March 2021 Issue 21
Impossibly Insufficient Water Supply Projected
The family farms and ranches in the Klamath Project face a terrible summer, worse than last year and possibly the worst in the 115-year history of the Project. Chronic drought conditions are bad; Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulation makes things much worse. We have opinions about whether this is legal or reasonable, and whether there is any reason to believe threatened and endangered species will actually benefit.
The supply from Upper Klamath Lake is projected to be the second-lowest ever. Based on the March 15 forecast for inflow to Upper Klamath Lake, the most probable announcement of Project Supply (water available from Upper Klamath Lake through the end of October) would be just under 120,000 feet.
This figure is by no means final. Also, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation has directed Project contractors not to divert water until at least April 15; that date could be delayed further. Some parties advocate that irrigation be disallowed altogether during the entire months of April and May. There are other uncertainties.
KWUA believes that this year underscores the need for basin-wide solutions that address the needs of all stakeholders. We supported the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement: with the implementation of that agreement, we would expect that the irrigation supply from Upper Klamath Lake would be not less than 330,000 acre-feet this year. Some believe that agreement was a good thing and others disagree. However, good-faith disagreement about that issue is now a moot point. KWUA believes we cannot resolve our water challenges unilaterally. KWUA has and will engage in litigation when necessary, but above all, will continue to promote stability through collaboration to the extent possible.
Public Meeting Week of April 12
KWUA will host a public meeting the week of April 12, at the Klamath County Fairgrounds. Actual date will be announced as scheduled. The meeting subject will be the 2021 water supply for the Klamath Project, programs available to producers, and related issues. Our goal is that the irrigation community have updated and accurate information and a common basis for moving forward.
It is well known that Reclamation projects that irrigation water supplies will be severely less than the need. Districts have been instructed that there is no water available at all until at least April 15. Irrigation district managers have been working together, and with their elected boards. KWUA is doing all it can to support these efforts, coordinate with policymakers, pursue funding for the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (KPDRA), and take any other necessary steps to avoid or mitigate the most catastrophic impacts.
District managers and other leaders from the Klamath Project, and federal and state agency personnel will provide information and be available for questions.
KWUA will publish more details later.
Spring-Run Chinook Salmon Could Become an ESA-Listed Species
On March 13, 2021, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced that it will go through the process to determine whether sping-run Chinook salmon in the Klamath River and nearby watersheds should be listed as a threatened or endangered “Evolutionarily Significant Unit” (ESU) under the federal ESA. See: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/03/16/2021-05338/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-90-day-finding-on-a-petition-to-list-southern-oregon-and-northern
This launches a process to determine whether the ESU will be listed. The public may submit comments and technical information until a May 17, 2021 deadline.
If the spring-run ESU is listed as threatened or endangered, the protections of ESA section 9 (prohibition of unauthorized take) and section 7 (obligations of federal agencies to avoid jeopardizing a species in their discretionary actions) will be in effect.
The major issues for the listing determination will be: whether winter-run Chinook are sufficiently distinct from fall-run Chinook to justify listing; and, if so, whether the ESU meets the ESA’s definition of threatened or endangered.
KWUA will provide technical input on the potential listing. The Salmon River, a Klamath tributary in California, is considered the most important area for spring-run, and the Klamath Project does not affect the conditions of the Salmon River. However, it is an unfortunate fact that each time in the last three decades that a species has been listed as threatened or endangered, there were public statements by federal agencies that the listing would not be of consequence for Klamath Project irrigation. From today’s vantage point, those statements have not proven accurate.
New Pacific Power Time of Use Program
Pacific Power has announced a program for Oregon farm and ranch operators and districts that offers a cost reduction to those who commit to forego pumping during certain hours of the day in months of peak energy demand (July-September). Under the new program, customers with irrigation and drainage pumps on Schedule 41 (the current irrigation tariff) can receive approximately a 10 percent reduction in pumping costs for avoiding the on-peak period (about a one-cent per kilowatt-hour reduction). The program is available on a meter-by-meter basis. The irrigation or drainage power user can elect whether or not to pump during the afternoon (2:00-6:00 pm) or evening (6:00-10:00 pm) for a given meter. The program requires a one-year commitment. If a customer signs up for the program and continues to pump during the peak period they select, they would pay more for energy on their bill. For more information, visit pacificpower.net/tou and choose Oregon and then irrigation.
