Memo from Paul Simmons
Executive Director of Klamath Water Users Association
Current Klamath Project Supply as we Understand it
There is great uncertainty and conflicting information regarding the availability of water from Upper Klamath Lake for irrigation. It is critical that Klamath Project irrigators understand these two points:
1. As of now, the previously-announced Project Supply of 140,000 acre feet has not changed. Unfortunately, and as strongly as we object, we cannot rule out the possibility that it may change. We will know more within days.
2. Even under the best of circumstances, water availability is severely limited. If there is not a dramatic reduction in demand, the Project will likely run out of water altogether within the next two months, if not sooner. Only if there is extremely high enrollment in Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (DRA) programs and sufficient funding for those programs will there a chance to mitigate a disastrous situation. The DRA is a local public agency that has set up programs to compensate producers and districts for groundwater pumping and non-irrigation of land. http://www.klamathwaterbank.com/
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is vitally important that you understand the current circumstances.
Under the current biological opinions, the Project allocation from Upper Klamath Lake is set on April 1, and that number can go up based on the May 1 or June 1 runoff forecasts but cannot go down. The 140,000 acre-ft allocation that has been announced is still the allocation.
However, the May 1 forecast for inflow to Upper Klamath Lake through the end of September is extremely low, much less than the April forecast, and overall unprecedented. As a result, Upper Klamath Lake elevations are low for this time of year. If planned river flows and diversions occur, Upper Klamath Lake will be lower through the end of September than what was anticipated by the biological opinion. There are discussions occurring among tribes, agencies and KWUA about how to deal with these. Right now, we do not know what decisions will come out of this. But all these reasons contribute to why irrigators may have been hearing that there could be a revised allocation. KWUA continues to advocate for measures that do not involve reduction in the allocation. We believe the allocation, which has been relied on and used in planning decisions and commitments, is already too severe.
Under even the best of circumstances, there will undoubtedly be additional severe consequences including very early curtailment of all Project deliveries unless there is extremely high enrollment in DRA programs and sufficient funding. Currently, the DRA does not have sufficient funding to do what is needed but we are working with the DRA and others to secure more funding.
We will continue to provide any information that we have.