the result of inadequate or weak efforts.
Negotiation of MOU regarding ESA consultation. A longstanding issue for the Project has been the degree to which water users are or are not allowed to be involved directly in the ESA consultation process. For decades, KWUA has sought the status of "applicant" for itself and districts, a designation that would ensure participation, but the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) has denied applicant status. There have been ESA consultations where KWUA and districts effectively were denied any role or right of comment. More recently, KWUA negotiated a memorandum of agreement (MOU) between Reclamation, KWUA, and multiple individual districts (including east side) that assure the water users have meaningful input. The MOU was not relied upon for the immediate-past consultations because those were completed on an almost emergency-type schedule. The current ESA consultation lacks focus or direction. We hope the MOU will be of value. While we do not know whether a similar MOU could have been negotiated during the current Administration, we do not believe they will withdraw from the existing MOU.
Funds and implementation of funding. KWUA and all the district water users in the Project want water, not money instead of water. But if water is being denied for the ostensible benefit of listed species, water users should be compensated. KWUA has been the dominant force lobbying for funding for water bank and "water user mitigation" programs, providing many tens of millions of dollars.
In 2018, Reclamation required a fundamentally different approach than prior water user mitigation programs (WUMP) (primarily due to an Office of Inspector General Report). KWUA was responsible for the work necessary to create the Drought Response Agency (DRA) and negotiation of a contract between the DRA and Reclamation that ultimately resulted in a payout
of over $7 million to water users in the Project in 2018 and $8.3 million in 2020. KWUA also worked cooperatively with senior officials in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of the Interior, and Congress to try to find additional money for DRA funding in 2020. That effort resulted in a very good memorandum from Department of the Interior Officials in Washington to the Under Secretary of Agriculture, followed by discussions between the Under Secretary and Mr. Walden and Mr. Merkley. Owing to advice given by the USDA Office of the General Counsel and the overall difficulty of moving issues in Congress last year, we did not receive additional funding from USDA to increase DRA’s payments for 2020. However, the work completed in 2020 provided very useful context for obtaining USDA funding in 2021.
Enactment of section 4308 of AWIA and clarifying amendments. During 2018, there was a considerable west-wide effort to include measures related to Reclamation and specific Reclamation projects in the Water Resources Development Act reauthorization, which would later be included in America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA). In the end, the only provisions related to Reclamation projects were those of section 4308 of the AWIA, which pertain to the Klamath Project only. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/3021/text. There were KWUA representatives in Washington, D.C., on the day this legislation passed the House of Representatives, and it is a certainty that KWUA’s strong relationships with committee staffs and members were major reasons that the Klamath Project provisions survived the legislative process. Due to a position taken in the Department of Interior’s Solicitor’s Office, it became necessary for KWUA to pursue a technical correction or clarification to the 2018 legislation. We did so successfully in 2020.
There are current and future benefits to Project water users in this legislation that cannot be quantified specifically. I assume you are all familiar with the power report, required by AWIA, that demonstrates that power rates for Project irrigators are 200 percent (Oregon) to 300 percent (California) higher than the rates paid in similarly-situated reclamation projects in the northwest. We believe that can be a powerful policy tool. Not only did KWUA draft and lobby this legislation, KWUA had a very direct role in the development, by Reclamation and its consultant, in the report itself. With all of this said, if KWUA is to carry this effort further, it will require budget capacity because things like this do not happen by themselves.
A significant "sleeper" in AWIA is the provision that ensures that districts and water users do not need any federal authorizations to convey non-project water in Project facilities. This avoids what would unquestionably be chronic, considerable frustration and cost in the future. We are aware of no other reclamation project that is exempt from requirements for all otherwise-needed federal contracts or permits to convey non-project water in federal facilities. This benefit is attributable to KWUA.
In the Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement (KPFA), KWUA secured commitments by other parties to support these legislative measures. That agreement also provides for cost protections for contractors who signed it, and for Warren Act contractors served by KID or by other contractors who signed it.
Institutional/Project credibility and influence generally. It is difficult to describe the importance of this subject. In some ways, it is a constant force in the background. But we believe it is extremely important.
