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Tough water season begins as headgates open

Water began flowing down the A Canal Friday morning as the headgates were opened for the start of the 2005 irrigation season.

A limited release of water from Upper Klamath Lake Thursday began to fill the Klamath Reclamation Project canal system. The rate of flow through the headgates will increase Monday.

It will take about two weeks to get the system charged and ready for irrigation, and most orders for irrigation water will begin April 15, said Dave Solem, Klamath Irrigation District manager.

"There may be a few areas where the water will be available a few days before that, but we try to get everything ready by the 15th," he said.

Solem said he's already gotten some hint of early water needs.


"We've had quite a few people call in and generally tell us they will be using water fairly early on just because it's been so dry," he said.

Conservation and efficiency are essential tools for water users and irrigation districts this year.

Creating some new challenges is the water bank in which Project irrigators are paid to idle their lands, use well water or put well water back into the canals.

"We are very efficient to begin with," Solem said. "As acres are taken out, usually it becomes more difficult to operate more efficiently. When we start taking acreage out with the water bank it makes things more difficult to keep things working the way they're supposed to be working."

The opening of the headgates this year has special significance for the Bureau as it celebrates 100 years in the Klamath Basin. The Klamath Project was one of the first for the bureau, noted Dave Sabo, Klamath Reclamation Project manager.

"It's a relief to begin to see the release of water," Sabo said. "It's significant from a lot of different perspectives. The perspective of a lot of folks is apprehension and uncertainty," Sabo said.

The Bureau will meet with irrigation districts in the next couple of weeks to discuss its operations plan for the year. The operations plan will be based on an April 1 streamflow forecast report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The last report released by the Conservation Service on March 14 called for 210,000 acre-feet of water, or 41 percent of average, to flow into Upper Klamath Lake from April through September. The actual inflow in the summer of 2001, was measured at 231,000 acre-feet.

There are no mandatory irrigation reductions yet, but Cecil Lesley, chief of land and operations for the Project said that the Bureau is asking people voluntarily to voluntarily cut back. And it's drawing on its experience, he said.

"Everything learned from the '92 and '93 droughts have helped us to plan," Lesley said. "We hope we are wiser in what we do this year."

Next to the headgates along the Link River, construction was completed in January on a $3.2 million fish ladder to aid passage of endangered sucker fish.

The popular Link River Trail along the river has been closed during construction and is set to reopen this spring as Slayden Construction of Stayton finishes work contracted through the Bureau.

"The Bureau extended the contract on that job because there were some motor operators that we had to do, and repave the north parking lot. When all that's done we'll go in and seed and finish up the contract," said Craig Huston, Slayden vice president.

Monitoring of suckers along the ladder can begin now that construction is complete. Automatic sensors installed in the fish ladder will detect the suckers that have been tagged, and the ladder will be monitored visually, as well, Lesley said.






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

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