The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) yesterday announced that the Klamath Project water supply allocation announced earlier this year will remain at 260,000 acre-feet and no reductions will be made to Klamath Project water users.
Irrigation districts and Tribes were notified on August 18 that a curtailment may be necessary due to a potential shortfall in water supply.
“This news was particularly jarring, given that it threatened to dry up planted crops and investments,” the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) said in a social media post. “It was even more unbelievable given that the allocation announced earlier in May, and that producers have been planning around, was already beneath the stipulations of the federal government’s own Interim Operations Plan for the Klamath Project.”
This far into the growing season, local growers have spent most of the budget on planting costs, including for seed and preplant fertilizer, and growing costs such as for fertigation, chemigation, labor and other inputs.
“All you’ve got to do is finish the crop with water and harvest to get paid, so it’s definitely concerning to get this far into the crop and be concerned about a shutoff,” said Marc Staunton, who farms potatoes, onions, garlic,alfalfa and cereal grains.
CLICK HERE to read more about the concerns voiced by Mr. Staunton and other producers in a story published by Ag Alert, a publication of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Fortunately, due to improved hydrology in the Klamath Basin over the last two weeks; opportunities for Upper Klamath Lake water conservation this fall and winter; and coordination with Tribal partners and water users, no curtailments will be necessary.
“This decision is positive news, even if we believe things should never have gotten to the point of a threatened curtailment,” KWUA posted. “Through focused communication, particularly with public officeholders, and a steadfast emphasis on facts over rhetoric, Klamath Water Users Association worked very hard to prevent the worst case from happening.”
Reclamation is required to meet a minimum water elevation in Upper Klamath Lake for endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers, as well as to provide streamflows in the Klamath River for threatened salmon.
“Managing the limited supplies of 2023 required close coordination with the entire basin and is a clear example that collaboration and communication is the key to this basin’s future,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “We thank the water users and Tribes as well as our partners at NOAA for navigating through the 2023 water year and are grateful for the Department’s all-of-basin leadership with Deputy Assistant Secretary Strickler.”
While this recent development is a relief, it also serves as a poignant reminder of the broader challenges surrounding water management in the Klamath Basin.
“The uncertainties of this year are emblematic of a more profound issue of systemic water mismanagement,” KWUA posted. “KWUA remains resolute in its mission, believing in the adage that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ We will persist in our efforts to illuminate and address the underlying issues plaguing agricultural producers in the region.”