Just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse in the Klamath Project this year, many individual homeowners’ wells are going dry.  Had there been Project deliveries for irrigators, the problem would not exist.  At least 120 private wells have been affected, and the number is growing.

Domestic wells are typically shallow.  In a normal year, water  that they extract is recharged by water that seeps into groundwater from the extensive networks of canals and laterals that convey water for irrigation of crops.

This year, for the first time ever, there will be no diversion of water via the A Canal or other major Klamath Project structures that normally use water from Upper Klamath Lake or the Klamath River.  There are approximately 1,800 domestic wells in Oregon alone that are in the area influenced by the A Canal delivery system.

There is no formal system for reporting dry wells, but residents are encouraged to report to the Klamath County Watermaster in Oregon and Tulelake Irrigation District (TID) in California.  As of last week, the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) had received reports of 120 wells going dry: the unreported number is not known.

“Make no mistake, these are more casualties brought about by the Endangered Species Act,” said KWUA President Ben DuVal.  The drought is real, but if we had even a fraction of the water we diverted for irrigation during past droughts, there would not be a problem.  This should be completely unacceptable to anyone in this country.”

Some positive news – help is on the way.  Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), in coordination with OWRD and Klamath County, are working to secure tanks for domestic water, make water deliveries, and provide a location where people can fill their own storage containers.  These things are being provided free of cost for affected well owners through the end of October.  Those affected need to call the Watermaster to be eligible.                                       

“The engagement OEM and ODHS to help relieve the critical, immediate need is welcome. They’ve been leading daily meetings and coordinating calls to get relief where it is most needed.  I’m grateful for the help in getting some resources to our people,” said Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris.  Commissioner Morris helped bring the critical need for help to the attention of the Governor’s office, and remains engaged in coordinating the response.

In California, TID has purchased tanks and will continue to work to coordinate assistance for well owners.  “We know as

neighbors most of the people on the California side who are having problems with wells, and are committed to work with them directly,” said TID Board President John Crawford.

Some have asked whether pumping from irrigation wells is responsible for the domestic wells going dry.  It is true that there is significant groundwater pumping and water levels are reduced in some areas. But the problem is the lack of surface water for irrigation.  Domestic wells that are having the problem are commonly near canals that are dry this year.  In past years when significant groundwater pumping for irrigation was necessary, there was nonetheless surface water in the canals, and a minimal number of domestic wells went dry.  And irrigation pumping would not be necessary if there was surface water available for irrigation. 


KWUA has participated and joined in a July 19 letter to the Oregon Emergency Board requesting immediate allocation of funds to ranchers, farmers, and rural residents.  Oregon Farm Bureau Federation has been on point in communicating with policy-makers and parties in the basin in this effort, and the signatories to the letter also include all three Klamath County Commissioners, Oregon Water Resources Congress, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, and Trout Unlimited. 

Section 167 of House Bill 5006 appropriated $150 million to the Emergency Board for allocation to natural disaster prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery activities during the biennium beginning July 1, 2021.  This is a statewide allocation, but KWUA is confident that key lawmakers anticipate that a meaningful amount of this funding will be dedicated to needs in Klamath County.

The July 19 letter requests that the Emergency Board move forward to approve funds for critical needs within two weeks.  Specifically, the letter requests the following:

· $3 million to support state and local agencies’ response to the problem of domestic wells drying up (see related story on front page).

· $8 million to cover assessments paid by patrons of irrigation districts (and similar entities).  Under the request, each district would have the discretion to reimburse 2021 assessments, cover unpaid 2021 assessments, or apply toward the next-upcoming assessments.

· $1 million for livestock watering wells and construction of off channel water facilities for ranchers, including tribal allotees, with $2 million in additional funding longer term (also provides protection for riparian corridors).

$8 million for emergency feed and nutritional supplements for ranchers, including tribal allottees

· (administered through Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to Klamath County).

“Farmers and ranchers need water for irrigation.  That is what we do,” said KWUA Vice President Ry Kliewer.  “We gladly work to get badly needed relief to producers who are being impacted by government decisions this year, and must work even harder on fixing the imbalanced policy choices.” that are causing the problems.” 

Read the letter here.


In Klamath County, the Water Master’s Office.  Click here to fill out OWRD’s Well Interference Form

Or call 541-883-4182

Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management and the Oregon Department of Human Resources have secured portable water tanks for  community members whose wells has run dry at no cost.

Klamath County Fairgrounds is offering filling of water tanks/container at no cost. Please contact the office prior at 541-883-3796 or check in at the office when you arrive.

In the Tulelake / Newell areas in California (Siskiyou and Modoc Counties)

Call Tulelake Irrigation District, at 530-667-2249.

Sticking Together, Supporting Neighbors

Despite the disastrous lack of irrigation water from the Klamath Project, unprecedented wildfire, dust and smoke-filled skies, and chronic uncertainty, farm and ranch communities are pulling together to persevere.  Neighbors are helping neighbors.  Local leaders are leading. 

