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Regulation headed for Wood River

Water regulation on the Wood River system is likely to begin as early as Monday, said Ivan Gall, administrator of the Field Services Division at Oregon Water Resources Department.

Gall shared a regulatory update Thursday with members of the Natural Resources Advisory Council on water conditions in and around the Upper Klamath Basin. The update comes on the heels of an April 13 water call by the Klamath Tribes on their claims in the Basin.

“We validated that call for the lower Williamson River site within about 24 hours,” Gall said. “And then began regulation of junior water rights on Monday, April 17 on the Sprague and Williamson river system in order to try to provide more water to meet that in-stream claim.


“The Wood River system — it’s right at the claim level where flows have dropped to the point that they’re near...where regulation’s likely to occur. On May 1, that determined claim value actually increases where regulation is likely to begin on the Wood River system.

“Although this was a stunning year as far as precipitation goes, it’s not clear to me how much of the base flow of the Sprague River system is made up of groundwater that was recharged four or five years ago,” Gall said. “We still may see some lower than normal base flows because of the effects of the previous dry years.

“I think the Upper Basin is going to see both surface water and groundwater regulation likely to occur unless we continue on with a very wet cycle. When that (regulation) occurs is really the question.”

High-water call explained

Gall explained that 2017 has served as a different year for water calls than in previous years.

“The call that the Tribes made this time (April 13) was for a riparian habitat high-flow, so that’s a specific portion of their determined claim that exists between March 1 and the end of May on the Lower Williamson site there. It’s actually for high-stream flow values relative to their traditional claim that we’ve regulated for over the last couple of years.”

Gall described a lower threshold of 2,180 cubic feet per second and an upper threshold of 4,190 feet per second.

“The water is to be protected when it gets into that range,” he said. “When the stream flow gets up above that lower threshold limit, that’s when we would begin that regulation during that March through May period of time.

OWRD staff have visited water users on the Williamson and Sprague Rivers about a week and a half ago, Gall said.

“We prepared some new outreach materials and informational material for people to help them understand this new twist, kind of the timing of the regulation, which is earlier this year than it’s been in the past,” Gall said.

Gall’s hope is to answer the question of why are there regulations when flows are so high?

“Quite frankly, some fields are still under water,” he added. “So we’ve had lots of interesting conversations with landowners out there. We’re providing them information and the watermaster’s office has set up recorded message phone line so people who don’t have internet access can call in and check on regulation conditions and whether their particular streams system is being regulated at this time.”

New approach, short window

Andrea Rabe, chairperson of the council advisory, said that there was some confusion among some water users who normally receive a “yellow” card for water regulation.

“Are we still going to get yellow cards or is this the new approach?” Rabe asked.

“This is the new approach for this specific period of time,” Gall said.

Gall described a graphical interface online where users can see the band of low and high threshold flows, and where the actual stream flow is at and the particular trend at any current time.


“The Lower Williamson right now is trending down, flows are starting to come down and are very near the lower threshold,” Gall. “Once they drop below that lower threshold, we’ll be contacting the Upper Basin users and they’d be able to turn back on, assuming the other various claims are being met.”

“The reason we’re trying a different approach really focuses around getting the water user to be as informed and involved as possible is because of the nature of this new call,” Gall said.

“We don’t have an efficient mechanism to get out with three watermaster’s staff here in the Basin to deal with the several hundred water rights that are on the Sprague and Willamson River alone. So we sent out an informational letter — not a regulatory notice – trying to point people toward the website and the phone line so they’re going to become more aware on a daily basis as to what flows are doing and whether they are subject to regulation or not.

“We are regulating people and providing them a formal regulation notice if we find that they’re actually diverting water. Very few people are diverting water this time of year.

“If their stream is regulated, they should not be irrigating,” Gall said.

“Everybody above the Lower Williamson system, all the way up to Sprague and Sycan and on up into the Williamson itself are effectively regulated off until that lower one (level) is met. Once that’s met, there’s a series of individual claims that need to be evaluated.

Rabe asked for more clarification in the future for water users to know when they can irrigate.

“We’ll continue to do that,” Gall said.

In other business, council advisory members heard an update by Jason Cameron, deputy area manager for the Klamath Basin Area Office, described a snowpack that was still accumulating up until recently, and ranges anywhere from 130 to 146 percent (in some areas) of average for the water year.

“Definitely the wettest water year that we’ve had since 2011, and probably since before then,” Cameron said.

“It’s a much needed recharge to groundwater as well as other some soil moisture. Following the drought in 2016, we had a pretty average year but spring flows and hydrology within the basin still is still well below average. We’re kind of climbing out of that drought still. This year should really pull us out of that drought.”



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              Page Updated: Sunday April 30, 2017 05:15 PM  Pacific

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