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Reclamation releases 2023 drought plan


  • ag-drought plan 1.jpg < Tens of thousands of acres in the Klamath Project are not being irrigated this year due to the reduced allocation made by the Bureau of Reclamation.

On July 5, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued what the agency refers to as a “Drought Plan” for the Klamath Project, which will require many farmers to stop irrigating before the end of the growing season.

The Drought Plan states that this year’s allocation for so-called Warren Act contractors that receive water from Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River is limited to 0.6 acre-feet per irrigable acre under contract. That volume represents less than a third of the water needed to produce a normal crop in the Klamath Project. Approximately 50,000 acres of farmland are potentially affected.

“Warren Act contractors” are considered by Reclamation as having a secondary priority to water from the Klamath Project. Reclamation’s system of allocating water among districts and individual farmers within the Klamath Project is a relatively recent contrivance in response to shortages imposed under the Endangered Species Act. It is a point of contention tied to the federal government’s broader attempts to control water in the Klamath Basin.

“Six-tenths of a foot is not a lot of water, but we’re trying to make the best out of a bad situation,” said Nick Grounds, manager of Shasta View and Malin irrigation districts. Grounds expects that Malin Irrigation District will reach its allocation sometime in August, but Shasta View can operate longer. “The piped delivery system really helps,” according to Grounds. In the 1970s, Shasta View Irrigation District replaced its original unlined earthen canals with seventeen miles of buried pressurized pipeline.

Other districts are not in such a fortunate position. Enterprise Irrigation District, which serves roughly 3,000 acres adjacent to the A Canal, shut off its pumps on July 21. Enterprise had not received any water in the last two years.

Reclamation’s decision also means that Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges are unlikely to receive any water from the Klamath Project this year, which has become all the more contentious with the recent outbreak of grasshoppers emanating from the dry portion of Lower Klamath.

“We shouldn’t even be talking about a Drought Plan given the rain and snow we received this spring,” Tracey Liskey, president of KWUA, commented in response to the news. “Continued federal mismanagement of water is on full display, drying up farms and refuges and creating unnecessary conflict among the residents of the Klamath Basin. Worse, it is not doing anything at all to help ESA-listed species in whose name farms and wildlife are suffering.”



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