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Klamath proposal spreads out pain

Plan: Oregon Water Resource Department to declare droughts

By TIM HEARDEN, Capital Press 4/21/11

FORTUNA, Calif. -- A plan for dealing with moderate to severe drought in the Klamath Basin aims to distribute the water-saving responsibility, according to a committee report.

A draft drought plan that's part of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement outlines such dry-year measures as water transfers, forbearance agreements and use of ground water.

The plan identifies actions that would be taken so that no one in the basin "would bear an unreasonable portion of burdens imposed or the risk of loss or injury," the document's introduction stated.

"In my view, it was designed by the parties to the agreement to provide additional tools to balance the impacts of extremely dry conditions," said Ed Sheets, facilitator of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council.

The draft plan was posted online last month and was discussed during the council's April 7 meeting in Fortuna, Calif.

The council was taking written comments on the plan through April 18. Only a couple of comments were received as of April 14, Sheets said.

The plan is one facet of the massive basin restoration and Klamath River dam removal plan agreed to last year by tribes, farmers' and fishermen's groups and government agencies.

Studies on the feasibility of removing four dams from the river to aid imperiled coho salmon are expected to be out for review by early September. The studies will help U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar make his anticipated determination of the dam removals' feasibility by March 2012.

A team of representatives from tribes, water districts and other government agencies will review comments on the drought plan and develop a final draft by late May, Sheets said. The plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior, he said.

Under the plan, the Oregon Water Resource Department would be responsible for declaring a drought or extreme drought. The agency would make preliminary determinations of water availability each January, February and March and make a final decision by April 5.

In extreme drought, reductions in water diversions would be handled according to the restoration agreement itself, the plan stated. As part of the plan, farmers have agreed to leave in-stream thousands of acre-feet of water in exchange for concessions from tribes and conservationists.


Klamath Basin Coordinating Council: www.edsheets.com/Klamathdocs.html

Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement: http://klamathrestoration.gov


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