We believe KWUA is regarded as a reliable source of information and a formidable, credible presence by the great majority of the many groups and individuals that are involved, one way or another, in issues that affect the Klamath Project. We also have good, bi-partisan support, and are well regarded by committee staffs as well as member offices. The enactment of AWIA section 4308 is a good example, where staff members with whom relationships have been developed over several years had our back. The offices also look to us for positions on the substance, and specific language, of legislation that could affect the Project. It is not unusual to receive calls or emails from legislative offices asking whether a particular activity, letter, or position would cause problems or concerns for Project water users, and we provide direct responses when possible.
Another critical aspect of these communications and relationships is that agency and legislative staffs and decision-makers are informed of KWUA’s position on all issues that come before them that could affect the water users’ interests. It would be wrong to take for granted that they know what we know or that they know what we think. In the last two years, KWUA has prepared multiple briefing documents, all of which are shared with or readily available to the board.
It is disappointing that we did not gain significant, direct engagement from the previous Administration sooner than we did. That said, there was progress on that front even before the Secretary’s visit to the basin, and the federal agencies listened to our recommendations with regards to certain litigation, and KWUA is in contact with Reclamation management on a daily basis.
Information, education, and outreach. KWUA works to inform local interests and the larger world about recent and ongoing developments and the perspective of irrigators. The newsletter, social media, and increased press releases and guest opinions are among the means. We also endeavor to ensure that the members of all members’ boards have the same information as the KWUA board, subject only to limitations on the wisdom of, or our ability to, make certain matters part of the public record. For such issues, we try to maintain a flow of information with the KWUA board members and attorneys for individual districts.
We give public talks, whether to local, statewide, or national audiences. We treat each occasion as an opportunity to raise our profile and to advocate for the Project. We have also increased the frequency and quality of communications with federal agencies. At the most recent mid-Pacific Water Users Conference, there were three panels or presentations that included a Klamath Project-specific element. Other water users want to know our situation and have been very supportive, and we will continue to try to keep them current and focused. We host meetings for community business leaders, participate in community organizations, and organize and host meetings with elected officials, all in the interest of advancing KWUA’s mission.
As noted above, one of our great challenges is that there is information and strategy that we cannot publicly communicate simply because it is not desirable to inform people outside the Project. This is a constant tension, and all advice is welcome.
Activities in the Past Two Years
Most of the matters discussed above involved general and ongoing actions or events. For a narrower focus, the activities below occurred in the past calendar year and this year to date. The list is by no means comprehensive, but we have included at least one item from each month.
January 2020: KWUA successfully lobbied members of Congress to "plus up" Reclamation’s budget for fiscal year 2020, and to include report language in accompanying congressional reports suggesting that programs of the nature of the Klamath Project DRA are appropriate ways to spend the increased funding. Under the circumstances at that time, the Senate was the key forum for this activity, and we worked with the Feinstein and Merkley offices. Our members in the House of Representatives were also instrumental, as you would expect.
January 2020: KWUA provided comments on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s (ODEQ) draft TMDL for water temperature. The comments resulted in some beneficial changes and, in fact, resulted in ODEQ eliminating a provision that made the entire document inconsequential for one KWUA member. The changes did not cure other problems, and thus KWUA has filed a lawsuit on the final TMDL.
February 2020: A significant focus at this time was work on a variety of litigation matters, including the Yurok Tribe’s case and others.
March 2020: KWUA hosted a public meeting at Klamath County Fairgrounds (March 5) regarding water supply conditions and the availability of drought programs (DRA, etc.).
March 2020: KWUA began engaging in regular meetings with the Office of the Secretary and Solicitor’s office with regards to KWUA’s request for a new Solicitor’s Opinion updating legal guidance for the operation of the Project. This regular meeting was discontinued after the Secretary’s visit to the basin in July.
March 2020: KWUA submitted its "appropriation requests" for fiscal year 2021 to the offices of Senator Feinstein and Senator Merkley (both of whom are key in the appropriations process). These requests identified funding that KWUA was requesting be added to what had been requested by Reclamation or other federal agencies in their budgets. KWUA’s requests related to DRA funding and funding of Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA) activities in the Project. KWUA worked with FCA to develop the latter request.