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 March 10, 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 page 6.
The board discussed holding the traditional Spring KWUA annual public meeting. Due to COVID-19, the association did not have an annual 2020 meeting, and the situation is too uncertain to plan a traditional meeting now. KWUA will host a public meeting on April 7 to discuss current water supply issues facing Project farmers. KWUA may hold a yearly meeting in the fall and would attempt to have someone from D.C. be the keynote speaker.
Operations Committee Report
On March 5, Reclamation circulated a “strawman” operation plan that included a start date of April 15 for Upper Klamath Lake water. The plan has received input from KWUA districts and other parties. The Klamath Tribes assert that there must be no irrigation diversions during April-May unless Upper Klamath Lake is above elevation 4142.0. This elevation is not likely under most possible circumstances. Brad Kirby, Gene Souza, and Scott White have worked on a potential alternative proposal. One key element is to make the Project Supply announced in April be as certain as possible.
KPDRA board President Marc Staunton described the status of the agency’s application for grant funding to obtain the funds that have been allocated for KPDRA purposes. KPDRA had completed an application but was then told that it must use a different application form that is extremely detailed. The new approach would require hiring a grant writer. There has also been significant attention given to groundwater. There is a condition in the recent legislation authorizing the KPDRA water bank that states that the program will not foster pumping in amounts that exceed what is appropriate in a critically dry year in a sustainable system. Paul Simmons stated that the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) had requested this kind of condition.
The 2021 water year will be difficult and challenging for the Klamath Basin, to say the least. The uncertainty in relation to the water supply required many farmers to make difficult choices and decisions regarding their agricultural operations. The 2021 goal of the KPDRA is to start Land Idling and Groundwater Pumping programs similar to last year to help mediate the effects this year’s drought will have on the Project. One major difference will be how the agency receives its funding. In 2020, due to certain legal restrictions, the funding under the contract with Reclamation was not obtained until late in the season. As a result, the KPDRA was unable to provide specific funding estimates for the participants in the different programs.
The anticipated 2021 programs would be different, as the KPDRA is navigating the waters in a grant-style format to receive the funding the Klamath Project received through the hard work of KWUA and legislative staff. KWUA will continue to actively seek more funds for the 2021 programs. For more information, please go to www.Klamathwaterbank.com.
Executive Director’s Report
Congressional and Administration Communications
Paul Simmons updated the board on efforts to secure additional KPDRA funding in 2021. Three Senate offices (both Oregon Senators and Senator Feinstein) are active in these efforts to obtain more funding. Paul said that he believes funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), though the Commodity Credit Corporation is.
Paul also handed out and emailed to the board a memorandum that he has provided to the Department of the Interior relating to the ESA re-assessment and Solicitor’s Opinions that support that analysis. There was a meeting on March 10 with the presumed new Commissioner of Reclamation (Camille Touton) and others. The person in the Solicitor’s Office who will have the lead on Klamath Project/Klamath Basin issues is Ann Marie Bledsoe Downs. She is the Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs. She was most recently a law professor at Arizona State University. There will be a meeting with Ms. Bledsoe Downs later this month.
The board authorized that if the Klamath Tribes files litigation in relation to their recent 60 -day Notice of Intent to Sue the Bureau of Reclamation, KWUA will intervene.
FERC and Dam Removal Updates
Paul Simmons summarized the contents of the motion to intervene that KWUA filed with FERC. He also informed the board that he had requested time to speak at the next meeting of the board of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation.
Deputy Director’s Report
USBR Science Initiative/Natural Flow Study
At the March board meeting, Mark Johnson provided an update on the Upper Klamath Lake level/sucker survival analysis and natural flow study tasks conducted for Reclamation’s science initiative. KWUA has submitted comments on the scope of work for the natural flow study.
Mark Johnson and the science committee are working to focus additional cost-effective tasks for KWUA’s salmon consultants, Cramer Fish Sciences, and Mark has assigned some work. Mark and other board members have spoken to a consulting firm regarding peer review of an upcoming draft United States Geological Survey report on sucker survival and water quality. This consulting firm will likely also assist Project districts in the Klamath Basin Adjudication hearing process, it has a history with relevant issues.