This month, there have been some very visible examples of local communities sticking together.  On Independence Day weekend, leaders of the Shut Down Fed Up organizational movement sponsored a barbecue in Malin Park.  Over 1,200 people enjoyed steaks and hamburgers, sweetcorn, and watermelon in a friendly, small-town setting.  On July 17, there was a great turnout of Oregon / Lake County Farm Bureau members at Big Springs Park in Bonanza.  Home-grown meats and hand-cut french fries, topped off by a number of homemade desserts, made for a great Saturday afternoon. 

In the meantime, families, neighbors, congregations, and communities will continue to support each other, each day, while knowing that some neighbors may not be here next year.  KWUA is honored to be part of the Klamath basin agricultural community and will not rest until balance and reason in water management are restored.

What has KWUA been working on…

KWUA’s Board of Directors strives to keep member districts, their patrons, and other interested parties informed. Board members help with the dissemination of information received at our monthly board meetings, and staff produces a monthly newsletter.

The KWUA board held its regular business meeting on July 14, 2021.  Below is a recap of ongoing activities.  If you would like more in-depth information, we encourage you to contact your respective district board member, listed on our website.

Executive Director’s Report

ESA Re-Consultation.  When the “Interim Plan” for Project operations was adopted in April 2020, it was adopted to apply through the end of September 2022, although Reclamation is not required to keep it in place for that long, and could adopt a new plan whenever an ESA consultation is completed.  The Interim Plan has proven unworkable, and  with the current re-consultation process using the hydro team, it seems unlikely that the re-consultation will be completed on time.  Also, there has been no engagement on key regulatory issues KWUA has identified as important.  KWUA is engaging in discussion of these concerns about the consultation process and schedule with Reclamation staff in the region and Washington.

Funding Update.  KWUA and its lobbyists have worked hard to secure more funding for our struggling community.  We believe the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (DRA) may receive funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that is in addition to the $15 million from Reclamation.  Use of USDA funds would probably be reasonably flexible; the main principle is to benefit producers in the Project. The DRA board and staff, and KWUA, are following up with USDA about various outstanding issues.

Also, KWUA continues to work on a request to the Oregon Emergency Board for immediate funding for domestic well mitigation and reimbursement of operation and maintenance assessments paid by district patrons.

D.C. Activities.  KWUA’s work for funding for this year is pretty much wrapped up, and focus is increasing on Project operations for 2022 and beyond.  Paul Simmons has had discussions with members regarding our short-term goals of disaster relief through existing authorities and appropriations and congressional action, as well a long-term legislative asks.  KWUA will have meetings with Representatives Bentz and LaMalfa during the week of July 19.  The Senate offices have been very helpful on funding and have also been approached about legislative goals.  KWUA also had a meeting with Biden Administration appointees on July 8. We may have a visit from one or more Biden Administration appointees in the near future.

Operations Committee Report

In water year 2021, the Upper Klamath Basin has witnessed the lowest ever Upper Klamath Lake inflow during the period of record used in Project operations planning.  Only mid-1970s drought and late 1920s / early 1930s drought years may possibly have been lower. 

The board also received a report on activities in the work of the “hydro team” that was formed to provide input for development of a new proposed action for Endangered Species Act (ESA) section 7 consultation.  One potential approach involves modification of the 2020-2022 “Interim Plan” operations rules.  United States Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) consultants were tasked with improving Interim Plan operational rules without changing the basic amount of water that goes to Upper Klamath Lake, Klamath Project irrigation and refuges, and the Klamath River; any “allocations” were assumed to be a separate discussion.  Their major modifications were: (i) the month of March would be removed from the “summer” period and simply have its own set of rules; (ii) the Environmental Water Account (EWA) and Project Supply would be calculated for April-October (rather than March-October), but using similar calculations; and (iii) the so-called “augmentation” water in the Interim Plan would no longer be a stair-step increase (“jump”) in EWA, and EWA in excess of need for Iron Gate minimum flows would, with increasing wetness of hydrology, have gradually increasing amounts of water available for flexible management (including flushing flows if there was sufficient water).  This information was to be presented to the hydro team on the morning of July 14.  The board also discussed concerns regarding the hydro team dynamics and process, which also relates to the timing and process for completion of the ESA re-consultation.

Deputy Director’s Report. 

Drought Coordination Meeting—Mark Johnson has been coordinating with East Cascades Works, the Chamber of Commerce and Klamath County Economic Development to address the workforce issues due to lack of water for irrigation and farming.  East Cascades Works will host an informational presentation within the next several weeks.  Topics presented include work-share programs, dislocated worker grants, among others.

   Ag Economist—KWUA, in partnership with the Oregon State University Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center, have interviewed potential consultants to update the economic analysis of the contribution of agriculture in the Klamath Basin.  This analysis will be Project-focused with the Upper Basin component included as well.  We have received many inquiries over the last several months and would like to update the previous analysis which was conducted in 2012.