March 2020: KWUA intervened in a general rate case initiated by Pacific Power in the Oregon Public Utilities Commission (OPUC), to oppose a proposed 10 percent increase in base rates for which Pacific Power was seeking OPUC approval.
March 2020: KWUA lobbied for the allocation of money from the congressional "plus-ups" for FY 2020 to the Klamath Project. As we all know, the regional and area offices used only $8.3 million for DRA programs. This was disturbing to everyone, but not something we were able to prevent.
March-April 2020: KWUA solicited and coordinated the efforts of multiple parties from throughout the west who filed amicus curiae briefs in Baley v. United States, asking the Supreme Court to accept review of the case. Ultimately, six excellent, non-redundant amicus briefs were filed on behalf of dozens of organizations. The Supreme Court decided not to review the case (in fact, it selected no cases for review during the entire month of June, which is when the Baley petition was considered). It would have been much more likely to do so if there had been support from states. Some states were prepared to file amicus briefs, but only if Oregon did so. Oregon did not do so, for reasons that are uncertain.
March-April 2020: Based on Reclamation’s interpretation of its legal authorities as of this time, in order for Reclamation to be able to provide funds to the DRA on a non-reimbursable basis, it was necessary that the Governors of Oregon and California each request the Commissioner to make relief available under a particular drought statute and for the Commissioner to make the decision to do so. (This was also true in 2018.) KWUA requested that the Governors and Commissioner take the necessary actions, and it required significant work (especially in California) to obtain the necessary Governors’ letters. KWUA coordinated the support of local counties and others to ensure this was accomplished.
April 2020: KWUA and various board members/alternates had a conference call with USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey. Prior to the call, KWUA had worked with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA, and Reclamation in the preparation of a comprehensive paper identifying a need and request for USDA funding to supplement DRA funding in 2020. There was also a call among Representative Walden, Senator Merkley, and Secretary Perdue on this subject. Under Secretary Northey ultimately was advised that new or renewed statutory authorities would be necessary in order to fill this request, and we were not able to find an opportunity to enact that legislation. Later, however, the briefing paper prepared for Under Secretary Northey paid dividends. In 2021, we lobbied USDA for funding to assist producers under different authorities. The briefing paper allowed us to hit the ground running with the agencies and members of Congress; it had told them that typical USDA programs do not fit the type of problem we are having. As a result of this and other work, there is a Klamath Project-specific program in 2021 involving USDA dollars through the DRA.
April 2020: KWUA coordinated with congressional offices and the Department of the Interior regarding language that would be needed in a technical corrections bill in order to clarify the authority for a non-reimbursable DRA program similar to WUMP that was used until 2015. Later in 2020, the technical correction language passed in Congress and was signed by President Trump in December 2020. (Similar work had occurred in 2019, leading to U.S. Senate passage of a bill (S. 1811) that would have made the technical correction, but there was no similar legislation approved in the House of Representatives.)
April-June 2020: KWUA met with and provided briefings to candidates for Congress in the upcoming primary.
May 2020: As of this time, senior policy officials in the Department of the Interior were giving direct attention to two issues: (1) KWUA’s request for a new Solicitor Opinion regarding the operation of the Project under the ESA and other authorities; and (2) assistance with efforts to obtain additional DRA funding. One day in May, KWUA learned, from three different
individuals, that this attention was about to be withdrawn, such that Washington was no longer involved due to certain events. KWUA took immediate action that resulted in the Secretary agreeing that the Department of the Interior would remain engaged at the Washington policy level.
May 2020: KWUA filed briefs and evidence and appeared at the hearing before Judge Orrick on the Yurok Tribe’s motion to lift the stay in its pending litigation and to impose a temporary restraining order that would have required increased flow releases in 2020. The Yurok Tribe’s motion was denied.
June 2020: KWUA prepared material at the request of an individual for purposes of informing an extremely high level of the federal government.
