WATERWORKS

October Newsletter

Fill the lake, For Everyone’s Sake

Upper Klamath Lake – Photo by Chelsea Shearer

Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) has urged, and continues to urge, that the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) fill Upper Klamath Lake this fall and winter. We know this message is understood. We wait to see whether it will be acted upon.

The reason for water storage is to conserve water at one time for use at a later time when the water is needed. When full, Upper Klamath Lake holds nearly one million acre-feet of water, one-half of which is stored water that can benefit multiple uses and interests.

Historically, Link River Dam, which impounds water in the lake, was operated with an objective that Upper Klamath Lake be full in spring, ensuring a water source during the dry summer months. Unfortunately, in recent years, and under Reclamation’s Interim Operations Plan (IOP), prudent water management took a back seat to symbolic gestures and an atmosphere driven by agencies bargaining for who could get the most water for one use or another.

KWUA had been encouraged that the IOP, as written, would expire on September 30, 2022, but KWUA is greatly discouraged that the Department of the Interior (DOI) has decided to extend the IOP into the future. This information came in the form of a letter from the Senior Counsel to the Secretary of the Interior, which was in response to a joint letter from the Klamath Tribes and KWUA which urged that Reclamation not extend the IOP. Notwithstanding our objections, Reclamation has now formally extended the IOP through at least December 15, 2022, with the stated objective of furthering this extension through September 2024.

In her September 23 letter, the Senior Counsel committed Reclamation to “initiating a meet-and-confer process earlier in the 2023 water year (which began October 1) than it has in the past, “should hydrology and forecasting indicate a strong possibility of not attaining an Upper Klamath Lake level of 4,142 feet on April 1, 2023.”

KWUA believes that this approach is deficient, and will not solve the problems that have characterized operation under the IOP. KWUA informally advised Reclamation and DOI officials that a water level of 4,142 feet by April 1 is an inappropriate trigger for action. Upper Klamath Lake needs to be operated far more conservatively if the situation that has occurred the last three years is to be avoided. 

This point is not one that KWUA should have to carry alone–4,142 feet by April 1 is insufficient for the purported needs of suckers, salmon, and most certainly, agriculture, which under current federal policy, ranks low on the current hierarchy of Klamath Project water allocations. Wildlife refuges are also exposed to more damage.

Putman’s Point; Upper Klamath Lake could be filled this winter. Photo by Chelsea Shearer

A water surface elevation of 4,142 feet by April 1 is insufficient if Upper Klamath Lake must then be maintained at that level through all of April and May, as the IOP contemplates. This elevation is treated as necessary for shoreline spawning by the subset Lost River suckers that spawn in the lake rather than in tributaries of the lake. The area of lake spawning is approximately .25 acres of springs in the 85,000 acre lake, or .001 percent of its surface area. 

Under the IOP, there must also be enough water stored in Upper Klamath Lake in the spring to produce a “surface flushing flow” of at least 6,030 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Iron Gate Dam for 72 hours. The amount of water necessary to produce such a flow under most circumstances is around 50,000 acre-feet, which equates to approximately 6/10ths of a foot of water surface elevation on Upper Klamath Lake.

Under dry hydrologic conditions, the IOP calls for a “forced” surface flushing flow on or before April 15, during which as much water is released from Upper Klamath Lake as is physically possible to produce a flow as close to 6,030 cfs at Iron Gate Dam.  The Yurok Tribe’s fisheries scientists have said that it is very important that a flushing flow occur next spring to remove the sediment in the river from the fires and debris flows that occurred this past summer. Whatever one’s opinion about that subject, the demand to produce a flushing flow will be significant.

View of Upper Klamath Lake in 2021. Photo by Chelsea Shearer
 

In basic math, if a water level of 4,142 feet through April and May is required for suckers and up to an additional 50,000 acre-feet is necessary for a flushing flow for salmon (which equates to 0.6 feet on Upper Klamath Lake), then agriculture and food production would not receive a drop of water until the lake is at least at 4,142.6 feet during the spring. Even then, there must still be forthcoming inflows to support the lake level objective for suckers through the end of May. 

KWUA has requested several hydrologic projections from Reclamation, assuming conditions remain dry, but Reclamation has declined to provide those projections. Although we lack concrete data, available information suggests that the appropriate standard for next year is at least one foot higher–4,143 feet by April 1 (4,143.3 feet is considered “full”)–in order to ensure that all needs can be met, including timely irrigation within the Klamath Project across all lands served from Upper Klamath Lake. 

