FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2021
Contact Information: Kelley Minty Morris, Klamath County Commissioner (541) 891-0104 email@example.com
Paul Simmons, KWUA Executive Director and Counsel (916) 769-6685 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Anne Cooper, Vice President of Government Affairs, OFBF (503) 399-1701 x 306 email@example.com
LOCAL LEADERS APPLAUD STATE FUNDING RELIEF
Today, the Oregon legislature approved $20 million in funding for critical needs in Klamath County caused by water curtailments and wildfire. “This is welcome news,” said Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris, who was on point for local interests pursuing the funding. “We are grateful for this action, and for Governor Brown’s support for the this desperately needed funding package.”
The Klamath County funding package is part of a larger, nearly $100 million drought relief approval that will provides funds statewide and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
For Klamath County, funding will be provided to address domestic well failures that resulted from Klamath Project canals and drains being deprived of irrigation water that normally recharges the shallow groundwater relied upon by residents of rural areas. “We now have $4 million coming to the County that can be used for reimbursement of costs residents have incurred and for improving wells or drilling new wells,” said Commissioner Morris.
Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) Executive Director and Counsel Paul Simmons echoed appreciation for the legislature’s action. He identified funding of an additional $4 million to irrigation districts for operation and maintenance expenses as especially welcome. “This year, countless water users paid expenses for maintaining an irrigation system that delivered them no water,” he said. “On top of that, canals and drains are cracked, and infested with weeds and animal burrows, which will impose major, additional costs on water users in order to make the system operable again and protect public safety.”
Both Commissioner Morris and Mr. Simmons said that Klamath-Lake County Farm Bureau and Oregon Farm Bureau Federation were instrumental in bringing about this action. “I have been very impressed with the Farm Bureau’s expertise in Salem and diligence in getting this done,” said Commissioner Morris.
Other parties who supported the Klamath County agricultural relief package include Trout Unlimited, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Water for Life, and Oregon Water Resources Congress. Each Klamath County Commissioner signed letters requesting the request, which also received support from the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, Klamath County Economic Development Commission, and Klamath County REALTORS.
A third element approved for Klamath County is $3 million for livestock water wells and off-channel water facilities. The legislature approved a separate request by the Klamath Tribes for nearly $10 million to address issues related to wildfire, drought, and tribal resources.
Klamath-Lake County Farm Bureau President Jason Flowers said that the legislature also funded a statewide $40 million direct assistance program for Oregon producers who experienced less than average farm income in 2021 due to drought. Producers in Klamath County will be eligible to apply for the aid, structured as a loan that will be forgiven based on demonstration of lost revenue.
“I am thankful that our producers in Klamath County will be eligible for the statewide funding and that we were able to secure direct assistance for irrigation districts and domestic well users,” he said.
In June of this year, the Oregon legislature appropriated $150 million to the Emergency Board for allocation before the next regular session in 2023, to mitigate impacts of drought, fire, and other disasters. Today’s action is the first distribution of that funding. Today’s action by the full legislature will allocate most of that funding, though the fund may be resupplied in the legislature’s short session next year.
Separately, last week, the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency decided on per-acre payments to producers in the Klamath Project eligible for a total of $35 million from the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Services Agency. Mr. Simmons said KWUA worked over several months to obtain that funding.
“We are very grateful for that federal assistance, which will reduce impacts to many producers and help them keep some employees on. At the same time, that funding equates to about only ten percent of the annual economic activity generated by Klamath Project and Upper Basin agriculture in a year when we are at full production,” he said.
Commissioner Morris and Mr. Simmons both said that dry-year allocation of essentially all surface water in Klamath County to non-irrigation uses, as happened this year, will have catastrophic consequences. “We need federal decision-makers to know what is happening here,” said Commissioner Morris.
“The emergency funding is a tourniquet. The cause of the injury is misguided federal water management,” added Mr. Simmons.