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TID, KID anticipate significant water supply shortfall



Until this year, 2010 was the second most detrimental year for irrigation in the Klamath Project, according to Brad Kirby, president of Tulelake Irrigation District.

That year, the Klamath Project had a water supply of approximately 150,000, with 35,000 more added later in the year — a total water supply of approximately 185,000 acre feet.

“Today we’re looking at 140,000 (acre feet), with no signs or indications or projections that show the potential for an increase,” Kirby said on Thursday.

Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office announced the operations and drought plans for the Klamath Project on Wednesday, making clear what many producers were already planning for.

When asked if 140,000 acre feet is all the water supply the Project receives this year, the Klamath Irrigation District’s president said: “We’re in very deep trouble.

“We’re in an extremely dire situation,” he added. “All we can do is the best we can.”

Reclamation also released information that Warren Act, also known as “B” contract producers, will not see any additional water for irrigation, which mainly impacts some Klamath Irrigation District producers.

Kliewer encourages producers with "B" contracts to apply for funding from the Drought Response Agency while they idle their land.

“This year has the potential to be worse (than 2010), and depending on how it plays out, potentially on par or even worse than 2001,” Kirby said, noting the year that water was shut off to the Project.

“We fear being able to start and then getting shut down for the rest of the season, like mid-season,” he added.

Kirby said some groundwater is being pumped in TID in an effort to minimize the use of Station 48, which is TID’s diversion access to the water from Upper Klamath Lake. That way, Kirby said the district can attempt to stretch out their allocation of water from the lake and make it last as long as possible.

“It’s the start of the irrigation season, which is a pretty busy time for irrigation districts, so we’ve just been doing the best we can … in light of the whole situation,” Kirby said.

“We need significant participation in the Drought Response Agency programs,” he added.

In comparisons with other water years, the 2020 irrigation season has also been likened to poor conditions in the Project in the early 1990s in terms of various factors, Kirby said.

Kirby said 1992 and 1994 are still to this day the worst recorded drought conditions in terms of hydrology and water year.

“2015 ranks up there as well,” he added.

Kirby said the only non-drought scenarios that the Klamath Project has experienced in the last 10 years were 2017 and 2011, which rank well above average.

“There’s definitely more frequency and greater of magnitude of drought in the last decade certainly, and definitely in the last couple decades,” Kirby said.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have storage in the Klamath Project,” he noted.

“With (the Endangered Species Act), we’re reliant on basically Mother Nature to … fill Upper Klamath Lake every year, three times over to fill the lake over the winter time.”

Kirby said then, the Project needs two lake-full volumes worth of snowpack in the mountains to run off throughout the season in order to even have a chance to meet the obligations for ESA as well as having a sufficient amount of water supply for the Klamath Project to irrigate.

“So it’s a year-by-year thing,” Kirby said.

“Somehow, I’ve been able to hold on to the last shred of optimism,” he added. “I don’t know how I haven’t lost it yet.”






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