KWUA has verbally communicated this point directly to Reclamation and DOI officials, as well as other stakeholders. In subsequent correspondence, Reclamation acknowledged that it “understands and agrees with the important benefits that would be afforded to all parties in the Basin if Upper Klamath Lake were to be refilled by April 1st . . . .”

KWUA is pleased that the message has been received. Now the questions are, will Reclamation follow through, will it be allowed to manage water prudently and take the actions necessary to realize this outcome? 

Hoping for rain and improved hydrology is not a plan. Reclamation needs to identify the concrete actions it intends to take to meaningfully affect the lake’s refill curve. There is one way to do that, which does not involve irrigation. Releases to the Klamath River must be limited and reasonable. DOI must not be driven by the politics of who gets the most.

Let’s help Reclamation out by revising the slogan on the bumper sticker, to make it clear, at least for 2023, “Fill the Lake, For Everyone’s Sake.”

Let Farmers Farm: KWUA Annual Tour Draws Record Participation

All Photography was provided by Chelsea Shearer and is copyrighted by Shearer Images

The annual highlight for me in my position at KWUA is the Fall Harvest Tour. We meet new people, show off the industry and ingenuity of the agricultural community, and help tour participants understand the marvels and challenges of agriculture and its importance to the economy and community.

In recent years, that opportunity has been very different. The Klamath Project has experienced three unprecedented and consecutive water curtailments. While there was some Upper Klamath Lake water available in 2022, the drought and severe regulatory restrictions definitely took a toll on basin agriculture. The hardships are serious, and the realities make it more challenging to put on a tour. 

This year, 60 people joined us for the tour, at no cost to participants, thanks to our generous sponsors. Tour participants are provided transportation via a tour bus, lunch, and a chance to hear first-hand from men and women in agriculture. This year’s participants included Klamath County Commissioner Dave Henslee, Siskiyou County Supervisor Brandon Criss, Senator Jeff Merkley’s Field Representative Gavin Coble, Western Region Director of Operations for Ducks Unlimited Jeff McCreary, Oregon House District 56 candidate Emily McIntire, Oregon State University and state and federal agency staff members, and many other community members. 

The KWUA board wanted to show and tell it like it is this year. The tour featured the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The tour focused on some things that worked and the many things that did not work. We highlighted producers and businesses that have struggled to make it through yet another year of little to no water. While continuing to celebrate and show off our amazing industry, we heard and saw harsh truths about what has happened over the last few years to good people and businesses, our valued wildlife resources, and the infrastructure that we depend upon.

To start the day, participants were greeted by KWUA staff, and heard about the history and operation of the Klamath Project from Executive Director Paul Simmons. From there, participants loaded onto a bus and headed to Link River Estates. Link River Estates overlooks the Klamath lake, Link River Dam, and the Link River. Enroute, KWUA Water Policy Director Moss Driscoll described the geology and hydrology of the Upper Klamath Basin through time, ultimately focusing on the construction of Link River Dam.

At Link River Estates, Kamath Irrigation District (KID) Manager and KWUA Operations Committee Chair Gene Souza provided facts and figures regarding Upper Klamath Lake storage, and inflows and outflows during the last few irrigation seasons. Those who paid the closest attention earned a KID hat at the “pop quiz” Gene gave us after his presentation.

Onions in the Basin

The tour group then proceeded to a field where an onion crop was actively being harvested, some of us gleaning a few of our own at the ends of rows. Ed Staunton spoke to the group about his 90-acre onion plot. Typically, Ed grows onions in the Klamath Project in Tulelake, CA. However, due to the lack of secure surface water from Upper Klamath Lake this year, he was forced to find land that has more reliable access to water. He leased 90 acres on Running Y Ranch to grow his onions and ensure that he could fulfill his contracts. Ed stated that in his operation, his employees are people who have worked for him for 10-20 years. He employs them all year round, and during the off-season, necessary work such as maintenance and other jobs keeps them all busy.

