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Drought plan: Parks may go brown


 March 10, 2005


Parks and cemeteries in Klamath Falls will be going brown this summer in an effort to keep fields in the Klamath Reclamation Project green.

Dry conditions have prompted federal officials to implement a drought plan for the Project. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation put the plan into effect Wednesday with letters to 20 irrigation districts that use canal water diverted from Upper Klamath Lake.

"The Bureau of Reclamation hereby provides you notice that it is implementing the Drought Plan due to continued drought conditions in the Upper Klamath Basin," the letter stated. "If these conditions persist, a deficiency in irrigation water supplies may be expected."

The letter was stamped by Dave Sabo, Project manager.

According to the plan, which was approved in March 1991, irrigation districts and other water users are put into three priority categories. Top priority is for the Klamath Irrigation District and the Tulelake Irrigation District, including lease lands on national wildlife refuges.

Second priority goes to smaller irrigation, drainage and improvement districts, such as Enterprise Irrigation District, Malin Irrigation District and Shasta View Improvement District. The plan calls for those districts to figure out how to get by with less water this irrigation season.

"We are asking them to come up with a scheme to keep as many of them whole as possible," said Christine Karas, deputy manager of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Falls office. The districts have until March 26 to get back to the Bureau.

The drought plan calls for Bureau officials to develop a water management plan. by early April.

Last in priority under the Bureau's drought plan are "temporary water rental contracts," which are signed each year. Areas that rely on temporary contracts include several city parks, cemeteries and athletic fields.

The last time water was shut off to parks was 2001. That year the federal government curtailed water to the Project, sparking a summer of protests at the A Canal's headgates.

Parks and cemeteries that will be dry or close to it this summer include Kit Carson Park, Linkville Cemetery and Moore Park, said John Bellon, parks supervisor for Klamath Falls.

Moore Park does get some irrigation from the city's domestic water system, but the water is more expensive than lake water.

"We do have city water," Bellon said, "but the supply isn't enough to do a sufficient job of water the park.

"We just use it as a stopgap measure."

Park employees also have to be careful that watering a Moore Park doesn't affect water service to residents along Lakeshore Drive.

In 2001, Klamath Falls parks were a patchwork of green and yellow, Bellon said.

Karas said she didn't have numbers for how many acres had temporary contracts this year, but there were 6,191 acres in 2004. Some of those acres only took a little water or used it in the fall.

In all, there are 210,000 irrigated acres in the Project, according to the Bureau.

Many of the parks and other temporary contract holders have other sources of water, Karas said.

"It is not like every park and cemetery will dry up," she said.

Implementation of the drought plan comes after months of dropping streamflow forecasts. The last streamflow forecast was for 52 percent of average water to flow into Upper Klamath Lake from April through September.

And the next forecast, which will come out in mid-March, will probably be worse.

"As of today, snowpack has dwindled to 38 percent of average," Sabo said. "Warm temperatures and dry conditions will likely further reduce future forecasts."






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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