OVER 60 YEARS OF REPRESENTING FARMERS AND
RANCHERS OF THE KLAMATH PROJECT

WaterWorks- February 2021

Navigating a mess (again): Klamath Project 2021 operations and water supply

Under the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to keep track of what the Klamath Project water supply will be and why. Now is an unusually complicated time. The bottom line for Klamath Project irrigators and wildlife refuges is that 2021 looks very bad, due to the dry winter and continued application of outdated regulatory approaches this year. 

There should be better times ahead, at a minimum, because the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) should conform future operations to the updated regulatory guidance that it received last month. But it is critical that this change occur, and that better science be applied as well, as soon as possible.

KWUA has strong opinions about past and current Project operations and related legal and scientific issues. The goal of this article, however, is to provide an objective report on where things stand, how they got there, and where we believe change should occur based on recent and ongoing developments.

The Status Quo

Since 2013, Project operations have been guided by a negotiated approach, with the key negotiators being Reclamation and the two federal agencies having responsibilities for threatened and endangered species management: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (endangered suckers) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (threatened coho salmon and endangered killer whales). The approach loosely has roots in, but does not follow the typical procedures of, section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Under this approach, the agencies study and evaluate iterations of Project operations and water deliveries until NMFS and USFWS indicate that they believe a given operation will result in Reclamation’s compliance with its obligations under section 7 of the ESA to avoid jeopardizing the existence of listed species. The result has been a calculated “Project Supply,” which varies year-to-year based on hydrological conditions and represents the quantity for diversion from Upper Klamath Lake during the March-October period. The operations that yield these Project Supply numbers and other modeled outcomes are then blessed by the fish agencies in “non-jeopardy” ESA biological opinions (BiOps), often accompanied by additional bells and whistles.

This description simplifies the process greatly, and does not incorporate KWUA’s or other parties’ objections, but is sufficient for context.

In 2019, the negotiated approach led to adopted Project operations and non-jeopardy BiOps from USFWS and NMFS.  It was soon discovered that the agencies had used the “wrong” modeling inputs related to purported relationships between flow and salmon habitats. The Yurok Tribe and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (Yurok) filed litigation in federal district court for the northern district of California, claiming that Reclamation’s adopted operations violate its duties under the ESA and that NMFS’s non-jeopardy BiOp was defective.

Over the winter of 2019-2020, the Yurok plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction and an amended motion for a preliminary injunction. The defendant federal agencies and KWUA, as an intervenor, opposed the motions. The motions did not go to a hearing.  Instead, the second motion was withdrawn based on a stipulated stay of the litigation that was filed with the court in March of 2020.

Under the stipulation and a subsequent court order, the Yurok lawsuit is stayed through the end of the 2022 irrigation season, so long as Project operations are based on an “Interim Operations Plan” described in the stipulation. Under the Interim Plan, there are greater amounts of flow in the Klamath River than were provided in the 2019 plan, and less than were requested by the Yurok plaintiffs in their motions for a preliminary injunction. Reclamation adopted the Interim Plan in April 2020.

The stipulation and order do not mandate that the Interim Plan control through the end of the 2022 irrigation season.  The parties could agree otherwise, or Reclamation could go through a new ESA consultation process based on changed operations. However, if Project operations deviate from the Interim Plan, the plaintiffs can move to lift the stay of the case and resume litigation.

Updated Legal and Regulatory Guidance

Between October of 2020 and January of 2021, the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor and Reclamation issued new analyses that update the application of the ESA to the Klamath Project. In summary, these documents conclude: (i) ESA section 7 can only require Reclamation to curtail Project diversions if its contracts with irrigation parties provide it with the discretion to do so and the contracts do not provide such discretion; (ii) Project diversions, like all others, are subject to water law. Senior tribal water rights for fisheries could require curtailment of diversions, but any downstream rights to flows would not include the right to have water released from storage in Upper Klamath Lake. The only rights to the stored water are for irrigation.

These conclusions are consistent with contemporary understandings of ESA section 7 and with long-standing principles of water law.