Interesting facts this 90-acres of onions:

· There are 20,000 seeds per pound. They are planted in four small rows which measure as one 36-inch row

· 4-5 pounds of seed are used per acre

· These onions had an 85% germination rate

· He will harvest approximately four million pounds of the onions off the field

· Onions that he was harvesting are for dehydrated use only; they are dried and used in soups, powders, and as dehydrated onions

· There was at one time twenty-six farmers in the Basin; now there are four

From the onion field at Running Y, the bus drove through the Project, hearing Gene’s narration of key sites viewed from the bus on the way to the Winema Lodge. Gene discussed current and upcoming maintenance challenges and expenses associated with hundreds of miles of dewatered canals and drains that are clogged with weeds, cracked, damaged by animal burrows, and overall deteriorated. He pointed out households whose wells have gone dry, and the dry bed of Spring Lake, which historically was always full of water.

Waterfowl in the Sumps

The group enjoyed a lunch at Winema Lodge sponsored by North West Farm Credit. There, the group heard from Tulelake Irrigation District (TID) President and avid wildlife enthusiast John Crawford, together with Jim McCreary, Director of Operations for Ducks Unlimited’s (DU) nine-state Western Region. John, who was born and raised in the Tule Lake Basin, spoke of the pride he has historically in farming in the Basin and his daily interactions with wildlife on and off Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. He contrasted that feeling with the despair created by barren, weedy fields and the deafening silence due to the lack of wildlife in the waterless Basin. The two gave history about the Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge and what is in store for the now-dry sump.

Jim spoke of the critical importance of the Klamath Basin and Klamath farming and refuges for waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway. He described DU’s commitment to working landscapes and partnerships between agriculture, conservationists, and wildlife managers, and the necessity of farming and ranching for the well-being of North American waterfowl.

Cal-Ore Potatoes

The group made the journey to Cal-Ore Produce on the Oregon-California border. Cal-Ore was in the process of loading organic potatoes into large wooden boxes carefully chosen to ensure delivery of the best product to consumers. Crews were also running organic red potatoes in the packing shed. We were greeted by Marc Staunton and general manager Ryan Finney, who took the group on a tour. During October through July, Cal-Ore potatoes are sold in bulk to companies such as Walmart and Whole Foods, among other local and regional chains. Marc stated that because their packing shed is only a few hours away from three of Walmart’s large west coast distribution centers, their product is very appealing for freshness.

Cal-Ore stores their potatoes unwashed in the shed, and moves them as orders are received.

Interesting Facts:

· The biggest factor in keeping potatoes fresh is keeping the storage temperatures down

· From the time they leave the storage, it takes three-four days for Klamath potatoes to be on the shelves of west coast Walmarts

· Prior to water curtailments by the government, Cal-Ore moved 30–35% more product through their processing facilities

· Currently, about 50 million pounds of product go through the Cal-Ore facility yearly

· It takes one month to complete harvest, from the ground to the shed, which happens primarily in October, and subject to favorable weather conditions

· There are only three active packing facilities left in the Klamath Project area

· Fresh potatoes from Cal-Ore can be purchased directly at the front door of the facility as well as Dick Howards Meat Center on Washburn Way

Marc also spoke about the lack of irrigation water and how that has affected producers and their families. He stated that “the inflation of food prices such as garlic, tomatoes, rice, potatoes, and lettuce is not caused by the war in Ukraine as the media would have you believe. It is very much due to the lack of water caused by government regulation in the West.”

Three M Mint

The final destination was Three M Mint in Merrill, Oregon, where we heard from Mike McKoen. Mike described the origins and history of mint oil in the basin. He also spoke to the group about the trials and tribulations of this year’s crop, one of the worst he has seen due to a lack of surface water in the Basin, coupled with wind and heat. 

Once mint oil is extracted from the leaves and stored in barrels, it can be saved for years. Mike discussed how the business grew from one still on a small concrete slab to what it is now. Together with his father, they used to grow 1,200 acres of peppermint; today, he is down to 50 acres of peppermint and 40 acres of proprietary varieties. In a 45-day harvest period, his mint oil distillery employs around 20 people, pays $300,000 in payroll, and has close to $10 million in sales. Without a reliable supply of water and a good growing season, that loss can have a huge impact on the economics of the Basin.

