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Scarce water triggers Klamath Basin plan

3/9/2005, 1:47 p.m. PT

The Associated Press


KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) Federal reclamation officials say dry conditions in the Klamath Basin have triggered letters implementing the Klamath Basin drought management plan.

The letters call for meetings between the Bureau of Reclamation and districts and individual irrigators to determine allocation in case of a drought, said Dave Sabo, area manager for the Klamath Basin Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Sabo said because of low moisture and runoff levels the bureau needs to begin now to plan water deliveries.

He said that on March 1 the bureau estimated an inflow to Upper Klamath Lake of 52 percent of normal though November but that the snowpack has dropped to 38 percent and that expected warm dry conditions likely will make it worse.

Soil moisture levels measured by the Oregon Department of Water Resources has shown a decline over four years, Sabo said, especially in upland areas away from human activities.

He said those are the main groundwater recharge areas and that the dryness indicates more snow runoff will be absorbed instead of being available for crop irrigation and fish habitat.

He said Upper Klamath Lake got lower-than-usual inflows during the fall and winter despite optimistic predictions.

He said it still is early and conditions could improve but that he wants to see cooperation for immediate conservation practices.

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