Project irrigators face challenging water year
could see 50% or less of the normal water supply for
irrigation this spring and summer, though water is
anticipated to be available to the Klamath Reclamation
Project by or before mid-April, according to Gene Souza,
manager at Klamath Irrigation District.
initial estimates based on data from Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS) as well as possible impacts from
pending legislation estimate that between 118,000 and
168,000 acre feet could be available to the Klamath Project
this spring and summer. A re-consulted biological opinion
also plays into the initial estimate and could lower the
number of acre feet available. The numbers were presented to
a crowded joint Klamath Water Users Association and Klamath
Project Drought Response Agency meeting Thursday at Klamath
“As we look at
the 30-day forecast, there are some weather events that are
projected out there, but those weather events are not
producing much,” Souza said.
promised rain for the past three weekends and none of it has
materialized,” he added.
for the next three months look to be drier and warmer than
what is traditionally on average here in the Klamath Basin.
What does that mean? That means less water.”
The snow water
equivalent as of Thursday morning is 64% of normal,
according to Souza.
percentage is dropping by the day,” Souza said.
five inches below normal for precipitation in the Klamath
Basin,” he added.
right now look similar to what they were in the early 90s.”
KWUA and the
Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (KPDRA) hosted the
joint meeting as a way to keep irrigators informed and share
plans to connect them with upwards of $10 million in
resources, pending coordination and approval from Bureau of
Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office for financial aid to
help them through potential financial losses.
announcement of estimated water supply was made on the heels
of a drought declaration signed by Gov. Kate Brown on
Monday. Klamath County is currently in a D-1 level or
moderate drought. Even still, current estimates of the water
supply is anticipated to impact the economy, according to
Paul Simmons, executive director of KWUA.
hopeful that we will avoid the low end possibility,” Simmons
told growers in attendance.
Boettcher, deputy manager of the Bureau of Reclamation’s
Klamath Basin Area Office, told Herald and News that
Reclamation understands that 2020 is slated to be a
“challenging” water year.
for the Project will be locked in on April 1 with the April
1 forecast,” Bottcher said. “This Project supply could
actually increase with the May and June forecasts as well.
We’re continuing to coordinate with them (KWUA) on
meantime, irrigators are encouraged to consider applying for
aid through the KPDRA. The agency, set up in 2018, ran a
land idling and groundwater program for those impacted by
drought in 2018.
to do the same thing this year,” said Nathan Ratliff,
attorney for KPDRA.
that we set up in 2018 were set up after the fact due to the
timing, with respect to how the contract that funded our
agency was implemented. We’re looking at trying to set these
up at the beginning of the irrigation year because we know
it’s easier for everybody to plan. We don’t have these
groundwater program that we’re looking to set up – it’s
initially scheduled to be implemented with the $1.7 million
that we already have,” Ratliff added.
to have that set up within the next couple of weeks … A
groundwater program – we’re looking at putting water that we
can pump into the ditches or onto our crops instead of water
from the lake. Hopefully we can free up some of that water
from some other things and we’re looking at compensating
irrigators for that.”
there is also an additional $8 million in possible funding
that the agency is working with Bureau of Reclamation to
“The board has
authorized entry into an acceptable contract that would
allow the $8 million to come into our agency for the purpose
of then distributing that as much as we could to irrigators,
likely in conjunction with a groundwater and (land) idling
to get these programs going as quickly as we can,” he added.
the agency plans to work in conjunction with both the
Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge and the Tule Lake
National Wildlife Refuge in identifying water that could be
used for refuge purposes.
water meeting is planned for April 7, where Paul Souza,
regional director for the S.W. division of U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, is anticipated to be keynote speaker. A
location is to be announced.
information regarding groundwater and land idling programs
as well as updates from the KPDRA, go online at www.klamathwaterbank.com.
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