In other words, in 2021, Reclamation is expected to continue to conform its actions to the 2020-2022 Interim Plan.  
 

2021 Project Supply from Upper Klamath Lake

The updated regulatory guidance for the Klamath Project is good news for Project irrigators. At the same time, the guidance itself does not actually affect a change in operations.

Reclamation has concluded that it must go through an ESA consultation process covering discretionary aspects of Project operations before it can actually adopt or implement a new plan. Realistically, that process cannot be finished for several more months at best. That is bad news for Project irrigators.

In other words, in 2021, Reclamation is expected to continue to conform its actions to the Interim Plan.   As of February 18, 2021, the most probable Project Supply is the second-lowest in history, as illustrated by Figure below.

This early estimate can and will change by some amount before the Project Supply is announced based on the conditions that exist on April 1.  However, absent a great deal of precipitation, the Project Supply will fall far short of the need. Also, some parties have suggested that, due to the atypically low inflow to Upper Klamath Lake and its condition, there should be a delay in the irrigation start date. KWUA does not support these circumstances at all, but they exist.

Also, under the stipulated stay of the Yurok litigation, if operations are simply not going to work as planned, the parties can meet to try to develop alternatives. This process has begun.  

Klamath Irrigation District v. Oregon Water Resources Department

In April of 2020, the Klamath Irrigation District (KID) sued the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) to obtain orders requiring OWRD to stop the release of stored water in Upper Klamath Lake for non-irrigation purposes. KID has received a series of favorable rulings. The most significant and the currently-operative ruling was issued on October 2, 2020, by the trial court (Marion County Circuit Court). It states:

[OWRD’s Watermaster] is ordered to immediately stop the distribution, use and/or release of Stored Water from the UKL without determining that the distribution, use and/or release is for a permitted purpose by users with existing water rights of record or determined claims to use the Stored Water in the UKL. 

Presently, water storage is increasing (slowly) in Upper Klamath Lake and only live flow (not stored water) is being released at Link River Dam. However, that will change sometime this spring: it is foreseeable that OWRD will issue an order directing that Reclamation curtail storage releases for purposes other than use by a water right of record.

Then What?

The most recent communications from Reclamation are that it will continue operations under the Interim Plan until it has completed a new ESA consultation in the future. That would mean that Reclamation would continue to release stored water for downstream fisheries purposes. If it did not, it is foreseeable that the Yurok plaintiffs would move to lift the stay of the federal court litigation in San Francisco and seek some form of injunctive relief against Reclamation.

In the meantime, OWRD wants to appeal the state court ruling to a higher court. It does not have the right to do so at this time because there are still other issues pending in the trial court, and OWRD cannot appeal until all those issues have been decided. If OWRD does not accomplish what the state court has ordered it to do, it may have to answer to the state court.

What a mess…

KWUA is encouraging Reclamation to conform activities to its updated legal guidance as soon as is possible. 

Clear Lake and Geber Reservoirs

Langell Valley and Horsefly Irrigation Districts, the “east side” Project districts, are served by Clear Lake and Gerber Reservoirs on the Lost River system. Precipitation in the Lost River watershed has also been deficient. Unless conditions improve, the water supply for the east side districts will be exhausted by early July. 

dissemination of information received at our monthly board meetings, and staff produces a monthly newsletter.

The KWUA Board did not have a regular business meeting in February.  It will convene on February 17 for our annual strategic planning session. 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.

Operations Committee Report

Much of KWUA’s activity at this time focuses on the upcoming 2021 irrigation water season and its associated challenges. Other articles in this edition relate to elements of those activities.

Current Outreach to Policy-Makers

KWUA is in almost daily contact with Reclamation staff in the Klamath Basin Area Office and the Regional Office in Sacramento. KWUA also has a continuous presence in Washington, DC, and is in frequent contact with congressional and agency staff who focus on our issues.