Mark Johnson provided the board with an update on the technical sucker symposium he attended earlier in the month. Researchers briefed the group on monitoring activities conducted in 2020. There were presentations on Klamath Lake sucker survival, juvenile sucker response to aeration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Klamath Tribes sucker rearing efforts, Clear Lake telemetry project, and others.
Jared Bottcher in Charge of Klamath Basin Area Office
On March 1, 2021, Jared Bottcher began service as the Acting Manager of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office (KBAO). Mr. Bottcher has been serving as Deputy Area Manager since November 2018, and assumed manager upon the retirement of Jeff Nettleton. The KBAO oversees all aspects of Reclamation’s activities associated with the Klamath Project, including Project operations matters, contract and finance issues, compliance with environmental laws, and many others. The KBAO has a staff of around 45.
Jared joined Reclamation in the summer of 2015 and has served multiple roles in that time, including Chief of the Fisheries Branch, Water Operations Division, and most currently Deputy Area Manager. Prior to joining Reclamation, Jared worked as a fish biologist for U.S. Geological Survey and also for a non-profit working with landowners in the Upper Klamath Basin on instream water transfers and implementation of conservation programs. He’s lived in Klamath Falls since March 2009 and enjoys spending time outdoors and with his wife and two kids.
Reclamation expects to announce the opening for the Area Manager position in the coming weeks and hopes to have the permanent replacement selected soon thereafter.
D.C. Report– The Ferguson Group
Congress is awaiting the arrival of the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget to kick off the annual appropriations process. President Joe Biden is not expected to submit his FY 2022 “skinny” budget request to Congress until “mid-to-late April.” The President is required by statute to submit a budget request to Congress by the first Monday in February, but there is no penalty for missing the deadline. A delay is common when a new president takes office, but Biden’s first budget could come later than any of his recent predecessors. The skinny budget request release will allow the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to begin holding hearings with various Biden Administration officials to hear testimony on departmental/agency-specific requests and to eventually mark up and consider each of the 12 annual appropriations bills. The full budget request from President Biden will likely be sent to Congress sometime in May 2021. The FY 2022 begins on October 1, 2021.
In the meantime, action continues on Biden Administration Cabinet confirmations: Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Grenholm was confirmed by the United States Senate by a vote of 64-35; EPA Administrator Michael Regan was confirmed 66-34; and Interior Secretary Deb Haalland was confirmed on March 16.
Regarding the latest COVID relief package, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319) has passed Congress and was signed into law by President Biden on March 12. Among other provisions, the relief package includes $3.6 billion for USDA to provide support for the food supply chain, including purchasing food and agricultural commodities; making grants and loans for small to mid-sized processors, seafood processing facilities, farmers markets, producers, and other organizations to respond to COVID-19; providing assistance to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency; and making payments for necessary expenses related to losses of crops (including losses due to derechos) pursuant to the Wildfire Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus.
IN THE KNOW
· KWUA will hold an informational public meeting on the week of April 12 at the Klamath County Fairgrounds to provide a Klamath Project operations update.
· KWUA was awarded a Clean Water Act section 319 grant through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to help facilitate the planning efforts for a TMDL Stewardship Agreement.
· 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 DISTRICTS –UPCOMING MEETINGS
· Klamath Irrigation District will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on April 8 @ 10 am at the KID office
· Tulelake Irrigation District will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on April 12 @ 8 pm at the TID office
· Klamath Project Drought Response Agency will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on April 12 @ 10 am in the KWUA boardroom
· KWUA will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on April 14 @ 2 pm in the KWUA boardroom
· Klamath Drainage District will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on April 15 @ 1:30 pm at the KDD office
· Pioneer District Improvement Co. will hold its monthly Board of Directors meeting on April 5 @ 5:30 pm
· KBID will hold a quarterly meeting on April 13 @ 10 am at the KID office
Current Snow Water Equivalent = 85%
Water Year-to-Date Precipitation= 75%
Current Upper Klamath Lake Elevation is 4140.79 60% Full = 337,335 AF (capacity =561,838 AF )
Clear Lake is 29% Full = 117,718 AF (capacity = 410,000 AF )
Gerber Reservoir is 30% Full = 28,674 AF