Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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The Facts about BARNES RANCH
by geologist Gail Hildreth Whitsett 2/18/05
The US Bureau of Reclamation wants to acquire the Barnes Ranch with our tax dollars to return it to marsh or open water in an effort to "save" water for downstream use. We believe that a few potential unintended consequences may occur as a direct result of this land acquisition and its proposed management.
Much of the Agency Lake Ranch acreage has a surface elevation several feet below seasonal lake surface level. A part of that difference in surface elevation is due to the dikes or levees that separate the lake and the former fertile agricultural fields. However, a larger part of the surface elevation difference has been caused by subsidence of the soils that has occurred as a result of de-watering the old lake bed, and by the accelerated oxidation of the peat soils caused by exposure to the air and by years of tilling. Over a period of years, as the water content of the soils have diminished, and the organic components of the peat soils are digested, the soils compact and sink down or subside in elevation. A 1997 United States Geological Survey USGS) scientific study by Snyder and Morace determined that the agricultural management practices and periodic pumping of water from the farmed areas resulted in a significant increase in phosphorous loading to the waters of Upper Klamath Lake. We question why re-hydrating the peat soils would not be expected to cause rebound of their surface elevation that would reverse the subsidence over time significantly reducing the potential storage capacity of the proposed complex?
In the Upper Klamath Lake area annual evaporation from the surface of open water averages about three and one half feet. The preponderance of that three and one half acre feet per acre of open water evaporation occurs during the heat of the late spring and summer months. The proposed storage project appears to be beneficial only in the event that the proposed 45,000 acre feet of stored water can be pumped off the lands and utilized prior to the onset of hot weather. However, in the event that the water must be stored until later in the season to be beneficially used for agriculture or enhance instream flow for the Klamath River, the potential evaporation loss from up to 10,000 acres of flooded former agricultural land appears significant and counter productive to the proposed action.
During past summers, water temperatures were measured exceeding 80 degrees F. in shallow water behind breached dikes on former agricultural lands adjacent to the lake. If the stored water is pumped and used later in the season, the temperature of the stored water may be expected to create a major problem for water quality in Upper Klamath Lake. In fact, its use may violate the water quality standards established in the Upper Klamath Lake Total Maximum Daily Load (UKL TMDL) as well as adversely affecting endangered Coho salmon in the lower Klamath River.
Wind induced wave action on the shallow water covering the former agricultural land creates continual significant re-suspension of sediments as well as the suspension of unconsolidated surface peat soils into the water column. The UKL TMDL identifies suspended sediments as a major water pollutant. Pumping this sediment-laden water into Upper Klamath Lake at any time may violate the water quality standards established in the UKL TMDL.
The Agency Lake Ranch was reportedly purchased primarily for its watertorage potential. Incredibly, only after its purchase was it determined that most of that potential storage could not be utilized without flooding the Barnes property. Instead of either explaining, or attempting to mitigate, this error in judgement the involved agencies simply determined the Barnes property as a key to the USBRís ability to fully utilize the storage capability of the Agency Lake Ranch. According to local ranchers further ranches upstream (above the lake)will flood when the Barnes Ranch is flooded.
This proposed transaction would permanently remove the 2,785 acre Barnes Ranch from the Klamath County property tax roles. This amount of land removed from agricultural production is subject to roll back taxes amounting to about $300 thousand. Shouldnít the burden to our county infrastructure caused by the permanent removal of these significant agricultural properties from the Klamath County property tax roles be considered?
We believe that prior to expending another $9 million on the "restoration" of the Upper Klamath Lake watershed these potential unintended consequences must be adequately addressed.
A letter from Sandy Brown of Chiloquin in the Herald and News in 2004 further states"The Barnes Cattle Co. is a series of four pastures that are essentially basins bordered by ditches on the north and south sides.To irrigate, water is let in off the Fourmile Canal, and then it runs south across the fields. When watering is complete, the Waterman gates are opened on the south side , and water is then pumped back into the canal.
In normal years, the fields will accumulate water from snow and rain. The ditch on the east side had drain pipes that emptied in to the ditch that was shared by Tulana Farms. When the purchase of Tulana was made, and the entire place flooded. It blocked the drainage, and the levee on the last field was too low, so water came into the Barnes Ranch.
When you do flood the Barnes place as proposed, donít you think there will be other consequences further up the line for the Mathis, Bacchi and Bengard ranches? People havenít done their homework on this jump any more than they did when they grabbed Tulana Farms and flooded it straightaway."
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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