In December, KWUA met with a member of President Biden’s transition team for the Department of the Interior. This briefing focused on immediate term issues and the importance of updated regulatory guidance for Project operations that had been distributed in November 2020. KWUA is also at this time meeting with Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture personnel who assumed positions in January and are likely to be appointed to key positions. Additionally, KWUA is meeting with members of our congressional delegation and key committee staff personnel. KWUA’s immediate priority issues include: (1) 2021 Klamath Project operations; (2) funding for Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (DRA) programs; (3) implementation of the conclusions from recent Solicitor’s opinions and the accompanying Reclamation re-assessment of its obligations under section 7 of the ESA; (4) appropriations to support critical infrastructure improvements; and (5) specific items for inclusion in an anticipated infrastructure authorizations bill or bills in Congress later this year. 

DRA Funding

At present, the Klamath Basin Area Office has been allocated $10 million for expenditure in the fiscal year 2021 over and above the amount Reclamation requested in its February 2020 budget for the fiscal year 2021. Reclamation could use all of this $10 million for DRA funding, but as members have all heard, there is a real possibility that part of that money will be used for other purposes. We should know within the next ten days or so. In the meantime, however much of the $10 million may go to the DRA, KWUA will do all that we can to obtain additional funding for the DRA in 2021.

The DRA will have the ability to run more predictable programs this year, due to clarifications of legislation that our Congressional delegation accomplished last year. The DRA board is doing what it can to accelerate the date that it will know the availability of funding, as will KWUA. 

Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement at the End of 2020

Within the past two weeks, KWUA has filed papers with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concerning the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), which relates to the proposed removal of PacifiCorp’s four hydroelectric dams/facilities on the lower Klamath River. In July of 2020, FERC approved the transfer of the FERC license for the facilities to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), conditioned on PacifiCorp remaining a co-licensee. 

This was objectionable to PacifiCorp: that objection led to public criticism by dam removal advocates and, ultimately, negotiation.

The negotiation produced a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) entered into on November 16, 2020, by PacifiCorp, the states of California and Oregon, KRRC, the Yurok Tribe, and the Karuk Tribe. Under the MOA,  the MOA parties agree that Oregon and California (not PacifiCorp) will become co-licensees with the KRRC, if approved by FERC.  The two states and PacifiCorp also agree to share equally in paying for any cost overruns above the $450 million made available under the KHSA. (The KHSA contemplates a $200 million contribution by PacifiCorp ratepayers in Oregon and California, which has been approved by the state public utility commissions and fully collected, and $250 million from a California water bond measure.) The MOA parties believe that the likelihood of cost overruns is extremely low.

The MOA also provided for the parties to seek necessary regulatory approvals in order to accomplish dam removal under the modified arrangements. KWUA has responded to two of those requests.

CPUC Protest

On February 5, 2021, KWUA filed a protest to an Advice Letter that PacifiCorp submitted to the CPUC. In the Advice Letter, PacifiCorp seeks CPUC approval of the transfer of assets (the four dams on the lower Klamath River) to KRRC.  

The KWUA protest of the Advice Letter is based on two narrow grounds:

* The request is premature for technical reasons explained in the protest.

* The Advice Letter explains that PacifiCorp has now (in the MOA) agreed, jointly with the two states, to backstop any dam removal cost overruns, and it leaves open that PacifiCorp may, in the future, seek to recover these additional costs from ratepayers. However, the CPUC’s approval, ten years ago, of a dam removal surcharge was premised on the fact that the ratepayer contribution had been capped. KWUA’s protest urges that the CPUC must ensure that the ratepayers will not be responsible for paying more than they already have toward dam removal.

FERC Intervention

On February 16, 2021, KWUA filed a motion to intervene in a FERC proceeding concerning the KHSA, MOA, and dam removal. In that proceeding, initiated by a filing by PacifiCorp and KRRC on November 17, 2020. FERC will consider the amended application for license transfer and license surrender, both necessary predicates for dam removal. KWUA’s motion to intervene identifies opposition on grounds similar to its protest of the CPUC Advice Letter. It also alerts FERC to negative effects of dam removal for Klamath Project irrigation that require mitigation.

