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Langell Valley irrigators cry foul

Federal funds offered per acre are far less than in other areas   

by Jill Aho, Herald and News May 28, 2010

H&N photo by Jill Aho   Ditches on the western half of Langell Valley
will remain dry this year.
Farmers and ranchers in the Langell Valley forced to idle land or use well water for irrigation will get $40 an acre from federal relief funding, far less than their counterparts elsewhere on the Klamath Reclamation Project.

And that isn’t fair, say members of the Langell Valley Irrigation District. The district was given $315,000 in federal funds to distribute to its 40 west side landowners who will receive no irrigation from Clear Lake this year.

The west side of the Langell Valley Irrigation District consists of 9,174 acres of mostly pasture and hay fields. Of that, district manager Frank Hammerich said, about 2,000 acres have access to well water. The rest will remain dry.

District members attended a board meeting Wednesday night to decide the most equitable way to distribute the federal funding, which is earmarked for land idling and groundwater pumping programs.

Members decided the money should be equally split among all farmers and ranchers on the western half of the valley based on acreage. It amounts to about $40 an acre.

Last year, water deliveries for western Langell Valley irrigators were curtailed July 7.

“I think the whole east side (of the Klamath Reclamation Project) was shortchanged,” said Hank Cheyne, a member of the Langell Valley Irrigation District board and Gerber-side irrigator who will get water deliveries this year. “I don’t think the distribution of the funds was very equitable.”

Many who attended the meeting agreed with Cheyne’s sentiments.

The funding appears inadequate, they said, a pittance compared to what some western Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators are receiving.     

Bid process

The Klamath Water and Power Agency, which is charged with administering funds in the Water User Mitigation Program, used a competitive bid process to select which lands in the project connected to Upper Klamath Lake would be paid to not irrigate this year.  

The Malin Irrigation District, which would have been excluded from water deliveries because it has a secondary contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, is being paid $220 an acre through the Klamath Water and Power Agency program to idle the land.

“The fact of life is, they’re a ‘B’ water user and under the contractual agreement, they weren’t going to get any water anyway,” Hammerich said. “The land idling funds are so inadequate it was a slap in our face. These guys have gone a year and a half without water.”

Langell Valley irrigators were paid nothing last year, and were the only irrigators affected by low water supplies in 2009.

The decision of how much money would be given to the east side of the project this year came from officials in Washington, D.C., said Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Kevin Moore.   

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