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  Land idling program almost capped out. More than 600 applications filed for nearly 32,000 acres
  Herald and News by LACEY JARRELL April 17, 2015
     The maximum number of farm acres that can be funded to remain idle this year is almost capped out.

   According to Hollie Cannon, executive director of the Klamath Water and Power Agency, the Water Use Mitigation Program (WUMP) has received more than 600 applications for nearly 32,000 acres.

   The WUMP program pays farmers, per acre, in return for not diverting water to grow crops.

   KWAPA has enough funding to idle 35,000 acres this season. The application period closes today at 4 p.m.  

   At risk

   Earlier this month, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the Klamath Project will receive 254,500 acre-feet of water in 2015 — only about 65 percent of normal. But several water stakeholders are speculating whether paltry snowfall levels will cause the allocation to shrink even further.

   “We’re kind of anticipating that may happen,” Cannon said.

   On Thursday afternoon, Basin snowpack was only 9 percent of normal, according to a Natural Resource Conservation Service precipitation update report.

   “The ‘B’ irrigators will not be starting and the ‘A’ irrigators may not be finishing,” Cannon said.   “Everybody is at risk — even the A’s. Anybody who feels they have a risk needs to sign up.”

   Klamath Project irrigators who have “A” rights receive priority deliveries before Warren Act, or “B,” irrigators. Deliveries to Warren Act contractors are curtailed when water supplies cannot meet the demands of A irrigators.

   Water managers decided early on that “East Side” irrigators from Horsefly and Langell Valley irrigation districts who idle land will equally divvy up the $321,044 remaining in their joint WUMP account. Cannon said as of Thursday, the agency had received East Side applications for 6,770 acres, which amounts to about $47 per acre.

   “I think even with one or two shots of water, I can do better than   that,” said irrigator Nick Moxley. His farm is in the Horsefly Irrigation District. “If you’re anywhere where there’s a chance of water, you’d be crazy to take that.”

   Cannon said it’s unlikely an additional funding will appear.

   “I haven’t heard any rumors for anything to come for anybody — East Side or West Side,” he said.


   At a KWAPA board meeting earlier this month, members decided to try to contract 35,000 acres to remain dry, which if fulfilled, will consume all the WUMP funding. If that number is reached, no groundwater program will be offered. If the target is not hit, any remaining funds will be put toward a groundwater program.

   The KWAPA board of directors   will meet Monday at 7 a.m. to discuss and vote on whether the agency will open a groundwater program this year.

   Cannon said irrigators have until May 15 to sign and return WUMP contracts. He said the agency has mailed contracts for about 22,000 acres. It has locked in contracts for about 12,000 acres.

   “For this early stage, we’re having a high rate of return on contracts,” Cannon said.

   He noted that if applications exceed available funding, contracts will be finalized on a first-come, first-serve basis.

   “When the money is gone, the money is gone,” Cannon said.

   Contact Lacey Jarrell by email or follow her on Twitter @LMJatHandN.



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