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Bureau prepares to pick its idlers


Published February 2, 2005


The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has more than 40,000 acres from which to chose the 25,000 acres it plans to idle as part of this year's water bank.

In all, 234 applications were turned in for the program last week, said Rae Olsen, Bureau spokeswoman. Up for bid in the applications are 40,423 acres that would produce 73,000 acre-feet of water.

"This is what we have to select from," she said.

Bureau officials have said they need to idle about 25,000 acres to get the 50,000 acre-feet they expect the program to contribute to the 100,000 acre-foot water bank. The rest of the water bank would come from 25,000 acre-feet of well water, 10,000 acre-feet from land idling above Upper Klamath Lake and 15,000 acre-feet from storage on national wildlife refuges.

Announced in late December, the land idling program had gotten little response - 25 applications - a week from its Jan. 27 deadline. Officials had expected to get 400 to 500 applications for the program by then.

A late surge of applicants calmed their concerns and now Bureau officials are evaluating the land in the applications to determine how much water letting them lay fallow would produce. Factors considered include crop type, soil type, location, cost of the bid and the weather forecast.

The water bank program, in place since 2003, is required by the National Marine Fisheries Service to boost flows down the Klamath River to aid threatened coho salmon. The first water bank had 50,000 acre-feet, last year's 75,000 acre-feet and this year's 100,000.

In the first year, there was a fixed price of $187.50 per acre idling. Last year the process was opened to bid. Bids came in ranging from $58 to 702 per acre and the Bureau accepted bids from $63.75 to $200. The average successful bid was $146.

This year's average bid price turned in by applicants was $159.80, Olsen said.

Olsen said officials don't know when they will announce which bids are accepted into the program.






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