Farmers & Ranchers
The Klamath Project on the Oregon-California border was one of the earliest Federal reclamation projects. In addition to providing irrigation, a major aspect of the project was drainage – the ability to remove water from a closed basin. The project was authorized by the Reclamation act of 1902 and construction began in May of 1905. According to a 1998 study conducted by Davids Engineering (“Klamath Project Historical Water Use Analysis”), effective efficiency for the overall Project is 93 percent, making the Klamath Project one of the most efficient irrigation projects in the country.
There are two main sources of water supply for the Klamath Project. One consists of Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River, and the other consists of Clear Lake Reservoir, Gerber Reservoir, and the Lost River, which are located in a closed basin.
Power has always been an integral component to the Klamath Project. There are 5 major (drainage) pumping plants with power input ranging from 450 to 3,650 hp. In addition, there are more than 40 pumping plants of less than 1000 hp.
There are 18 canals with a total length of 185 miles. Laterals total 516 miles and drains 728 miles.
The average irrigation season extends from April through mid October. The growing season varies considerably from year to year, but averages approximately 120 days.
The primary crops grown in this area are alfalfa hay, beef cattle, irrigated pasture, cereal grains, onions, potatoes, mint, and horseradish. Dairy production is also a significant component of agriculture in the Basin. In recent years organic production of most of these crops has increased significantly and the market for organics appears to be strong. In addition, the Klamath Basin has shown tremendous potential for the development of crops for use in bio-fuels.
Oregon and California legislation, which relinquished state title to project lands, and congressional action which directed the project undertaking, provided for disposition of the reclaimed lands in accordance with the 1902 Reclamation Act. Under provisions of the Act, the reclaimed public lands were to be opened for homesteading. The first public lands were opened for homesteading in March of 1917. Much of the Klamath project went on to be homesteaded by both World War I and World War II veterans.
The Klamath River Watershed represents a landmass of over 10 million acres. Annual flows at the mouth of the Klamath River average over 15 Million acre feet per year. There are over 100 tributaries to the Klamath River that are located downstream of the Klamath Reclamation Project.
The Upper Klamath Basin is home to 6 National Wildlife Refuges. Tulelake NWR and Lower Klamath NWR are two of the pre-eminent waterfowl refuges in the country. Water used by these refuges is delivered via the irrigation and drainage system of the Klamath Reclamation Project. Private lands in the Upper Basin are home to more than 400 species of fish and wildlife.