Klamath Project irrigators might lose remaining
Water users in the Klamath Project may lose their remaining
water allocations following a warning from the Bureau of
Reclamation sent out last Friday.
The letter tells irrigators “... there is projected to be a
shortfall in the Sept. 30 Upper Klamath Lake elevation of
4139.2 feet that was identified in the May 18, 2023, update
to the 2023 Annual Operation Plan. This situation is likely
to require a reduction in project water supply in order to
minimize or eliminate the shortfall.”
The letter from Reclamation said the department will
continue to explore actions to mitigate any reductions, but
encourages contract holders to conserve their supplies.
Executive Director and Counsel for Klamath Water Users
Association Paul Simmons said the promised water allocation
for the Project was 260,000-acre feet for diversion this
“Klamath Project is subject to an Interim Operations Plan,”
Simmons said. “If that were followed, it would’ve announced
that we were entitled to 285,000 acre feet, and they
would’ve made that announcement in early April, and that
would’ve been the end of the story.”
Instead, Simmons said, Reclamation promised irrigators in
the Project 260,000-acre feet on the condition that the
elevation of water levels in Upper Klamath Lake does not
fall below the 4,139.2 feet required by the Environmental
“We wish they would have recognized this much earlier. We
wish that the addressing would have been to consider the
wisdom of the judgement that established this allocation,”
With water elevations now expected to fall below required
levels, Klamath Project irrigators may lose what remains of
the promised water supply.
Crops are already in the ground, and irrigators in the
project are depending on that water, Simmons said.
“With row crops, they’re already planted … and in the next
six weeks, that’s when the growth happens,” he said. “If
those crops are undersized, you can’t sell them. They’re
worth zero. You’ve got people with big investments in these
crops, and the potential of having that investment along
with the crops in the fields just burn up … it’s really
The announcement from Reclamation did note, however, that
alternative options to mitigate water supply shutoffs are
With the ongoing dam removals, Simmons said he hopes
Reclamation will consider using those reserves.
“There’s an opportunity to get some water out of those hydro
dams and send it down the river so you won’t have to release
that water from upper Klamath lake,” Simmons said. “The
things that should’ve been thought about anywhere from six
weeks to eight months ago are being thought about now.”
The letter from Reclamation said Project irrigators would be
notified of Reclamation’s decision by the end of this week.
As of Friday afternoon, no decisions were announced.
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