Phone (541) 883-6100 ~ Fax (541) 883-8893 ~ 735 Commercial Street, Suite 3000 Klamath Falls, Oregon 97601
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2021
Paul Simmons, KWUA Executive Director
Klamath Water Users Association Statement on 2021 Klamath Project Operations Plan
Klamath Water Users Association is sad and severely disappointed with today’s announcement of water availability for the Klamath Project. “Family farms, rural communities, and wildlife are going to suffer beyond imagination,” said KWUA President Ben DuVal.
Under the 2021 Reclamation Temporary Operations Plan, 33,000 acre-feet of water is available for Project water users. This allotment is around six percent of the need and not much more than necessary to fill the canals that convey water to over
175,000 acres that normally produce potatoes, alfalfa, and grass hay, specialty crops such as mint, horseradish, and dehydrated onions and garlic; which is experiencing a critical supply shortage. These irrigated crops support wildlife that is a part of the Klamath landscape.
Depending on hydrologic conditions, there is a slight possibility of additional water, but the actual amount will not be known for several months, making it highly impossible to plan for crops that need to be planted today. Further, the proposed late start of June 1 will jeopardize the full production of those crops.
Many producers have long-term contractual obligations with food processing companies, dairies, shippers and grocery stores. Those contracts may be lost permanently if the grower cannot deliver. With ESA-driven water shortages affecting the entire West Coast, supply issues are almost inevitable.
The devasting lack of irrigation water for yet another year is likely to prove too much to bear for the employees of the farmers and ranchers, who will be facing severely reduced hours or no work at all. This impact is multiplied for the local businesses, the regional economy, and local public agencies that are dependent on the contributions of agriculture into the economy. They are barely recovering from the twin hits of the COVID pandemic and last year’s near-catastrophic irrigation supply.
DuVal attributed the impact to “single-species” management that allocates increasing amounts of water formally used for irrigation to maintain Upper Klamath Lake elevations and increasing Klamath River flows well above natural state. The 130 Billion gallons released down the Klamath River will be stored under an irrigation storage right. DuVal said that in a past year of similar drought, irrigation diversions were over 400,000 acre-feet, with no detrimental effects to fish species being identified.
“It hasn’t worked in 25 years. It won’t work this year, all it will do is create another dust bowl, destroy our farming communities and decimate our wildlife.”
KWUA Executive Director Paul Simmons said the Association is working to minimize the impacts on the irrigation community with funding. “Farmers are called producers for a reason. They would rather produce than be reduced to mitigation funding that will never be sufficient to fill the gap left by the loss of irrigation water,” said Mr. Simmons. “A long-term solution that guarantees a sustainable irrigation supply is the only course of action that provides a future for the Klamath Basin.”