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‘March miracle’ brings sign of spring
Community welcomes sight of full and flowing A Canal
by ALEX POWERS, Herald and News 4/7/12
H&N photos by Alex Powers Klamath Union High School principal Jeff Bullock stands at the A Canal near the high school on Friday afternoon.
The gates have opened and the A Canal is filled with water.
As water moves from its origins in Upper Klamath Lake to about 1,200 to 1,400 irrigators on the 254,200-acre Klamath Reclamation Project, it quenches concerns of drought.
“That’s what we want to see this time of year,” said Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association. “And three weeks ago, we weren’t sure it was going to happen.”
The Klamath Basin community can a sigh after a “miracle March” that increased lake levels and snowpack — the primary seasonal storage for lake water — and turned the tide for irrigators.
In the city, residents and business leaders say, a full canal is a sign of spring.
Vegetation lines the A Canal under a bridge near Klamath Union High School Friday afternoon
At Klamath Union High School, the A Canal wraps around the school building and seniors traditionally go for a springtime swim in the water, Principal Jeff Bullock said.
“When it’s empty, it’s kind of sad,” he said. “And when it’s full, people feel good about that.”
Farmers, ranchers and other growers in the county will be preparing to irrigate crops including alfalfa, hay, and grains such as wheat, said Bair Farms owner Ed Bair. Row crops like potato and onion will begin springing up later in the year.
Just three weeks ago, Addington said, irrigators were pressuring county and state officials to declare a drought. Growers were concerned canals would remain empty.
“And now we have water in the canals and more than 100 percent snowpack,” he said. “It was a miracle March.”
Addington said irrigators and farmers can count on the water being available when growing season begins.
No one is using the water yet, he said, “but it’s got to be there for people to use it in a timely fashion.”
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What does water in the canals mean for Klamath Falls?
Jeff Bullock, Klamath Union High principal
“I think as a community, we breathe a collective sigh of relief. We know how important that A Canal is to our agriculture industry. “It’s another event at Klamath Union that signals the coming of spring, and it signals the revitalization of the Klamath Basin. It means winter is over. People are going to be outside. They’re going to be gainfully employed in meaningful work and our community is going to benefit from that.”
Todd Kellstrom, Klamath Falls mayor
It’s kind of a rite of spring. As the farmers grow, so grows our community. And I’d hope this is a harbinger of a successful growing season.
“We like (canals) full. It serves as testimony to all of our hardworking people, including those who constructed the Reclamation system in the first place — to bring water to an otherwise arid land.”
Trish Seiler, Klamath Falls City Council
“I think people say it’s a real sign of spring, for one thing. But you’re also talking about a $300 million impact on the economy.
“Those who have been here a long time don’t give it much mind. It’s a part of town, it’s a regular part of the landscape.”
Ed Bair, owner, Bair Farms
“It means we’re going to start irrigating. And that’s good news, water in the canals. “You have to consider we had a miracle March.”
A Canal full and flowing - Water availability still a concern
Irrigators still are concerned water won’t be available through the entire growing season.
The start of irrigation on the Klamath Reclamation Project will depend on weather, said Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association. Likewise, the amount of water required over the growing season will depend on how much precipitation falls during the next few months.
Irrigation season projections released Friday by the Bureau of Reclamation show 310,000 acre-feet of water will be available to irrigators through the end of the irrigation year on Sept. 30.
For now, an estimated 400,000 acre-feet of water will be needed through autumn. The number falls in line with an average range of 375,000 to 400,000 acre-feet, Addington said.
On a dry year, with little precipitation, irrigators could require as much as 430,000 to 450,000 acre-feet of water, he said.
The amount of water available to irrigators will be recalculated as the Natural Resources Conservation Service provides inflow forecasts for Upper Klamath Lake through July.
The lake provides irrigation water for 1,200 to 1,400 agricultural users on the 254,200-acre Klamath Project of the Bureau of Reclamation.



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