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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Taking it a few bites at a time better than a just gulping it down

By James R Ottoman, guest writer Herald and News 2/3/08

   These are verifiable facts about the waters of the Upper Klamath Basin as researched by me:
   The Klamath River is an upsidedown river.
   Average precipitation in the Basin above Iron Gate Dam is a little over 1 foot. Average precipitation below Iron Gate Dam is 5 to 6 feet.
   The flow out of the Upper Basin contributes 10 to 15 percent of the total discharge of the river at its mouth. Studies have shown that the major runoff of the river has been during the two or three spring months.
   The building of the Keno and Link River dams was done to improve storage capacity for agriculture, refuges and power production.
   Studies show that wetlands use three times more water than irrigated agriculture. The 95 percent efficiency rating of agricultural water use in the Klamath Basin is one of the highest ratings in the nation.
   The Klamath Basin is the only major region in the state where Oregon State water rights have not been completely adjudicated.
   Historically, state water laws have been used to help settle the West.
   The Oregon State Water Resources Department spent two years in the alternate dispute resolution procedure attempting to adjudicate water rights in the Klamath Basin. Although there were major agreements among most parties involved in this procedure, consensus was not reached because of lack of cooperation of one of the parties.
   Construction costs incurred by the Bureau of Reclamation for the building of the Klamath Project have been completely repaid by all water districts in the project.
   The pumice soil in the Upper Williamson Basin makes it one of the best natural areas for recharging groundwater.
   Upper Williamson groundwater makes possible the constant flow of Spring Creek, Wood River and part of Sprague River into Upper Klamath lake.
   The biological opinion now being used by the Bureau of Reclamation to control lake level and outflow of water from the Upper Klamath Lake needs more study.
   The National Academy of Sciences, an independent unaffiliated group of scientists, sees the need for more study of the presently used opinion.
   The partial shutdown of irrigation water in 1992 and complete shutdown in 2001 was devastating to the descendants of the early settlers of the Basin, homesteaders, other water users including refuges, and wildlife. Mental and economic costs were profound.
   A new restoration agreement has recently been published.
   No more facts. After three days of reviewing this new document, my initial opinion is that some parts could in the future be used as a map for settlement.
   As to accepting the entire agreement within a short time frame, it would be like swallowing the whole whale when a few small bites at a time would accomplish better results.

James R. Ottoman has been a member of the Resolution Committee of the 18-state National Water Resources Association and the Oregon Water Policy Review Board. He was also president of the Klamath Basin Water Users Association and has been active in other water-related organizations.

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