Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

July 31, 2003




Project Irrigators Welcome Coastal Fishermen to the Upper Basin

A small group of representatives from southern

Oregon and northern California coastal fishing communities are meeting with Klamath Project irrigators and local elected officials this evening with the intent of seeking areas of common interest in the Klamath River watershed. The coastal representatives will tour the Klamath Project tomorrow with local water users. Fishermen and elected officials from Coos, Curry, Del Norte and Humboldt counties want to find common ground with farmers in the Upper Basin. Both groups have keenly felt the economic impacts associated with federal fisheries management decisions.

The coastal group first met with Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) representatives last February in Brookings to begin discussions on potential collaborative efforts. At that time, it was decided that a tour of the Basin, followed by a coastal tour attended by a delegation of irrigators, would be an appropriate means of allowing both sides to better understand the other’s issues.

Both the fishermen and the farmers believe that the series of Klamath watershed lawsuits lodged by environmental groups in the past year should not detract from potential collaborative efforts to address fisheries challenges along the river.

"Farmers and fishermen have a common bond – they both depend on wise management of natural resources to sustain their rural communities," said Dan Keppen, KWUA Executive Director.

"We all need to be sitting at the table bringing people together," said Ralph Brown, a Curry County Commissioner and president of Harbor View Enterprises in Brookings.

Hot Weather Continues – Pockets of Poor Water Quality Remain In UKL

A high pressure system that hovered over the Klamath Basin for the last several days has sent local temperatures soaring, with four record highs set and one tied for the month of July. The high temperatures have taken a toll on fish in several Klamath Basin water bodies in the past week, where dead fish have appeared in Upper Klamath Lake (UKL), Topsy Reservoir, and the Lost River. Warm water temperatures and adverse algal conditions appear to be responsible for most of the fish deaths.

After discovering 20 dead suckers on UKL between Friday and Monday, only one or two dead suckers per day have been found since. However, water quality at certain sites in UKL remains poor, particularly in a fairly large area in the northwest portion of the lake. The U.S. Geological Survey is overseeing continued water quality testing and sucker carcass investigations on UKL.

High water temperatures, reduced water quality and dense aquatic weed growth are likely contributing to fish deaths on the Lost River. Dead fish – many in a decomposed state – have turned up near Harpold Dam. Several of these fish were adult suckers. According to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) fisheries biologists, the cause of death appears likely related to:

  • Low dissolved oxygen due to plant die-off and dense weeds limiting light;
  • Hot air temperatures and associated high water temperatures; and
  • Reduced flow at Big Springs, an area that provides refuge for fish in cooler summers. 

There is no evidence of contamination along the Lost River, according to Reclamation staff.

Klamath Project Irrigators

Turn Down the Faucet

Oregon Department of Agriculture’s "Story of the Week", July 16, 2003

Faced with another critical year for water supplies, irrigators in the Klamath Basin continue to conserve the resource in an effort to squeeze every precious drop that has been made available this summer from Upper Klamath Lake. From taking land out of agricultural production to using well water on their own property, farmers in the basin are doing what they can to keep from drawing down lake levels deemed necessary for fish. It's a struggle, but the locals say they need to try.

"We are making every drop of water count and are focused on just trying to get through this year," says Rob Crawford, whose farm straddles the Oregon-California border south of Klamath Falls. Crawford is a member of the Klamath Water Users Association, which has adopted several conservation measures to address dry year conditions which are necessary this year.

While not quite as critical as the summer of 2001 when water from the lake was shut off to some 1,400 irrigators, this year's water levels in the lake have been precariously close to triggering another shutoff. Last week's decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to reclassify the current water year has lowered the required lake level, allowing some water to be used for irrigation. With crops already in the ground and some $200 million invested in seed and other agricultural inputs, the prospect of another shutoff was a blow to every farmer in the basin.

"It has been a season of uncertainty," says Crawford. "A tremendous effort has gone on this year to make sure we would have a water supply for the whole year. Everyone went ahead and planted

crops and has worked at conservation from day one. Then, well into our season, came the threat of a total shutoff of water from the lake that dropped on us like a bombshell."

The latest decision to keep the spigot open won't change how agriculture has responded to another near crisis. Irrigators have cut water diversions from the lake by an average of 20% and will continue to do so through August, according to USBR.

Skeptics may say that Klamath irrigators are cutting back dependence on the lake only because of the threat of a total shutoff. However, farmers and ranchers in the basin can point to an impressive display of proactive steps they have taken in the area of conservation and wildlife restoration the past ten years.

A report of activities issued earlier this year by the Klamath Water Users Association claims that nearly 25,000 acres of farmland in the upper basin has been converted to wetlands and other environmental projects in the past decade. That's about 10% of the total acreage served by the Klamath Irrigation Project. Other past efforts include riparian fencing to improve water quality and ecosystem enhancement, fish passage improvement projects, the development of individual water conservation plans for farms and ranches, and the creation of a "water bank" in which the Bureau of Reclamation compensates farmers for changing management practices that leave more water in the lake for environmental purposes. The water bank has been widely used in 2003 after a dry winter portended problems for the irrigation season.

"We began the water year with about 15,000 new acres taken out of production, land that would otherwise produce crops that will receive no water," says Crawford. "The second phase of the water bank has been utilizing groundwater. Farmers have signed up and guaranteed to not divert any Upper Klamath Lake water, but instead use their own wells to provide the water they need. That is another 10,000 to 15,000 acres that will not be drawing down the lake."

These activities create added costs for growers, including pumping and electrical expenses that would not occur under normal water delivery from the irrigation project.

