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Klamath irrigators hang fire on July water

Mateusz Perkowski, Capital Press May 23, 2008

Irrigators in the Klamath Project are eagerly awaiting a tardy biological opinion report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that will shed light on water availability in the region this growing season.

"We have no idea what the flow requirement for July is going to be," said Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association. "It's difficult to plan and to manage."

The Bureau of Reclamation has completed its assessment of water diversion plans for the season, which has been reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That agency issued a biological opinion in April that found irrigation wasn't likely to jeopardize endangered Lost river and shortnose suckers, said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance.

Now, NOAA must release a biological opinion about how project operations would affect Coho salmon, he said.

"It's overdue," Keppen said.

Jim Milbury, spokesman for NOAA, said the agency was late in completing a draft version of the biological opinion that was due at the end of March.

The agency decided to conduct an independent scientific peer review of the opinion before releasing it, which caused the delay, he said. "We want to be sure we get it right."

The draft will be reviewed by the Bureau of Reclamation and Klamath-area tribes, and a final version is set to be out by June, he said.
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