Interesting facts:

· One 400 lb. drum of mint oil produces:

· 400,000 tubes of toothpaste

· 5 million sticks of gum

· 30 million mint candies

· Mint does not grow everywhere; it only grows well within 200 miles of the 42nd parallel

· 45% of the mint oil in the world goes to chewing gum

· 45% of the mint oil in the world goes to oral care

· 10% goes into candies and pharmaceuticals, and aroma therapy is slowly coming into play

· Rootstock is a crop that must be planned, it cannot just be taken out of the ground

· Three M Mint was the first mint still in the world to have a food safety certification

· Mint is antimicrobial

· Once the oil is extracted from mint leaves, it can be stored in barrels for years

As the day came to an end, participants surely understood that farmers just want to farm, and federal water policy is impairing food production and the health of rural communities. For every cropped field, there are many that went wanting. For the resilient producers still standing, WE SUPPORT YOU and your commitment to feed the world.

We are proud and humbled to work for these people, many of whom are friends. At KWUA, we will continue to work to keep this community whole, and point out the damaging federal water policies that are causing unnecessary harm.

Finally, a huge thank you to the sponsors who funded the entire cost of the tour. Without them, we could not share this experience.

Congratulations Greg Addington, New OFB Executive Director

Greg Addington will begin work as Executive Director of the Oregon Farm Bureau in November.

OFB is a grassroots, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing the interests of farming and ranching families in the public and policymaking arenas. It has nearly 7,000 member families.

Greg served as KWUA’s Executive Director from April 2005 to December 2015. During that time, he gained a reputation as a trusted leader and built strong relationships with other leaders and communities up and down the Klamath Basin. In 2015, the University of Idaho recognized Greg as a distinguished alumnus of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, largely in recognition of his achievements at the helm of KWUA.

Since 2016, Greg has engaged in a consulting business. One of his major efforts has been the founding and management of a leadership program (REAL Oregon) for current and future natural resources leaders.

This will not be Greg’s first experience with OFB. He worked in government affairs for OFB for nine years prior to coming to work for KWUA.

Greg was raised in Eagle Point. He and his wife Monica have lived in Merrill since 2004, where they raised their two children. Too soon, they will be moving to the Willamette Basin.

KWUA wishes the best to Greg and Monica as they write their next chapter. And congratulations, OFB. You hit the jackpot.

The Ferguson Group:  D.C. Report

KWUA and TFG continue to work with your delegation on Capitol Hill and the federal agencies regarding KWUA’s priorities in 2022, which include: the urgent need to address the ESA reconsultation process; identify funding opportunities to support the DRA; impacts on operations in 2022 and preparations for 2023 operations; and to address operational needs through legislation related to the pending dam removals on the Klamath River. 

On Capitol Hill, Congress returned in September from its six week summer break, mainly to finish the stopgap spending bill until after the election.  The House and Senate passed, with bipartisan votes, the Continuing Appropriations and Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023 (HR 6833) – commonly known as the FY 2023 continuing resolution (CR). President Biden promptly signed the bill into law, thus ensuring the federal government’s agencies continued operating at FY 2022 levels through Friday, December 16, 2022.

In addition to extending federal government operations – necessitated because Congress once again failed to complete action on the 12 appropriations bills by September 30,  the CR includes the following provisions:

· $12.4 billion to provide training, equipment, weapons, logistics, and financial support for the government of Ukraine to defend against Russia’s invasion.

· $2 billion for domestic disaster relief for a block grant program for communities impacted by Stafford Act natural disasters in 2021 and 2022.

· $2.5 billion for New Mexico wildfires from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire,

Left out of the final CR was Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) initially- included permitting reform bill which would have moved the government’s regulatory process toward streamlining renewable energy, fossil fuels, and minerals extraction projects. A vote on the permitting bill was originally promised to Sen. Manchin in exchange for his support for the Democrats’ party-line climate focused Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) vote back in August.

However, since the vote, the permitting deal had become a political flashpoint for Democrats and Republicans alike in the aftermath of the IRA, with both sides opposing the bill for varying reasons. Facing certain defeat, Sen. Manchin pulled the provision from the CR shortly before it was voted on.     

In the executive branch, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have sent the proposed final rule defining the interim definition of waters of the United States (WOTUS), to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for pre-publication review. OMB received the interim rule on September 12 and will take about 90-days to review the rule. It is a controversial rulemaking that could be finalized before the Supreme Court rules in the Sackett v. EPA case challenging one of the traditional WOTUS tests. A Supreme Court decision could essentially define WOTUS once and for all making any previous rulemakings moot. 

