sue agencies over water supply
followed by Fears of Flooding
rain clouds filled the skies above the Klamath Irrigation
District office Friday morning, some Klamath Project ag
producers believe they may as well been filled with
uncertainty over ag production in the Basin.
Tulelake farmer Ben DuVal and Klamath Irrigation District
manager Gene Souza look over print-outs of the water outlook
for the year with coffee in-hand and shared concerns about
the years ahead, according to new biological opinions
recently issued by the Bureau of Reclamation.
big thing’s water security. That is always at the forefront
of our minds. Any time the water allocation’s cut, you are
unsure if or when it will run out,” DuVal said.
has filed a lawsuit against Reclamation in federal court in
Medford. Klamath Water Users Association will follow suit in
a separate legal filing, jointly with Klamath Drainage
District, Shasta View Irrigation District, Tulelake
Irrigation District and individual farmers Rob Unruh and
Limitation to water supply stem from protections in the
biological opinion for endangered sucker in Upper Klamath
Lake and Coho Salmon in the Klamath River.
has been a long history of this kind of approach, focusing
on the Klamath Project because it is easy to regulate, and
it’s not helping the species,” said Mark Johnson, deputy
director of KWUA. “That makes it even harder to see this.”
admits that litigation is a terrible way to manage a river.
not going to solve this thing in the courts,” he said. “But
when you get backed into a corner, your options go away
he and his wife started farming in the mid-2000s in
Tulelake, there was an effort for parties to come to an
agreement on water solutions on the Project. But he’s also
seen the Project supply steadily decline since.
has farmed alfalfa, wheat and manages a herd of Black Angus
cattle in Tulelake since 2004, on land originally
homesteaded by his grandfather, Gaylord DuVal, in 1949.
While impacts may not be felt in totality this year, DuVal
said under the 2019 biological opinions issued by U.S. Fish
and Wildlife and Reclamation on April 2, one out of every
three years could mean dry fields in the Project for some
not as immediately concerned about this year as I am about
dry years in the future,” DuVal added.
biological opinions, which serve as guiding documents for
the federal agencies through March 24, 2024, do not offer
water certainty but do require a start date for irrigators
on or near April 1.
Souza is expecting 309,000 of a full 350,000 acre feet
supply of water for spring and summer on the Project,
according to the April 1 forecast issued by Reclamation’s
Klamath Basin Area Office April 1. An additional 10,000 acre
feet of water would be available for fall.
Souza and DuVal emphasize the Project supply has been
steadily decreasing over the years, and it’s having an
impact on ag producers.
said the new biological opinions could result in a shortened
irrigation season for the Project, with the possibility of
it shutting off upwards of four to six weeks earlier than
normal this summer or early fall.
who is KID’s alternate representative on the KWUA, was
anticipating the organization would have a year without
litigation. But he’s hoping to work through litigation to a
of Klamath Falls water users, including KID, (weren’t)
invited to the table,” Souza said, referencing the creation
of new biological opinions. “And we believe based on the
Reclamation Act of 1902, plus the 2013 Order of
Determination, that KID, Klamath Water Users Association
should have been brought to the table to defend our rights.”
said water users pushed for it and are very appreciative of
know a lot of people worked through a government shutdown to
get it done,” DuVal said. “But it comes up short and we have
concerns about the reliability of water in the new BiOp(s).”
President Tricia Hill echoed DuVal’s concerns.
disappointed that it’s necessary, but it’s just not enough
water,” Hill said in a news release. “We will lose rural
communities. Even with this nice, wet winter we will not
have enough in 2019.”
KID's lawsuit --
From a news release
The Klamath Irrigation District, in consultation with the
Klamath Water Users Association, has filed a lawsuit in federal
court to protect vested water rights of families, farmers, and
ranchers of the Klamath Basin.
The current federal practice of allocating water across the
Klamath Basin is inconsistent with the Reclamation Act of 1902,
violates Oregon State Law, and denies due process afforded by
the U.S. Constitution.
The Reclamation Act requires Federal compliance with state water
right law. In 2013, the State of Oregon issued a Finding of Fact
and Order of Determination concluding Klamath Project irrigators
are the sole owners of the right to beneficial use of the water
stored in Upper Klamath Lake.
However, since the Order of Determination was issued, the
federal government has continued to operate as if it owns the
right to the beneficial use of the water stored in the lake,
according to a statement released by KID.
This lawsuit has implications across the Klamath Basin. By
ignoring our water rights, the federal government is undermining
the economic health of our community without any noted
improvements to ecological conditions.
Violating the rights of Project irrigators has added to the
uncertainty and high-risk nature of farming, diminished crop
potential and, in some cases, threatened to destroy entire
growing seasons which significantly impact our entire economy.
We have the same rights as homeowners to use and protect our
property. We have negotiated in good faith for decades and will
continue to find opportunities to improve the ecological health
of the Klamath River basin.
We are simply asking the federal government to respect the
legally granted water rights and to follow the law when making
changes to those rights.
Fears of flooding
Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Basin Area Office went into
flood control operations on Upper Klamath Lake on Wednesday and
anticipates additional increased releases from Upper Klamath
Lake as well as increasing inflows along the stretch of river
from Link River Dam to Iron Gate Dam over the next week, and
possibly longer, according to Reclamation officials.
Based on current projections, flows below Iron Gate Dam will
increase on Tuesday from approximately 4,000 cubic feet per
second to at least 6,030 cfs, but possibly in excess of 8,000
The public is urged to take all necessary precautions on or near
the Link and Klamath rivers (including below Keno and J.C. Boyle
dams) while flows are elevated.
The flood control release also meets the needs of salmon in the
Klamath River by providing a flushing flow as included in
Reclamation's proposed action which was analyzed by the National
Marine Fisheries Service in the 2019 biological opinion, said
Laura Williams, a spokesperson for Reclamation said.
As part of the proposed action, a flushing flow designed to
reduce prevalence of C. Shasta in Klamath River Coho Salmon
below Irongate Dam is likely to be implemented each year.
“The flushing flows are intended to disrupt the lifecycle of C.
shasta by disturbing river bed and clearing submerged rocks of
polychaetes, which are the intermediate hosts of C. shasta.
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