Klamath Project irrigators say more drought
relief needed after A Canal shutdown
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — As Klamath
Project irrigators brace for a year with little to no water,
farm groups are calling for additional funding to help
communities weather the extreme drought and avoid economic
The unfolding crisis reached a
crescendo on May 12 when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
announced it would close the Project’s A Canal for entire
2021 irrigation season.
Paul Simmons, executive director of
the Klamath Water Users Association, said tensions are
understandably high given the enormous stakes. His focus now
is securing much-needed drought relief for 1,200 family
farms and ranches to survive.
“We need these dollars to help get us
through this year,” Simmons said. “We’re really focused on
exploring every possible venue where someone could obtain
Reclamation has said it will provide
$15 million for agricultural producers through the Klamath
Project Drought Response Agency, along with $3 million in
technical assistance for local tribes to benefit endangered
But Simmons said much more is needed
to rescue irrigators facing an unprecedented and dire
The Klamath Project Drought Response
Agency has said it will focus primarily on compensating
farmers for idling groundwater this year, unless
significantly more funding is made available. Applications
will likely be open in the first half of June, according to
On May 6 — one week before the A Canal
was shut down — the KWUA, Oregon Farm Bureau and Oregon
Water Resources Congress sent a letter to Oregon Gov. Kate
Brown, seeking millions of dollars of additional drought aid
from the state.
In part, the groups requested:
• $6 million in funding for farmers
impacted by drought, administered through Business Oregon.
• $9 million for the Klamath Project
Drought Response Agency to cover increased groundwater
pumping costs, improving domestic wells and other Project
• $1 million for long-term drought
resiliency projects, administered through the Oregon
Watershed Enhancement Board.
• $500,000 toward establishing a
cost-share program to help irrigators install flow measuring
devices aimed at conserving water.
“While some amount of federal
resources have been identified for the Project, those funds
do not match the scope of the problem, leaving major impacts
and unmet needs,” the groups stated in their letter.
Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Brown,
did not address these specific requests but said the
governor is committed to working with Oregon’s congressional
delegation, “in pursuit of all avenues of relief for the
Brown has declared a drought emergency
in Klamath County, along with seven others in Oregon
including Wheeler, Morrow, Lake, Jackson, Gilliam, Douglas
and Baker counties.
U.S. Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., and
Cliff Bentz, R-Ore., have also introduced a $57 million
disaster aid proposal to assist the Klamath Basin. Within
that package, $40 million would go directly to agricultural
producers through USDA programs.
Another $2.5 million would go to
families whose residential wells have run dry, and $4
million to irrigation districts to repair canals damaged by
the lack of water.
The proposal would allocate $3 million
in aid for commercial fishermen, and $5 million to tribes
and tribal governments in food aid through the USDA and
Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“Last week’s decision by the Bureau of
Reclamation to eliminate water deliveries to farmers and
wildlife is absolutely crippling to the Klamath Basin,”
LaMalfa said. “The federal government has failed to properly
manage the water in the basin, and Congress must take action
to help prevent further damage to the area’s residents,
crops and wildlife.”
Meanwhile, the USDA Natural Resources
Conservation Service in Oregon and California announced $1.8
million in funding on Tuesday for Klamath Basin drought
assistance through its Environmental Quality Incentives
NRCS funding covers a variety of
practices to reduce soil erosion and health, such as
no-till, reduced till, mulching, cover crops and wind
barriers. Farmers can apply at their local NRCS field
office. Applications are due June 16.
Ben DuVal, a Klamath Project irrigator
who grows alfalfa hay and raises cattle near Tulelake,
Calif., said farmers are still adapting to this year’s harsh
“Plans are changing by the minute,”
DuVal said. “We’re trying to get the maximum use out of a
very limited supply of well water.”
DuVal, who serves as president of the
KWUA, said he has been impressed with the community,
watching as neighbors help neighbors to get the most out of
every last drop of water.
“If there’s a bright spot in all of
this, that’s got to be it,” he said. “This is a good
community, full of good people.”
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
section 107, any copyrighted material
herein is distributed without profit or
payment to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving this
information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only. For more
information go to: