Klamath Basin Water Users Getting Moderate Relief

Brian German Agri-Business, Water

Farmers who rely on the Klamath Basin for water supplies have received an increase in allocations from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.  The bureau recently announced changes to the water allocation for the Klamath Project, moving the allocation back up to April estimate of 140,000 acre-feet.  While the improved water allocation is welcome news for growers in the area, it is still only 40 percent of the full annual allocation of 350,000 acre-feet.

Klamath Basin  - Klamath Project

“Reclamation has worked to find achievable solutions for the limited water supply in the basin,” Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said in a press release. “Although the project remains at a painful, record low allocation, I am pleased that the recent improvement in lake inflow allows Reclamation to stabilize water supplies for Klamath Project water users this year. Continued input from stakeholders and resources agencies will be important as we navigate the immediate drought and seek long-term solutions.”

After a previous allocation of 80,000 acre-feet of water was announced back in May, it created significant concern among farmers who had already made planting decisions based on the April water estimate for the Klamath Basin. The agricultural community came together for a show of support in late May, with approximately 2,000 people participating in a convoy of tractors and other farming vehicles to demand more water. Farmers, community members, industry groups, and elected officials all came together to protest the minimal amount of water that was going to be made available.

The underlying issue dictating the water supplies are populations of Lost River and short-nosed sucker fish, and coho salmon in the Klamath River. Since the rally, the forecast for Upper Klamath Lake inflows from the Natural Resource Conservation Service has increased from the May figures.  Reclamation will be convening an emergency meeting of the Flow Account Scheduling and Technical Advisory team to consider flow measure which will assist endangered fish populations in the Klamath River.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West