June 2020: KWUA prepared, and widely distributed, a synopsis of findings by the National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences (NRC). The synopsis consists primarily of quotations from two NRC publications concerning the Klamath Basin. We are confident that the Commissioner and Secretary received and read this document, and current Reclamation personnel has also made use of it.
July 2020: Prior to Secretary Bernhardt’s visit to the Klamath Basin, KWUA provided several documents to senior staff in the Department of the Interior, with the request that the documents be included in the Secretary’s briefing binder. This occurred and helped the Secretary to have background and context, both to better understand the messages he would hear from Project representatives and to process that information most beneficially.
July 2020: KWUA wrote to Reclamation’s area and Regional offices, providing key considerations for upcoming ESA consultation, including legal, regulatory, and technical. This letter included an explanation of the history of consultation and how it evolved which, we believe, was reflected in January 2021 letters from the Secretary of the Interior transmitting two additional Solicitor’s opinions and the ESA re-assessment that is intended to be the basis for future consultation.
July 2020 through January 2021: In January, it became much more likely that we would in fact, receive new legal guidance from the Solicitor’s office. This, of course, ultimately occurred. If not for KWUA’s efforts and urging, it would not have occurred.
Also, between July and January, KWUA coordinated multiple communications among Project attorneys, the Office of the Solicitor, and Reclamation. The final product of the efforts built on the new Solicitor’s memoranda is a "re-assessment" document completed by Reclamation. KWUA recommended the use of, and format for, the re-assessment document, and Reclamation adopted those recommendations.
August 2020: KWUA provided a memorandum to Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that relates concerns and possible problems of a potential restoration project on Barnes and Agency Ranches. The agencies committed to address these issues.
September 2020: KWUA provided technical information from engineering consultants for use by Reclamation in the new natural flow study that is to be completed under the Commissioner’s July 2020 Science Initiative.
October 2020: Solicitor’s Memorandum completed. The memorandum explains that Reclamation’s authority to limit diversion and delivery based on the ESA appears to be far more limited than has been assumed. The memorandum directs that a contract-by-contract analysis be prepared. This is exactly consistent with what KWUA urged and recommended as an analysis and next step. The subsequent (January 2021) re-assessment and supporting Solicitor’s memoranda were, of course, withdrawn by Secretary Haaland on April 8. KWUA made its best efforts to prevent the withdrawal, but the withdrawal happened. We continue to advocate attention to fixing a regulatory construct that is in disrepair.
November 2020: A process for consideration of hiring additional scientific expertise concluded and the involved committee’s recommendation was ready for consideration by the KWUA board.
November 2020: KWUA hosted sessions of the REAL Oregon leadership program. One session consisted of a presentation by KWUA’s Executive Director, and one session was a panel discussion regarding challenges and leadership challenges in the Klamath Basin, which included KWUA’s President.
December 2020: KWUA briefed a member of the Biden transition team for the Department of the Interior. The major goals included providing context for consideration of the October 2020 Solicitor’s Memorandum regarding discretion under Project contracts. This individual was appointed Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, the office that oversees Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey. We have a good relationship with her. KWUA also has an excellent relationship with the likely Commissioner of Reclamation. We have met with her several times formally and are able to speak to her on an ad hoc basis as well.
December 2020: The OPUC issued its decision/order in the general rate case in which KWUA had intervened in March. The outcome of the order is very favorable to all Project irrigators as well as irrigators throughout the Upper Klamath Basin in Oregon. Instead of the steep increase in rates that Pacific Power had requested, power rates in 2021 are less than they were in 2020. KWUA worked very cost-efficiently and in partnership with Oregon Farm Bureau Federation in this proceeding.
December 2020: KWUA provided direct feedback and recommendations for the sucker survival/lake level analysis led by USGS for Reclamation’s Science Initiative. The input we provided was used in determining what variables to incorporate in the multivariate analysis.
December 2020-present: KWUA is facilitating the Klamath and Lost Subbasins Stewardship planning efforts on behalf of Klamath Project irrigators.
January 2021: KWUA meets quarterly (more or less) with County Supervisors (two each from Modoc and Siskiyou) and one County Commissioner (Klamath) to share information and develop strategies for mutual support. In January 2021, the tri-county and KWUA meeting focused on the amended application for license transfer that has been filed at the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC). Our joint work with the counties was also important in setting up, and executing, a joint meeting of all three governing boards, which took place in April.