Upper Klamath Lake Hypothesis Will Be Tested

The current biological opinion for suckers assumes Upper Klamath Lake elevation 4138.0 as critical for suckers in that it maintains one meter of depth for fish to move been the made body of the lake and Pelican Bay, which has better quality water.  This year, lake elevations may drop below that elevation. Mark

Johnson contacted the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) about the feasibility of monitoring Pelican Bay. Other stakeholders were also and ultimately the USGS, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), deployed seven self-contained antennas in the spring-influenced area.  The objective is to monitor PIT tagged suckers and redband trout over for the next few months.  This data could provide important insight on the need for the 4138.0 feet above sea level.  KWUA is appreciative of the efforts of ODFW and USGS in putting this together on short notice, and to the  support for the project from the Klamath Tribes, and Reclamation. 

Klamath Project Drought Response Agency

DRA applications will be accepted from June 10-July 30, until 5 pm.  Applications can be obtained on their website at www.klamathwaterbank.com.  Other details of the meeting have been covered under the funding update above.

Both the KWUA and DRA boards are concerned with the number of already reported domestic wells running dry, along with the anticipation of many more.  We are seeking additional funding from federal, state, and local governments, but we have no clear indications that this will occur.  We will continue to work with our local officials and state and federal representatives for funding opportunities and a source to administer those funds.

D.C Report- The Ferguson Group

KWUA and The Ferguson Group (TFG) have, for the past several months, been working closely with the Oregon delegation, members of the California delegation, and key agency staff at Reclamation and USDA to secure funding to address the dire water shortage facing the Klamath Project.  In addition, KWUA and TFG continue to work with supporters on Capitol Hill and the agencies to identify and address operational needs through legislation including broadly-supported measures that have been introduced in the past and passed in the U.S. Senate.

Regarding appropriations, the House Appropriations Committee has approved its Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill and report for floor consideration on a 33-24 party-line vote. The $53.2 billion spending bill would boost funding in fiscal 2022 for clean energy and water infrastructure programs.  The Energy Department, Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineers each would receive more money under the Energy and Water Development spending bill than in FY 2021—$45.1 billion, $1.95 billion, and $8.7 billion, respectively.  The bill also includes $14.5 billion for clean energy innovation, research, and security within the Energy Department.

In the Senate, Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee and White House officials have agreed to a $3.5 trillion framework for the FY 2022 budget reconciliation package which, when legislative text is drafted and released, likely in September, is expected to include most of President Biden’s proposed $1.8 trillion American Families Plan and key elements of the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan that are not included in the eight-year, $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (which includes $579 billion in new spending; details below).

The next step will be to get agreement from the full Senate Democratic Caucus on the spending and revenue targets so the Senate Budget Committee can draft its FY 2022 budget resolution.

Also, the Senate Energy and Natural Resource (ENR) Committee has reported an energy infrastructure bill that authorizes billions of dollars for energy infrastructure, environmental projects, and roughly $8.3 billion in Reclamation water infrastructure and management-related funding.

Of note, there is funding for the aging infrastructure account at $3.2 billion for long-term loans, which includes $100 million for certain Reclamation projects suffering a critical failure and about $1.2 billion for water storage, groundwater storage, and conveyance.

The future of the ENR bill is uncertain given that the politics of the infrastructure debate are quite fluid at the moment; however, the current expectation is that it will be included in the bipartisan “hard infrastructure” legislative package—the framework of which was agreed to in late June by the bipartisan “Group of 20” Senators and the White House—which is currently slated for a vote on the Senate floor sometime before the start of the currently scheduled August Recess.


· Drought-related forage pests in Klamath: education and treatment seminar,  July 30, 10 am-2 pm, rsvp to: kelley delpit  at kdelpit@sustainablenorthwest.org  or call: 661-747-8562

· KWUA is planning the 2021 Fall Harvest Tour for early Fall.  If you are interested in sponsoring the event, please contact the office at 541-883-6100.

· The DRA’s No Irrigation Program is now open and accepting applications from June 10-July 30, until 5 pm.  Applications may be obtained on their website at www.klamathwaterbank.com.

· KWUA offers notary services. Chelsea Shearer is a certified Notary Public and KWUA offers her notary services free to all members and patrons of member districts. To schedule an appointment with Chelsea, call the office at 541-883-6100. 

· KWUA offers meeting room facilities for member districts, Monday–Friday 8am- 5pm based on availability. To schedule a meeting, call the office at 541-883-6100. 

From Your District- Upcoming Meeting

· Klamath Irrigation District will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on August 12 @ 1 pm at the KID office and Live via their youtube channel

· Tulelake Irrigation District will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on August 9 @ 8 pm at the TID office

· Klamath Project Drought Response Agency will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on August 11 @ 11 am in the KWUA boardroom

· KWUA will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on August 11 @ 2 pm in the KWUA boardroom

· Klamath Drainage District will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on August 19 @ 1:30 pm at the KDD office

· Pioneer District Improvement Co. will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on August 2 @ 5:30 pm

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Klamath Water User Association