Klamath water users have expressed disappointment for the amount of water they will be receiving this year. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that farmers and ranchers who rely on the Klamath Project will be receiving between six and eight percent of what is needed. The initial allocation calls for just 33,000 acre-feet of water. Deliveries have also been delayed this year. Water supplies to recharge canals and to be used as limited irrigation will begin no earlier than May 15. The remaining water supply deliveries will not begin until June 1.
“This water year is unlike anything the Project has ever seen,” said Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “We will continue to monitor the hydrology and look for opportunities for operational flexibility, provide assistance to Project water users and the Tribes, and keep an open dialogue with our stakeholders, the states, and across the federal government to get through this water year together.”
The Klamath Project delivers water to 230,000 acres of farmland along the Oregon-California border. Reclamation will continue to monitor Upper Klamath Lake levels and make adjustments accordingly. The lake will be kept at or above a minimum elevation of 4,138.3 feet.
To help offset some of the burden on producers, federal agencies will be providing financial support. Klamath water users will have access to $15 million in immediate aid through the Klamath Project Drought Relief Agency. An additional $3 million will also be made available to provide assistance for local Tribes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also making $10 million in assistance available through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus.
Despite the financial assistance being offered to area growers, there is still significant concern from Klamath water users. The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) detailed the negative impact the low allocations will have. KWUA notes that coming off of challenges created by the pandemic, minimal water availability exacerbates the difficulties for producers. “Family farms, rural communities, and wildlife are going to suffer beyond imagination,” KWUA President Ben DuVal said in a news release.