January 2021: KWUA prepared a background and briefing document for incoming Biden Administration personnel, including our requests of the Administration. We continue to use this document or extracts from the document. Copies of this document and many others have been included in the board agenda packages that all member district boards also receive.
January-June 2021: KWUA had a series of meetings with USDA leadership to request and advocate the use of USDA funds to provide Klamath Project-specific funding to producers through the DRA. We prepared at least three write-ups on the need and four or five write-ups on existing legal authorities and funds that could be utilized.
January 2021 – Present: KWUA meets and speaks regularly with our Congressional delegation and their staffs, as well as key committee staff. It is an ongoing process.
January – August 2021: KWUA provided considerable staff resources, time, and energy to assisting the efforts of the DRA, the great majority of which are not compensated or reimbursed by the DRA.
February 2021: KWUA coordinated a meeting with OWRD, district managers (west side and east side), and other interested parties regarding changes in requirements for drought permits for groundwater. KWUA staff provided a write-up to the full KWUA board after the meeting.
February 2021: KWUA filed a protest with the California PUC concerning an "advice letter" filed by PacifiCorp. KWUA primarily objected to information that suggested that ratepayers may have to pay more than they have already paid toward the cost of dam removal.
February 2021: KWUA’s power consultant completed a second round of analysis related to pumping cost issues for Shasta View Irrigation District. This is one aspect of our efforts to provide services to individual districts that they could not cost-effectively perform themselves, and board members are aware that similar assistance (within reason) is available to all.
February 2021-Current: KWUA has worked with Farmers Conservation Alliance to secure funding in Congress’s fiscal year 2022 appropriations for Project-wide SCADA installation ($5 million available).
February 2021: KWUA filed a motion to intervene in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proceeding in which PacifiCorp, Klamath River Renewal Corporation, Oregon and California seek license transfer and surrender, for the purpose of dam removal. KWUA identified concerns with the Memorandum of Agreement from November 2020, which may have negative consequences for ratepayers, as well as identifying unresolved issues concerning negative impacts of dam removal on Project agriculture.
March 2021: KWUA submitted comments on a draft environmental assessment completed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service related to water right transfers to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. KWUA noted the fundamental concern that transfers of
"paper" water would be damaging to irrigation interests in the Project. KWUA has continued to emphasize.
March 2021: KWUA delivered a letter to Reclamation, prepared in close collaboration with individual districts. The letter, we believe, provided a strong case regarding problems with current operations, including legal and technical issues. We understand that the letter did not translate to water this year. Nonetheless, it is part of the information that decision-makers will continue to have, and we must and will continue to reinforce these and other critical messages in every available forum and context.
March 2021 – Present: KWUA has worked with Oregon State Extension and local leaders to develop a scope of work for an updated analysis of the economic value of irrigated agriculture in the region. The most recent analysis is ten years old, and we are often asked about this issue. We have solicited agricultural economics consultants and received two good proposals. KWUA does not have the budget to contract for this work, and thus we are coordinating with other parties to raise funds.
April 2021: KWUA provided a substantial memorandum, with back-up documents, to state and federal officials and Congressional staffs related to the "messaging" from some quarters related to there simply not being enough water for all needs in the basin, and Project downsizing, and so on. This communication has been distributed broadly to other policy personnel and media as well. It is another instance of doing what we have to continue to do if there is to be improvement, even if we cannot identify a specific consequence of a given communication.
April 2021: Secretary Haaland withdrew the ESA Re-Assessment that had been completed during the Trump Administration. Obviously, this is a major disappointment. KWUA has continued to insist with the agencies that the fact that they withdrew the Re-Assessment does not mean that the current approach is the right approach. We have written to, and spoken with, members of the Biden Administration about this problem.
April 2021: KWUA filed a motion in court to lift the stay that had been entered in 2020 in the Yurok Tribe’s ESA litigation. The lifting of the stay would have the potential to provide a forum to argue for the correctness of the same issues that were addressed in the Trump Administration’s Re-Assessment.