Refuge Transfers

In recent months, KWUA has met with representatives of the USFWS and Reclamation, and private landowners in the Wood River Valley regarding the potential for temporary water right transfers from land in the Wood River Valley to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. USFWS already holds water rights for the refuge but is interested in obtaining more senior water rights (rights that would be senior to Klamath Project irrigation rights). KWUA has identified priority issues to ensure that transfers are not detrimental to KWUA members and has emphasized that Klamath Drainage District (KDD), which would have to divert and deliver the water to the refuge, must be consulted and agreeable.

It is possible that at least one Wood River Valley landowner and USFWS will seek necessary OWRD approval of a transfer this year. The immediate issues of most importance appear to be the certainty of funding, the amount of “wet water” that would actually be made available if upstream land is not irrigated, and adequate consultation and agreement between USFWS and KDD. 

Temperature TMDL Litigation

KWUA, jointly with KDD, Van Brimmer Ditch Company, Tulelake Irrigation District, and Ady District Improvement Company, has pursued litigation challenging the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) and TMDL implementation measures for water temperature in the Lost River and Klamath River basins in Oregon. This case is pending in the Circuit Court for Marion County. Briefing on motions for summary judgment is in progress, with hearings on those motions likely by this spring. KWUA is coordinating its efforts with Langell Valley and Horsefly Irrigation Districts, who have also challenged this and a nutrient TMDL.

Science Consultant/Initiative Update

Deputy Director Mark Johnson has been engaged in study of  various components of the science initiative announced by Commissioner Burman in July of 2020. A parallel objective of his work is to identify the appropriate, complementary tasks for KWUA’s consulting biologists. An immediate priority is a review of flow/habitat relationships on the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam, and quantifying this relationship is a component of the science initiative.

USFWS will initiate several years of acoustic tagging  and habitat validation studies  to update the models currently

informing management of the Klamath River.. This new approach of validating and collecting data is a welcome strategy to better predict juvenile salmon habitat use, outmigration and survival.    

Mark also identified recently-expressed concerns regarding the natural flow study component of the science initiative. He believes this is a misunderstanding and is currently preparing a detailed description of this and the other tasks of the science initiative.

Mark is also coordinating with other stakeholders on matters relating  to the Upper Klamath Lake and sucker analyses being conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey for Reclamation’s science initiative.

DEQ 2022 Water Quality Report and List of Water Quality Limited Waters Comments

The Department of Environmental Quality released the   Draft Methodology for Oregon’s 2022 Water Quality Report and List of Water Quality Limited Waters for public comment. Comments are due on March 4. KWUA will coordinate with Oregon Water Resources Congress in preparing comments.

Changes to the 2021 Emergency Drought Well Permits  

On February 4, KWUA coordinated a meeting between representatives of OWRD and district managers regarding changes to the emergency drought well permit process. Overall, OWRD is looking to increase data collection to allow for better decision-making.

There are three main changes. First, permit applicants will have to provide verification of a totalizing flow. Second, while field crews are validating flow meters, they will measure static levels of the wells to get more background information of the aquifer impacts from wells in the area. Third, there is a need for updated maps to show well and flow meter locations. OWRD has sent letters to past emergency drought well permit applicants that outline these issues.

ORS 536.700-780 and OAR 690-019-0040(1) authorize the Director, after the Governor declares that a severe, continuing drought exists, to issue emergency-use permits to replace water not available under an existing right because of the drought.  Each application must be for use in a designated drought area.

Click here to fillable document link.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley –Chair of U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee

Bentz Appointed to House Natural Resources Subcommittee

KWUA has released the 2020 Annual Report. Copies can be found on our website, www.kwua.org, along with prior years’ annual reports.

D.C Report– The Ferguson Group

KWUA leadership is active in meeting with new personnel in the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture, as well as the congressional delegation and key committee staff.

The Biden Administration announced a series of executive actions aimed at reviewing decisions taken by the Trump Administration. Based on that review, “the agencies have the authority to revoke, suspend, modify, or replace those measures as the agency head deems fit.” The executive actions under review run the gamut of government matters, including, but not limited to ones related to agriculture, labor, national defense, transportation, natural resources, energy, and environmental matters.

