water outlook, but no promises
Even with a
significant increase in precipitation and snowpack, the
Klamath Project isn’t in the clear for a full water delivery
this upcoming season.
sits at 121 percent of median and Jeff Nettleton, manager of
the Klamath Basin Area Office, projects a 325,000 acre feet
or 93 percent of a normal water delivery for irrigators.
Under the 2019
biological opinion due April 1, the water supply will be
capped at 350,000 acre feet compared to the previous 390,000
acre feet. The start date for irrigation season is April 1,
“After April 1,
that Project allocation cannot go down,” Nettleton said. “If
the forecast changes or the actual water supply changes from
what’s forecast beyond that date, the Project supply could
conceivably go up.”
emphasized water will now be made available from Klamath
Straits Drain and Lost River Diversion Channel.
actually gets credited back to Upper Klamath Lake, if that
water is not used by the irrigators, in order to balance out
lake levels,” Nettleton told irrigators Friday at the
Klamath County Fairgrounds.
The last six
weeks in the Klamath Basin have been productive ones for
building up the Klamath Basin’s snowpack. Since February,
the Klamath Project has added upwards of 200,000 acre feet
to its forecast inflows to Upper Klamath Lake.
pretty good for (the) 2019 water year,” Nettleton said.
“We’ve got good storage left in snowpack that will be coming
into these lakes as snowmelt occurs.”
Lake levels are
measuring about 83 percent of capacity in Upper Klamath
significant improvement,” Nettleton said. “It occurred a
little later in the year than it typically does. Normally
the snowpack builds in January or February. This year, it
built in February and March.
“We’ve got a
whole bunch of snowpack sitting in the mountains this year
that we didn’t have last year,” he added. “We’re just really
starting to see inflows pick up.”
are constantly changing, and Nettleton pledged to update
irrigators as the season moves along.
a Malin farmer, is one of several Project irrigators who
shared questions and comments on the less than full
“In 2019, I
plan on planting some permanent crops,” Crawford said. “With
the new biological opinion, how likely am I going to be to
irrigate those crops in the future years?”
answered, “We can’t make any promises or guarantees, but we
definitely want to get the best information we have into
your hands and I understand the concerns that we have
relative to the Project supply.”
Ben DuVal, of
Tulelake, posed the question of how much precipitation would
be needed to result in a full, 100 percent water supply to
“All we can do
is work with the water that we get every year,” Nettleton
said. “We’re talking not just precipitation and snowpack and
when that snowpack melts.”
deputy executive director of Klamath Water Users
Association, voiced concerns about the results following the
“It is hard to
see because you get 121 percent of average (snowpack), you
would expect a full supply,” Johnson said. “Under the old
‘bi-op,’ you would have that. They’re just constantly
chipping away at the allocation, and that’s what’s scary.
The only thing it has going for it is a definitive
allocation April 1 and, in theory, you can use it whenever
you want to after April 1.”
served as a fisheries biologist for about 15 years, said
additionally, the main reason for KWUA to push for the new
biological opinion was to get out from under court-ordered
injunction involving “flushing flows” on the Klamath River.
Commissioner Donnie Boyd also aired frustration with keeping
the levels of Upper Klamath Lake high. Boyd spoke to Paul
Souza, Pacific Southwest regional director for U.S. Fish and
Wildlife, on a perceived need for those in the room to work
person in this room and all the rest of my friends in
agriculture have been working with you, the services, and
the Bureau of Reclamation, to recover the sucker fish since
1991,” Boyd said. “I want that to be very well understood.
We don’t need to come together, we’re already trying to work
to Boyd, saying he didn’t mean to imply that raising lake
levels would improve recruitment of suckers.
“Right now, we
think captive propagation is really the issue that we need
until we can go forward and find a way to allow natural
recruitment to happen again,” Souza said. “Nor did I mean to
imply for a second that we do not have a wonderful
relationship with farmers and ranchers and the public in the
Upper Basin. Quite the contrary.
for farmers and ranchers is good for the Pacific Flyway,” he
“We greatly appreciate the hard work of the three
involved agencies to get this done. That’s essential to getting
out from under the Court injunction that made 2018 so terrible.
At the same time, the relative speed of the process made it
difficult or impossible to engage with the agencies and others
in the basin on some critical issues.”
“There are positive and negative things about
what we heard. We assume 2019 should work out, although there
shouldn’t be any doubt about that in such a wet year. Over the
next four years we will need wet conditions to not to have major
negative impacts to the Klamath Basin, its people and economy.
The anticipated water supply for the west side of the Klamath
Project from the Klamath River system (referred to as Project
Supply) is 325,000 acre-feet. This does not include any water
that might be available to the west side from the Lost River
system or any recirculated water in the Klamath Straits Drain."
— Gene Souza,
manager of Klamath Irrigation District, member of Klamath Water
“I’m glad we
seem to be getting past the injunction that just doesn’t work
under the 2013 biological opinion. But I hope we’ll have a
chance to get into some details with the agencies about the
future. I also believe we have re-established some good
relationships in the basin and I want those to hold up.”
Kirby, manager, Tulelake Irrigation District
— Quotes from
a KWUA news release
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