April 2021: KWUA participated in an interview with Jefferson Public Radio that helped get the word out and was well-received by water users inside and outside the basin.
May 2021: The Klamath County Commissioners and Siskiyou and Modoc County Supervisors held a joint meeting focused on water and the Klamath Project. KWUA was instrumental in coordinating this meeting, which was the only one of its kind in memory. At the meeting, the three boards issued joint letters to the Congressional delegation and a USDA agency with certain requests, both of which have subsequently been honored.
May 2021: KWUA published its "Worst Day in the History of the Klamath Project" press release and newsletter. Information in these releases, including the fact of the first year of
no water in the A Canal since 1907, received significant attention and have been repeated elsewhere.
May 2021: KWUA submitted written testimony for a Congressional drought forum chaired by Representative Bentz. KWUA also provided Mr. Bentz, at his request, detailed information for his consideration in developing the floor statement that he made on the House floor in partnership with Mr. LaMalfa.
May 2021: KWUA submitted comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service to argue that an "evolutionarily significant unit" of spring-run Chinook salmon should not be listed as a threatened or endangered species. Subsequently, NMFS decided not to list for reasons consistent with KWUA’s comments.
May 2021: KWUA requested a meeting with federal managers and attorneys and the Oregon Water Resources Department regarding the existing temporary transfer of water rights from Barnes and Agency Ranches to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Following the meeting, KWUA submitted a detailed memo to all participants, describing why the logic of the transfer is inconsistent with both the approach to ESA for agriculture and Oregon water law. We have not received a response, but there was no water diverted under those water rights this year, by transfer or otherwise.
May 2021: KWUA developed talking points for media contacts for use by KWUA board members and others.
May 2021: KWUA submitted comments to the Oregon Water Resources Department concerning the proposed transfer of water rights from the Thomas Ranch to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. The comments explained KWUA’s opposition to the transfer as proposed, which we believe included the transfer of "paper" water to the detriment of the Project.
May 2021-Present: KWUA has participated in interviews by and provided background information to, scores of media outlets from all over the United States and Europe. In each case, we provide reporters with substantial reading material to inform them and deflect inherent biases and typically direct them to meet with producers if they did not already plan to do. Overall, we believe the media coverage has been disappointing. We also believe that it was better than it would otherwise have been in the absence of the efforts of the irrigation community.
May 2021: KWUA collaborated with Oregon Farm Bureau Federation and Oregon Water Resources Congress in sending a letter to Governor Brown and state legislators identifying needs for funding for Klamath County agriculture related to 2021 water shortage. We believe there is a good chance this effort will bear fruit in the form of Emergency Board action this fall, but that remains to be seen.
June 2021: KWUA coordinated with Oregon Farm Bureau and parties involved in the Oregon legislature related to obtaining an appropriation for drought/water shortage relief for Klamath County agriculture. The legislature appropriated $150 million to the Emergency Board for disaster relief and, although the appropriation applies state-wide and does not mention any
specific geographic area, we believe that it is understood that a meaningful share is intended for allocation to Klamath County.
June 2021: KWUA wrote to the "hydro team" and attorneys for participants related to the lack of regulatory structure in use in the hydro team process. KWUA sent two communications to this group, neither of which drew a response. However, we believe Reclamation understands the problems we have identified, and we have separately communicated those same concerns to decision-makers in Washington.
July 2021: KWUA provided comprehensive memos to both Representatives LaMalfa and Bentz with focused requests for assistance going forward on both Congressional and Administration issues.
July 2021: KWUA staff was deeply involved with efforts to provide assistance for domestic well owners whose wells dried up or were failing. This soon led to Oregon state agencies and TID being on point, and KWUA donated staff time to assisting Oregon Water Resources Department.
July 2021: KWUA advocated with federal and state agencies that monitoring equipment be installed along the area of access from Upper Klamath Lake to Pelican Bay. This was because it was foreseeable that Upper Klamath Lake elevations would drop to below elevation 4138.0 before the end of September and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opined that elevations below 4138.0 will inhibit access. Our advocacy succeeded and antennas were installed to monitor tagged fish. In the meantime, lake elevations improved and are closer to 4138.5 as of the end of September.