The water bank measures were taken well before the announcement of a potential shutoff to irrigators. Even though the farmers who have signed up are getting payments for either idling their land or using their own wells, it doesn't always cover the costs or the potential payoff of producing a crop.

"It was understood that if we took these measures, there would be more stability in the water situation and we'd make it through the irrigation season," says Crawford.

There is no doubt that the water conservation measures have helped ward off the need for an irrigation shutoff. Uncertainty still "reigns" in the basin, mainly because it rarely "rains" in the basin. The very dry winter left a meager mountain snowpack to feed the streams and rivers that empty into Upper Klamath Lake. However, an unexpected wet spring seemed to throw everyone a curve.

Farmers had trouble preparing their fields. Water managers began to assess the upcoming season and, using a complicated formula for required lake levels, settled on a level that would dictate fewer diversions for irrigation. So far, the summer has been hot and dry, as usual. The whole water year has been unstable- a condition normal for an unpredictable region.

If there is one message the irrigators want to emphasize to urban Oregon, it is the concept of coexistence between farmers and the natural habitat of the Klamath Basin.

"Agriculture and wildlife in the basin go hand-in-hand," says Crawford. "Those of us who live and work down here see it every day. It isn't an either-or situation."

The investment of time and resources by the Klamath Water Users Association has not gone unnoticed by state officials. The Oregon Department of Agriculture will be awarding the association an Agricultural Progress Award in September for its efforts in conservation. In a very trying time for a very troubled region of the state, many farmers and ranchers are working to do all they can to stay in business while making the wisest use of a precious commodity in Klamath- water.

KWUA Receives Conservation Award
The Klamath Water Users Association on June 23rd was notified by Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Katy Coba that it has been selected as the recipient of the 2003 Agriculture Progress Award for "Leadership in Conservation". The ODA award recognizes the association’s "leadership and commitment to the state’s conservation efforts".

Hooley Stands Up for Farm Women

Last week Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, a Democrat from Oregon's 5th Congressional District, joined Congressman Mark Green, (R-WI) in asking their congressional colleagues to co-sponsor H.Res. 42, a bill that calls for the U.S. Postal Service to issue a postage stamp honoring American farm women. Selected text from the Hooley-Green letter follows:

Dear Colleague:

Those of us who grew up in farm families know the importance of American farm women.  For decades women have been the backbone of our family farms, working from dawn to dusk, and supporting their families through good times and, far too frequently, bad times.  During times of war, women would often run the farms that provided food and clothing for our troops.  It is no exaggeration to say that American agriculture, as well as our nation as a
whole, owes much of its strength to farm women.

As in so many other areas of American life, women's contributions to agriculture have not been recognized.  Congress has the opportunity to honor
the women of farm communities who have labored long and hard with such little recognition with a postage stamp featuring their invaluable
contributions to our nation.  With this stamp, they will join such notable Americans as Harriett Tubman, Jackie Robinson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Please join us and co-sponsor H.Res. 42, which calls for the U.S. Postal Service to issue a postage stamp honoring American farm women.

Mark Green and Darlene Hooley

Members of Congress

KWUA Thanks DeFazio, Hooley, and Wu for Voting Against Lease Lands Law

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) earlier this week formally thanked three Oregon Democrats in Congress for joining with Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) to vote a lease lands amendment proposed by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). On July 31st, KWUA sent a letter to Oregon congressional representatives Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley, and David Wu thanking them for making a tough vote.

"We realize that this vote was a difficult one for many Members of the House of Representatives," the KWUA letter stated.

Blumenauer’s amendment to the U.S. Interior Department’s Appropriations bill was defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives for the second straight year. His language would have limited certain types of farming on the Klamath Wildlife Refuge system. Blumenauer’s amendment was vigorously debated on the House floor before failing by a 228-197 vote.

"I would like to ask for your help in preventing another destructive amendment like this next year," said KWUA Executive Director Dan Keppen in the July 31 letter. "As an organization we are always looking for new ways to improve water quality and quantity for the benefit of fish, wildlife, farmers, tribes, and the community at large. I hope that at this time next year the Klamath Water Users Association, along with the Oregon and California congressional delegations, can work together towards new ways of balancing water needs."

The failed legislation aimed to prohibit the Bureau of Reclamation from issuing leases to farmers planting alfalfa or row crops in the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges.


Thursday, July 31, 2003 – Friday, August 1, 2003 – KWUA / Klamath Fisheries Coalition Dinner / Klamath Project Tour. Merrill & Klamath Project area, Oregon and California.

Monday, August 4, 2003 – Klamath Hydro Relicensing Water Quality Group. 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Miner’s Inn, Yreka, California.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003 – Klamath Hydro Relicensing Aquatics Work Group. 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Miner’s Inn, Yreka, California.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003 – Klamath Hydro Relicensing Recreation Work Group. 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Miner’s Inn, Yreka, California.


Wednesday, August 6, 2003 – Klamath Hydro Relicensing Cultural Resources Work Group. 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Miner’s Inn, Yreka, California.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003 – Klamath Hydro Relicensing Aquatics / Fish Passage Work Group. 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Miner’s Inn, Yreka, California.

Thursday, August 7, 2003 – Klamath Hydro Relicensing Terrestrial Work Group. 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Miner’s Inn, Yreka, California.

Thursday, August 7, 2003 – Klamath Hydro Relicensing Socioeconomics Work Group. 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Miner’s Inn, Yreka, California.

Friday, August 8, 2003 - Klamath Hydro Relicensing Plenary Group. 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Miner’s Inn, Yreka, California.


Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893 kwua@cdsnet.net

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