The proposed rule interprets WOTUS to mean the waters defined by a collection of Corps and EPA regulations referred to as the “1986 regulations,” with amendments to reflect the agencies’ interpretation of the statutory limits on the scope of WOTUS as informed by past Supreme Court decisions, including Rapanos v. United States, essentially recodifying the 1986 regulations in the process. As a possible sign of WOTUS’s importance, the high court heard oral arguments on the Sackett case on the first day of its new term – October 2.

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 October 12, 2021.  Below is a recap of the ongoing activities. If you would like more in-depth information, we encourage you to contact your respective district board member listed on our website.

Candidate Introduction

Brian Lepore, Democratic Nominee for Oregon House District 55, attended the October regular KWUA board meeting. Brian introduced himself and described his background and priorities as a candidate and representative if elected.

Upcoming Conferences

The 2023 annual conference for water users in the California-Great Plains Region of the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) will be on Wednesday-Friday, January 25-27, 2023, in Reno, Nevada. The California-Great Plains Region (formerly known as Mid-Pacific Region) includes the Klamath Project, the Newlands Project in Nevada, and a number of California reclamation projects including the Central Valley Project, Cachuma Project (Santa Barbara County), and others. The conference consists of two days of individual and panel presentations and opportunities for formal and informal meetings with Reclamation and district directors and water managers. Reclamation Commissioner Touton has been invited to be the Wednesday keynote speaker, and other government leaders are expected, although not yet confirmed.

As in all years, the conference will include a Klamath Project Report. In addition, Paul Simmons will moderate a panel on the Endangered Species Act on the 50th anniversary year of its enactment in 1973. KWUA will distribute registration information when it becomes available.

Paul also advised the board that he will be presenting at the Water Law Institute on November 4. https://www.fnrel.org/programs/wl22/overview#tab . In addition, the Oregon Water Law Conference takes place on November 9-10. https://www.theseminargroup.net/seminars/7216

Operations Committee Report

Overall. Operations Committee Chairman Gene Souza  resented a thorough summary of water year 2022, which concluded on September 30. Gene also provided a report on the Oregon Water Resources Department’s rulemaking regarding designation of critical groundwater areas, including process to date, upcoming dates, and the content and tone of discussions among participants. The current rulemaking will establish the statewide standards for designating critical groundwater areas, which will then be applied in each Basin. Gene commented on the need for the process to give deference to local people and experts, who best know the circumstances of the Basin, and who could most be affected by the process. 

Extension of IOP: Recent Communications from DOI.  During September, KWUA received several items of correspondence from DOI related to extending the life of the IOP that was the basis for Klamath Project operations from April 2020 through September 30, 2022. This information has been distributed to board members and is available from KWUA. (See related discussion under the Water Policy Director’s Report, below.)

Mr. Strickler confirmed information that KWUA had heard informally; that Mr. Strickler has accepted an increased role in

the Klamath Basin as a representative of the Department of the Interior as a whole. He will also be supported in this role by Jennifer Frozena from the Solicitor’s Office in Portland.

The persons in attendance from the Project at the August 1 meeting were: Ben DuVal, Ry Kliewer, Marc Staunton, Luther Horsley, Rodney Cheyne, Tricia Hill, Scott White, Sam Henzel, Bill Walker, Moss Driscoll, and Paul Simmons. Some of these attendees provided perspectives at the August KWUA board meeting. Mr. DuVal believed that it was significant that the Commissioner has visited the Klamath Basin three times during her tenure. Mr. Cheyne stated that the August 1 meeting was relatively better than a larger meeting that occurred in late June. All agreed that there is still a long way to go to realize an overall more reasonable federal approach to Project operations.

Consultant Scope of Work for Internal Project Issues

Several months ago, a scope of work was prepared for professional assistance to address a group of internal Klamath Project issues. The board deferred action on the item at two prior meetings. During the October meeting, the board approved sending the scope of work to appropriate consultants and requesting bids.

Executive Director Report  

KPFA Legislation. Paul Simmons reported on Senators Wyden and Merkley’s September 29 introduction of S. 5009, the “Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement Support Act.” KWUA has advocated a suite of legislative measures for several years: in 2018, Congress enacted some but not all of the measures, and S. 5009 would address the remainder. The main provisions of the legislation would: (1) eliminate any future cost responsibility for Link River Dam and Keno Dam for “covered contractors” (the term “covered contractors” means parties to the 2016 Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement and contractors those parties serve); (2) authorize non-reimbursable appropriations for purposes that would have been available under the now-terminated Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, including power costs reduction and fish screens and similar environmental protection measures.;(3) authorize the federal government to contract with TID for reimbursement of up to 69 percent of D Plant operations and maintenance costs, if there is a federal benefit; and (4) designate Klamath Irrigation District’s C Flume/Siphon as emergency extraordinary operation and maintenance.

