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Wildlife refuges may also get more water

Herald and News by Ty Beaver June 21, 2007

   It looks to be a drier year than expected for the Klamath Irrigation Project, but that could work in the favor of irrigators.
   Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have forecast a dry water year for Upper Klamath Lake for the period between April and September. More accurate readings in recent weeks and environmental factors contributed to the forecast.
   Irrigators and wildlife refuges could see more water as a result, as flow standards set by biological opinions require less water go downriver when the water year is drier for the lake.
   “The east side of the project is significantly drier than we expected, but we still have supplies to meet needs,” said Cecil Lesley, chief of water and lands for Reclamation.
   The most recent forecast from the bureau predicts about 269,000 acre-feet of runoff going into the lake between April and September. A dry water year for the lake provides for a range of 185,000 to 312,000 acre-feet.
   More water available
   Despite the lower than anticipated runoff levels, irrigators should see more water available for irrigation as flows will not be as high as during wetter years.
   Endangered fish species, such as the sucker, also will benefit, because fish managers prefer to have the elevation of the lake’s surface at 4,141 feet above sea level by the end of July. Lesley said the lake surface is at 4,141.99 feet and should meet that goal easily this year.
   Lesley said an average elevation level for the lake for this time of year isn’t available. Various factors can both improve and worsen conditions for the lake. A period of cool weather several weeks ago minimized evaporation, but also led irrigators to use more water for frost protection.
   “There are so many things that go into us climatically that it’s almost impossible to determine an average,” he said.

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