in transition: 'Nasty' water year takes toll on former director
KID's watermaster resigns
Pay-out coming for drought relief applicants
Herald and News
by Holly Dillemuth 1/13/19
director of Klamath Water Users Association Scott White
recalls when he first started feeling the pressure
associated with his job beginning to rise.
It was the fall of
2017, during preparations for the 2018 water year.
“We kind of saw the
writing on the wall,” White said.
Pressure continued to
mount as the water year was put on hold due to allocation
uncertainties, and a court case focused on the water levels
in Upper Klamath Lake brewed to a near boil by mid- to
A court ruling in San
Francisco and change of venue ensued, though the case was
later dropped by the Klamath Tribes as it was reassigned to
a Portland court.
Even though the case
has since been dropped, White said that the stress had
already taken its toll on he and his family.
“I did not have enough
hours in the day to get everything done — that was really
when that started,” White said. “And I was still trying to
get it all done and still trying to do what was right by
everybody, and that includes getting water to the
"That didn't shape up
how we wanted or needed it to. It definitely took it's toll
As executive director,
White led the organization that represents multiple
irrigation districts in the Klamath Reclamation Project for
the past few years.
started in the 1950s, the brainchild of William Ganong Sr.,
grandfather of longtime water attorney Bill Ganong. The
district has actively represented the interests of various
water users in the Project under an executive director since
The job is a tough
one, and White said he found himself in constant work mode,
unable to shut it off.
“It's just a matter
of time when you're going to face a nasty water year. This
was a nasty, nasty water year,” White said.
“We did not start the
Project on time this year,” he added. “The fact that we
struggled to find a path forward almost all season long. It
was like a daily crisis, to keep the water going this
year…it definitely builds up.”
White resigned from
his position in November to spend more time with his family,
something that has been hard to do during the last year in
“We're certainly a
part of this community, my kids are at that age where it
would be very difficult to move them away,” White said.
“We'll see where 2019
takes us,” he added.
With the new year,
KWUA is searching for a new executive director to lead the
organization forward. The application deadline is Jan. 31
and a review committee is looking over applicants in
February. So far, there are more than a dozen who have
applied, according to KWUA staff.
resignation, the organization is currently being led by
interim executive director Paul Simmons, a longtime water
attorney for the association since 1995. He is based out of
California, but travels frequently to the Basin.
Simmons served as a
counsel resource for the water users association during the
"Takings" trial up to and following the hearings in
Washington, D.C., in early 2017. No stranger to farming —
having grown up in the Midwest the son of a soybean farmer —
Simmons is hoping to maintain stability amid the
transparency and openness are among Simmons goals for the
that stepping into the interim role for him means to
“Looking forward, I'm
thinking what do you do to build on what he (White) did, and
how do you keep that, the cohesiveness of organization in
the community that exists today that did not exist when he
walked in the door,” Simmons said. “We've got to keep that
and everything else that's good, while knowing we're going
to be in a different configuration going forward.”
Financial stress on irrigators, too
that many of the stresses are felt much deeper by irrigators
themselves, especially when it comes to finances.
“We would all be the
first to say that the stresses that we have aren't
necessarily in even the same league with the people who have
to have the water,” Simmons said.
“It's a different kind
of stress. A lot of people are looking to you, too, if
things don't go well...you didn't do what you're supposed to
do,” he said.
Simmons also said it's
a role that takes leadership and courage to represent 1,200
family farms and roughly 160,000 to 170,000 acres of
“(It requires) a
person with strong communication skills, leadership ability,
thick skin, able to work across a broad range of interests;
able to write, organize, think,” Simmons said.
Despite the shakeup,
KWUA President Brad Kirby emphasizes the goals of the water
users association remain constant.
“Just like every other
party or stakeholder involved, we're trying to figure out a
way of life or a way of living to the next generation,”
Kirby said. “... Just trying to figure out the solutions not
just for irrigated agriculture, but for the entire watershed
and the stakeholders that utilize the water and for
irrigation or for fish.”
emphasizes the need going forward for KWUA is to have a good
Biological Opinion in place.
Assessment that will aid the formation of the Biological
Opinion was submitted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and
National Marine Fisheries Service on Dec. 21. Both agencies
are closed due to the partial federal government shutdown,
though USFWS received exceptions so that three employees can
work on forming the opinion by April 1.
“The whole board is
constantly trying to think about the next year and future
years,” Kirby said. “It's the future of the Basin, and
that's always on my mind.”
“You know what's
guaranteed?” Simmons added. “Uncertainty — it's about
uncertainties of hydrologies, the Biological Opinion, of
weather, of markets, of labor force.”
KID's watermaster resigns
Klamath Irrigation District Watermaster Tyler Martin submitted
his resignation from KID on Monday, Jan. 5. Martin's last day is
scheduled for this week.
“I have some opportunities in the future that are pretty
compelling, and though I love the honor of working for the
district, I'm pretty excited about these (opportunities),”
Martin said he will be available as needed to help the district
move forward with the transition.
“I think I'll take some time to spend with family and see some
parts of the country that I haven't been to before.”
When asked if KID will replace Martin's position, acting manager
Scott Cheyne said, “Not at this time.”
“I haven't really decided what we're going to do in the
immediate future,” Cheyne added. “Nothing I can talk about at
Pay-out coming for drought relief applicants
The Klamath Project Drought Relief Agency earlier this week
approved more than 270 applications for federal relief funding.
The feds allocated $9.4 million in aid for land idling,
groundwater pumping, and to offset costs associated with power.
Of that amount, $9.16 million will be disbursed to qualified
applicants. A handful of applications are pending verification,
according to Marc Staunton, president of the KPDRA.
The rate per acre is $400, whether for A, B, or C ground, with
total acres for distribution still being tallied.
“By the end of January, we expect to have people receiving
checks,” Staunton said. “We still regret that we weren't able to
do it earlier, as the need arose, but we feel like we were
tasked with a really difficult situation.
“The biggest hold-up on time was us working out a contract with
the U. S. government on delivering the water,” Staunton added.
The agency will likely have between $1 million and $1.5 million
remaining that the KPDRA has yet to determine for distribution.
The money will not need to be returned to the feds but is under
the authority of the KPDRA.
KPDRA Board member Jerry Enman said the remaining funds could
contribute to aid in the scenario of a drought in 2019.
“We completed our contract with the federal government. Our
contract was to deliver 26,400 acre feet to the National
Wildlife refuges. And by doing that, we received our $9.4
“The task of the DRA was to get it to the people that need it to
get through 2018 drought situation,” he added.
The federal spending bill initially set aside $10.3 million,
about $900,000 of which was allocated for the eastside of the
Klamath Basin through an agreement with the Bureau of
“We were able to make it work, and get some water to the refuge
and likewise, reciprocate like they did this spring, and they
were able to help us in a crunch time,” Staunton said.
“I think we both recognize a co-existing need of working
together,” he added.
The board was set up in July 2018, but Staunton said the group
is authorized to serve through June 2019.
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