KWUA has been in ongoing communication with Representatives Bentz and LaMalfa, our members in the House of Representatives. The timing of any introduction in the House of Representatives is presently unknown, and depends on much larger political dynamics.

D.C. Activities. Paul Simmons and Moss Driscoll are participating in occasional meetings of a Western Water Work Group with multiple western water interests and congressional staff members from Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee minority staff.

Members of KWUA’s Administrative Committee and Paul met with Matt Strickler, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, on September 29 in Ashland. Matt has taken on responsibility as a point person for the Office of the Secretary with ongoing engagement on Klamath Basin issues.

Tri-Counties Restoration Initiative. There has been media coverage recently of a proposal by Klamath, Modoc, and Siskiyou Counties that there be an advisory committee consisting of counties and tribes in the Basin that would make recommendations on the expenditure of restoration dollars. This initiative was conceived during the KWUA-Tri-Counties meeting work. The Commissioners and Supervisors have been active generally in trying to have all the money spent on an actual plan that will actually do good, and the recent proposal for collaboration is a good.

Dam Removal. Dam Removal. There continues to be a steady stream of filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by state and federal agencies, tribes, and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation. Many of the filings inform FERC of the completion of tasks or regulatory approvals necessary for FERC to make a decision on license surrender and de-commissioning.

Inflation Reduction Act Drought Funding. The recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act appropriated $4 billion for western drought relief through the end of the fiscal year 2026. Paul Simmons recommended the formation of a small committee of two KWUA and Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (DRA) board members, interested district managers, and Moss Driscoll, to identify proposals that KWUA could promote. The committee was formed, and Moss will be arranging the first meeting.

Water Policy Director Report  

Operational Priorities for 2023.

Water Policy Director Moss Driscoll referenced a letter from Elizabeth Klein, Senior Counselor to the Secretary of the Interior, responding to KWUA and the Klamath Tribes’ joint letter opposing any extension of the IOP beyond its September 30, 2022 expiration. Moss discussed communications with DOI before and after receipt of the letter, emphasizing that Reclamation needs to be far more conservative in how it manages Upper Klamath Lake this offseason, particularly with respect to river releases, in order to ensure the lake meaningfully fills. 

Tribes’ staff and counsel. Mr. Driscoll reported that the letter seems to have some positive effect, as KWUA has since learned that discussions have begun between Reclamation and

the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about some form of the consultation process. This does not appear to be full-scale abandonment of the IOP, but might be a sign of recognition that something will indeed need to change.

Related, Mr. Driscoll confirmed the clear perception that the federal agencies do not have a plan to proceed. He suggested that this situation presents opportunities, first and foremost, to ensure that the Project is not subject to the same operations that have occurred over the last three years. More broadly, it may be an opportunity to reshape approaches to Project operations. Whether other stakeholders wish to engage meaningfully is an obvious issue, and there is no simple or apparent answer to that question.

Watershed Stewardship Process

IFRMP. In late September, Moss attended meetings regarding the Klamath Basin Integrated Fish Monitoring and Reporting Program in Ashland. This process is seven years in the making and now in its final stages with a “plan,” which KWUA believes lacks adequate substance. KWUA and other agricultural interests will need to continue to participate and attempt to influence the plan positively. It is also important to make sure the plan accommodates or at least does not interfere with KWUA’s planning efforts.

Stewardship Plan. Moss provided a brief summary of the stewardship plan efforts he is leading. He believes this process has enough support, in terms of resources and anticipated contracted services, and that people will start about it and upcoming meetings soon. Moss noted, however, that staff is covering a lot of different fronts right now, and this is a long-term process; often, immediate needs, like securing a water supply for 2023, necessarily take precedence.

Groundwater Management. KWUA is working on getting funding to hire an engineering firm to investigate the feasibility of a Project-wide conjunctive use groundwater-surface water management plan. 