July 2021: KWUA briefed two Biden Administration appointees in the Department of the Interior and provided background papers concerning the lack of any identifiable legal/regulatory structure for Klamath Project operations. We continue to reinforce that message.
July 2021: KWUA staff joined DRA staff and board members in several meetings and communications toward completion of a contract for USDA funds.
August 2021: USDA announced that it would provide $15 million to producers in the Klamath Project through the DRA this year.
August 2021: KWUA representatives traveled to St. Helena, California, to participate in a discussion forum with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Of the approximately 30 people present, five were from the Klamath Project.
August 2021: KWUA joined with Oregon Farm Bureau Federation, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon Water Resources Congress, Klamath County Commissioners, and Trout Unlimited in a letter to the Oregon Emergency Board requesting the allocation of funds for Klamath County agriculture. For the Project, in particular, this includes a request for $8 million to reimburse or pre-pay operations and maintenance charges for Reclamation contractors and their patrons. Later in August, we followed up with a memorandum to the Governor’s office explaining how the various requests relate to federal funding that is being paid out through the DRA. We learned that there is a good chance of an Emergency Board meeting being scheduled
after the re-drawing of legislative districts was completed, and thus hope that there may be an Emergency Board meeting in October that will consider the requests.
August 2021: KWUA staff had a telephonic meeting with Governor Brown, which included responding to her requests for knowing necessary steps to bring stability to the Klamath Basin. We speak with her appointees on a regular basis, advocating Project interests.
August 2021: KWUA drafted a letter of support to implement the Emergency Conservation Program in Klamath County at the request of FSA.
September 2021: KWUA intervened in another Oregon Public Utility Commission that could affect future pumping costs. Over the next several years, PacifiCorp will be de-commissioning several coal-fired plants in the west, and it will seek to recover the costs through rates in all the states where it does business. KWUA will be aligned with ratepayer and consumer groups in seeking to limit the cost recovery that the PUC allows and can be minimally involved in that issue on its own. We will also protect against irrigation pumpers bearing an inappropriate share of any costs that are recoverable in rates, an issue on which KWUA will be on its own.
September 2021: KWUA consulted with member districts to put together a list of priority infrastructure projects for the information of Senator Merkley’s staff.
September 2021: KWUA continues to be active to prevent any water right transfers to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge from having a negative impact on Project Supply. This has been an ongoing effort since early this year. Board members are familiar with several items of correspondence over the last 21 days.
KWUA has also worked to ensure disclosure of any negative water supply consequences of the currently proposed project to connect portions of the Barnes and Agency Ranches to Upper Klamath Lake. KWUA first requested a hydrologic analysis of impacts in December of 2020. We received some technical information and a briefing from USFWS earlier this month. We found that information inadequate and have made additional, direct requests to Reclamation that Reclamation has committed to honor.
September 2021: As of the end of September, we know the full amount of federal funding that will be available to the DRA this year: $35 million ($20 million from Reclamation and $15 million from USDA). We continue to seek $8 from the Emergency Board to reimburse or pre-pay for O&M costs for the districts in Oregon.
We also have items in the works for funding in 2022, should it be needed. For example, the continuing resolution that Congress passed on September 30, 2021 was intended primarily to fund fiscal year 2022 expenses at current levels until specific FY 2022 appropriations bill are enacted. But it also provides a new appropriation of $200 million to Reclamation for drought relief. Although this funding is for Reclamation-wide expenditure, we believe that we helped realize enactment of the measure and that it is expected that the Klamath Project will receive some of the funding. Assuming Congress passes an ordinary appropriation bill soon, there will also be Project-specific funding for SCADA installation ($5 million). A Senate-passed FY 2022
appropriations bill included funding for DRA programs, but with the passage of the continuing resolution’s new appropriation, it is uncertain whether that funding will remain relevant.
September 30, 2021, KWUA hosted the Annual Harvest Tour, a bittersweet ending to an otherwise terrible year. The event was well-attended, and well-received by participants.
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