this year, 2010 was the second most detrimental year for
irrigation in the Klamath Project, according to Brad Kirby,
president of Tulelake Irrigation District.
That year, the Klamath Project had a
water supply of approximately 150,000, with 35,000 more
added later in the year — a total water supply of
approximately 185,000 acre feet.
“Today we’re looking at 140,000 (acre
feet), with no signs or indications or projections that show
the potential for an increase,” Kirby said on Thursday.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin
Area Office announced the operations and drought plans for
the Klamath Project on Wednesday, making clear what many
producers were already planning for.
When asked if 140,000 acre feet is all
the water supply the Project receives this year, the Klamath
Irrigation District’s president said: “We’re in very deep
“We’re in an extremely dire
situation,” he added. “All we can do is the best we can.”
Reclamation also released information
that Warren Act, also known as “B” contract producers, will
not see any additional water for irrigation, which mainly
impacts some Klamath Irrigation District producers.
Kliewer encourages producers with "B"
contracts to apply for funding from the Drought Response
Agency while they idle their land.
“This year has the potential to be
worse (than 2010), and depending on how it plays out,
potentially on par or even worse than 2001,” Kirby said,
noting the year that water was shut off to the Project.
“We fear being able to start and then
getting shut down for the rest of the season, like
mid-season,” he added.
Kirby said some groundwater is being
pumped in TID in an effort to minimize the use of Station
48, which is TID’s diversion access to the water from Upper
Klamath Lake. That way, Kirby said the district can attempt
to stretch out their allocation of water from the lake and
make it last as long as possible.
“It’s the start of the irrigation
season, which is a pretty busy time for irrigation
districts, so we’ve just been doing the best we can … in
light of the whole situation,” Kirby said.
“We need significant participation in
the Drought Response Agency programs,” he added.
In comparisons with other water years,
the 2020 irrigation season has also been likened to poor
conditions in the Project in the early 1990s in terms of
various factors, Kirby said.
Kirby said 1992 and 1994 are still to
this day the worst recorded drought conditions in terms of
hydrology and water year.
“2015 ranks up there as well,” he
Kirby said the only non-drought
scenarios that the Klamath Project has experienced in the
last 10 years were 2017 and 2011, which rank well above
“There’s definitely more frequency and
greater of magnitude of drought in the last decade
certainly, and definitely in the last couple decades,” Kirby
“Unfortunately, we don’t have storage
in the Klamath Project,” he noted.
“With (the Endangered Species Act),
we’re reliant on basically Mother Nature to … fill Upper
Klamath Lake every year, three times over to fill the lake
over the winter time.”
Kirby said then, the Project needs two
lake-full volumes worth of snowpack in the mountains to run
off throughout the season in order to even have a chance to
meet the obligations for ESA as well as having a sufficient
amount of water supply for the Klamath Project to irrigate.
“So it’s a year-by-year thing,” Kirby
“Somehow, I’ve been able to hold on to
the last shred of optimism,” he added. “I don’t know how I
haven’t lost it yet.”