Keno Feasibility Study. KWUA has learned that the State of Oregon intends to request that Reclamation undertake a feasibility study with respect to Keno Dam. Moss stated that this is a step KWUA anticipated and should consider endorsing. As a matter of federal reclamation law, a feasibility study is required before a new project, a new division, or supplemental works can be undertaken by Reclamation. Moreover, this is a public process and KWUA should be an important influence. 

Congratulations to all the 4-H and FFA members of the Tulelake Butte Valley Fair . . . KWUA Supports You

KWUA’s mission is to preserve and enhance the viability of irrigated agriculture for our membership in the Klamath Basin, for the benefit of current and future generations. With this mission in mind, KWUA has continuously found ways to support the Klamath County and Siskiyou 4-H and FFA, such as donating our employee Chelsea Shearer’s time to be a member of the Board of Directors, a Superintendent, and a Club leader.

For many years, KWUA has donated to prizes and awards to reward future generations and let them know that we support them. 4-H is a hands-on approach to agriculture and has a proven track record in growing life skills like confidence, independence, resilience, and compassion through stages of development and experiences. These kids are our future, and we applaud these programs for contributing to a legacy in our youth.

KWUA would like to recognize and thank all the 4-H and FFA members who raised an animal project and brought their projects to the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair that took place on September 9-11.

This year, KWUA sponsored six (listed below) swine and beef Showmanship champions, the daily rate of gain sheep award, and the Champion ag mechanic entry.

The Sheep Daily Rate of Gain award winner was Helena DuVal.
 
Champion Ag Mechanic awards went to Kendra Worch of Tulelake FFA
 

LOSING A HUGE OPPORTUNITY FOR THE KLAMATH WATERSHED: MORE RANDOM ACTS OF RESTORATION

By Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot, Siskiyou County Supervisors Brandon Criss and Michael Kobseff, and Modoc County Supervisors Geri Byrne and Ned Coe

             Reprinted from the Capital Press 

The extraordinary Klamath Watershed needs help. Conflict and competition over water are acute. Agricultural communities are fast drying up, and fish and wildlife are suffering. Division among and within our watershed’s communities is the worst in memory.

Help is available, but we fear the opportunity is being squandered.  We certainly appreciate the strong and effective leadership shown by our Congressional leaders, who helped secure exceptional amounts of funding for environmental restoration projects.

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive plan to spend all this money for the best benefit of all the watershed’s communities.  Agencies are doling out the funds for individual projects based on a competitive proposal process.  This piecemeal approach does not require results or provide any accountability.  

For long-term stability, a watershed-wide, negotiated, integrated plan is needed that would address water management for irrigation and fish and provide fair and legal treatment of the Klamath Watershed, Counties, Tribes, and irrigators and their families.  There are critical parties up and down the river that could help make this happen, and watershed interests need support for this effort from the state and federal governments and our local communities. The document purporting to be such a plan, recently released in draft form by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s contractor, is not such an ‘integrated plan’ for the simple fact that all stakeholders and interests were not involved and represented in that planning process.

It can be done; it has been done elsewhere. 

We are committed to actions that will steer things in a better direction.  Federal decision-makers must commit to getting a better handle on the science behind what is happening to the fisheries in the Klamath Watershed to support future actions that can help these fish. We can do better for farmers and fish in the Klamath Watershed, and we need to do it now.

Surely we know better. We have seen decades of random acts of restoration in our watershed already.  Tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land have been taken out of production.  Projects have been built and then abandoned.  Dikes that once protected productive farmland have been blown up to flood that farmland and create habitat for endangered species. That project – like others that have been tried over the past 20 years – has, by all accounts, failed miserably.

There is a better approach. As the elected representatives of three counties that cover most of the Klamath Watershed, we have reached out to other leaders in a spirit of collaboration.

We have written to leaders of tribal governments, and to our sister counties covering other parts of the watershed, to propose that we work together to chart a path that is best for all of our communities.

We should seek solutions that reflect a philosophy that the best decisions on water issues take place at the local level.

We have proposed that the tribes and counties form an advisory committee that would work together to make recommendations to federal and state agencies on the best uses of available funding.  Through that collaboration, we can restore relationships and trust, and serve the overall public interest.

Many people and groups are working to promote their priorities.  This is appropriate and should continue.  We simply propose to set a table that seats a full range of Klamath Watershed interests, driven by the shared goal to do what is best for our watershed.

We look forward to a shared journey to a better place.