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Current program not a long-term solution
Water bank program designed as stop-gap measure

HERE for history of the waterbank and related articles.
By Gerry Baksys, H&N May 18, 2006

   How effective is a program even its administrators say it is not a long-term solution?
   On a windy Monday afternoon, Marshall Staunton, a Klamath County farmer and member of the Upper Klamath Basin Working Group — a group created by Congress to do ecological restoration work in the Basin — was tending to his onion field.
   Staunton said the water bank program, which is managed by the Klamath Basin area Bureau of Reclamation, does provide a necessary service. But he added they could do it better.
   “The water bank is great in the sense that the Klamath Project farmers have some rights,” Staunton said, “so they can step in and keep the project from being disassembled. However, being the Area Bureau of Reclamation office, said at best, the current program was designed to be a stop-gap measure and not a long-term solution.
   “The 2002 biological opinion ... required us to establish a water bank,” Hicks said. “The water bank will continue until a reconsultation occurs with the NOAA Fisheries. 

   Other options 

   Hicks said the reconsultation meeting scheduled for the 2008 growing season will determine the effectiveness of the program.
   “One (of the three program options) is to provide farmers with supplemental surface water that we may have in storage,” Hicks said. “Another would be to do dry land farming, essentially paying people not to use the irrigation system for water. A third one would be to use ground water pumping.”
   It is the third option that is becoming increasingly harder to do, Hicks said.
   “There has been a decline in the ground water and there is some concern about the sustainability of that program,” he said. “How long could we continue to do that?”
   For now, the future of the program rests on hopes of finding a better, long-term storage solution co-chair of the Upper Klamath Basin Working Group, it seems to me what we are doing is backwards.” 

   Problems with the program 

   That is because the program encourages farmers to pump from underground aquifers to meet farming needs while letting the warmer, algae-filled water go downstream and kill fish, he said.
   “We’ve got a system, especially with ground water, that is pumping cold clear water ... and onto farm fields,” Staunton said. “Meanwhile, Klamath Lake heats up every summer and we export it downstream to fisheries.”
   The water bank program was set up in 2002 following the drought of 2001 to guarantee some water for Klamath Basin farmers.
   Bud Ullman, the water attorney for the Klamath Tribes, agreed with Staunton.
   “In my opinion,” Ullman said, “it serves a purpose, but it’s not a permanent solution. Mainly because it depends on annual appropriations in order to work, and it hasn’t changed the overall water demand, which still exceeds supply.”
   Jon Hicks, chief of the planning division for the Klamath Basin rather than relying on annual rain water stored in the upper Klamath or snow melt. That method, Hicks said, is unpredictable at best.
   “One of the locations we have been looking at (for long-term storage) is known as Long Lake,” he said. “It is on the west side of the property at the Running Y. It has
good storage capacity, up to 350,000 acre-feet, even more if you were to do some other work. We have done a reconnaissance study, we are now doing an appraisal study. so we are trying to determine whether or not it works. it will be very important for us and the farming community and the fishing community as well.”



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