Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


Irrigators wrestle with water ruling

Judge accelerates Klamath River plan  March 29, 2006 By STEVE KADEL H&N Staff Writer

Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators huddled Tuesday to decide their next step after a federal judge required accelerated implementation of a Klamath River management plan.

U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong's decision Monday put the river's water allocation plan into effect immediately rather than over the next five years. If flows drop to levels that threaten coho salmon, water could be withheld from irrigators.

Most local irrigators agree that's not likely to happen this summer because of the significant snowpack in the mountains. As of Monday, the Klamath Basin's snowpack was 163 percent of average - compared with one-third of average a year ago.

Oregon has the West's best overall snowpack with 136 percent of average.

Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Rae Olsen underscored that positive aspect.

“There will be no changes in the 2006 pilot water bank,” she said Tuesday. “The Bureau of Reclamation expects to provide full irrigation deliveries.”

At the same time, she said, the bureau will meet terms of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's biological opinion for Upper Klamath Lake as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries' biological opinion for the Klamath River.

Despite that, the president of Klamath Water Users Association expressed frustration with the scope of Armstrong's ruling.

Steve Kandra said the Klamath Project is only a small part of the Klamath River system, but was hit with accelerated phases of river management because that's all the judge could legally affect.

“We're very concerned that we've taken a step backward in that one entity will bear the brunt of dealing with supply issues,” Kandra said. “The solution needs to come from a watershed-wide approach.

“We need to have the legal system recognize that just focusing on little pieces of the watershed won't solve the problem. Everybody has a responsibility.”

Kandra noted that more non-project irrigators use Klamath River water than do members of the project, although Armstrong had no jurisdiction over private water allocations.

He did not point fingers at commercial fishers on the southern Oregon and northern California coasts.

“Closing the fisheries is not a good thing,” he said. “We want fishermen to catch fish.”

Irrigators plan to keep talking with other groups to emphasize the need for cooperation - and contributions - across the watershed, Kandra said.

“We certainly want to engage people so if we deal with the recovery of anadromous fish, they know just dealing with the project won't accomplish that,” he said.






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2005, All Rights Reserved