Klamath Project Water Availability from Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River

KO-300 MAR 12 2021 (WTR-4.00)

Paul Simmons, Executive Director
Klamath Water Users Association
2312 South Sixth Street, Suite A
Klamath Falls, OR 9760

Subject: Klamath Project Water Availability from Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River

Dear Mr. Simmons:

This letter is to notify you that water is currently unavailable from Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) and the Klamath River for irrigation purposes within the Klamath Project (Project) for the reasons further explained below. Accordingly, your district is hereby directed to delay diversions of water from UKL and the Klamath River until further notice. At this time, Reclamation anticipates this delay to be at least through April 15, 2021.

The United States operates the Project pursuant to the Reclamation Act of 1902, ch. 1093, 32 Stat. 388, and acts amendatory thereof and supplementary thereto, commonly known and referred to as Federal Reclamation Law, as well as other federal laws and regulations, including but not limited to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544, 87 Stat. 844, as amended.

As you are aware, Reclamation is required to operate the Project in accordance with separate biological opinions (BiOps) issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2019 and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS; collectively, the ‘Services’) in 2020. These BiOps evaluated Reclamation’s proposed action described in a biological assessment, dated December 21, 2018, as modified by February and October 2019 amendments, and subsequently, a letter from Reclamation to NMFS and USFWS, dated March 27, 2020. The operations described in these documents are collectively referred to as the “Interim Operations Plan.”

In accordance with the Interim Operations Plan and the Services BiOps, Reclamation is required to meet certain water surface elevations in UKL and Klamath River flows below Iron Gate Dam. Based on current and anticipated critically dry hydrologic conditions in the Upper Klamath Basin, Reclamation anticipates it likely will not be possible to simultaneously satisfy the requirements in the Interim Operations Plan for designated water levels in UKL and flows in the Klamath River. In accordance with the BiOps, Reclamation is therefore in the process of meeting and conferring with the Services and other affected stakeholders regarding potential actions Reclamation can take to adaptively manage Project operations in response to this situation. The outcome of this process presently remains uncertain but will likely affect the timing and conditions on water availability for irrigation purposes this year.

When this process is completed, Reclamation anticipates releasing an annual operations plan, consistent with recent practices. This document will provide further information on the water supply available for irrigation purposes from UKL and the Klamath River. In the meantime, and until further notice, Reclamation will consider any diversions of water from UKL and the Klamath River to be outside the scope of Reclamation’s ESA compliance and therefore in violation of federal law.

Reclamation recognizes the challenges this water year poses for your district and its members,
but under the current hydrologic conditions and requirements of the Interim Operations Plan, water for irrigation purposes from Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River is not available presently. In light of these conditions, Reclamation invites your continued input and suggestions on alternative operations that may alleviate the current restriction on irrigation deliveries. In any event, Reclamation will keep you informed regarding the status of Project water availability as the irrigation season progresses.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this letter, please contact me at jbottcher@usbr.gov or (541) 883-6935.

Jared Bottcher
Acting Area Manager

Download a PDF version of the letter