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Over 70 Years of Representing the Farmers and Ranchers of Klamath Project

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3:06 pm, Apr 20, 2024
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Klamath Project Gets Fraction of Needed Supply; Massive River Flows Anticipated

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) announced the initial 2023 irrigation supply from Upper  Klamath Lake and the Klamath River for farms and wildlife refuges within the Klamath Project at  Klamath Water Users Association’s (KWUA) annual meeting on April 13, 2023. Reclamation’s initial  allocation is 215,000 acre-feet of water, which represents approximately 60 percent of the water needed  this year for farms and wildlife refuges served by the Klamath Project.

“KWUA is very disappointed that Reclamation chose not to follow its own operational plans,” Tracey  Liskey, President of KWUA. “In a year that is in the top ten percent in terms of snowpack, with over 180  percent of average currently, and when Reclamation expects to release more than 590,000 acre-feet of  water to the Pacific Ocean, we have 60,000 acres of farmland along with two national wildlife that are  likely to go dry this year.” 

Upper Klamath Lake stores approximately 460,000 acre-feet, meaning that the entire lake (plus more)  will be emptied this year to produce temporary flows in the Klamath River. Forecasts indicate that more  water will be released for river flows this summer than will flow into Upper Klamath Lake. 

The announced supply represents a deviation from the Interim Operations Plan that Reclamation just  extended last fall over KWUA’s objections. If Reclamation was following the Interim Operations Plan,  which requires using inflow specific forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS),  the actual allocation should be 285,000 acre-feet. 

“For months, KWUA urged Reclamation to abandon the Interim Operations Plan, only to have  Reclamation refuse to develop a new plan,” Liskey stated. “Now, once the hydrology improves and a  decent irrigation supply should be available, Reclamation refuses to follow the very Interim Operations  Plan that it just re-adopted.”  

The Klamath Project provides water to roughly 230,000 acres of farms and refuges in northern California  and southern Oregon. Farming in the Klamath Project produces half a billion dollars in regional  economic activity.  

Along with the supply, Reclamation announced that “$9.85 million will be available through the Klamath  Project Drought Response Agency for contractors who receive a reduced water allocation.” “We had  hoped we would not have to run a program this year given the conditions, but I guess I was wrong”  commented Marc Staunton, President of the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency. 

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