Actions under review of note include: the White House Council of Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reforms; and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS rule as well as the Ozone air standards rule. CEQ is the office charged with coordinating domestic environmental policy. None of the items announced as being under review relate directly or uniquely to the Klamath Project  

The Administration also unveiled an executive order that focuses on the government-to-government relationship with Native American tribes and the government’s consultation with tribes.   

The President also signed an executive order on energy and environment regulatory issues. Of note, the order identifies a litany of recent EPA regulations to be targeted for reconsideration, including methane emission limits for new oil and gas sources; rules and rolling back tailpipe carbon dioxide limits.

Congress has begun to work on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 “American Rescue Plan,” an emergency legislative package to “fund vaccinations, provide immediate, direct relief to families bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, and support struggling communities.”

Both chambers are aiming to have an agreed COVID relief package ready for President Biden to sign into law before March 14, the date when federal $300 weekly unemployment insurance benefits lapse.

Lawmakers have also gotten off to a fast start on confirming President Biden’s Cabinet and agency nominees, with several having had confirmation hearings and the Senate having voted to confirm several members of the Cabinet, including the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, and Transportation. In addition, EPA Administrator nominee Michael Regan’s nomination has both been advanced out of committee. A vote is pending in the full Senate. 

Department of the Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland has yet to have a hearing scheduled on her confirmation. Her nomination was announced by President Biden on December 17.    

In The Know

  • Reclamation has recently issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the WaterSMART Applied Science Grant.  Contact Mark Johnson at KWUA for a copy of the NOFO. A webinar regarding this opportunity will be held at 10 a.m. (Pacific) on March 3 and interested parties may schedule a meeting with grant program coordinators to cover any questions (use the links in the below email).  Further details about the grant can be found at Applied Science Grants | Bureau of Reclamation (usbr.gov)
  •  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.
  • The USFWS has published an environmental assessment (E.A.) to evaluate the environmental effects of water right transfers from land upstream of Upper Klamath Lake to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. The comment deadline is March 14, 2021. A copy of the E.A. is available here: https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/LKL_WaterRightsAcq_EA-508-REV2.pdf

Fairness Under the ESA? What a Concept

(From January 22, 2021,  Herald & News)

By Paul Simmons

The ESA is a blunt instrument. No one knows that better than the farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project. They, their communities, and wildlife neighbors have experienced devastating water curtailments in the name of protecting fish species under the ESA.

Compounding the tragedy, there is no evidence that harming irrigation communities has resulted in improved fish populations. Fifteen years ago, the National Academy of Sciences counseled that the approach of regulating Project water diversions would not recover species. But the myopic regulation of irrigation has continued, and species populations are going the wrong direction. 

Regardless of individual opinions about Upper Klamath Lake levels and Klamath River flows, any reasonable person agrees that the Klamath Project has borne a disproportionate and unfair regulatory burden. Under section 7 of the ESA, because of the “federal nexus” (Reclamation), Klamath Project water delivery was a knob that can be turned. So it has been turned.

Adding to the unfairness, the federal government has been applying outdated legal rules that are quite different than it uses in other river basins. ESA section 7, a federal statute, has not changed in any relevant way in 50 years. It requires that federal agencies ensure that their actions not jeopardize species that are listed as threatened or endangered. But courts decide how laws must be interpreted. Through a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts, it has become clear that this requirement applies only to actions that are discretionary, and not to actions that the agency is legally obliged to take.

On January 19, Reclamation issued sorely needed, updated ESA and legal guidance for the Project that reflects current law. The implementation of this guidance can finally right the wrongs that have been visited on Klamath Project communities, while respecting water law as well.

KWUA has for years urged that Reclamation complete updated legal guidance for its operations. That process moved slowly until last July, when the issues under review came to the direct attention of then-Secretary Bernhardt and former Commissioner Burman, both of whom are highly respected environmental lawyers that happened to have policy jobs.

They directed staffs and federal lawyers to investigate the issues, while making no promises about where the law would lead this work. 

The now-completed work points to fundamental changes in how Reclamation applies the ESA to the Project. It also reflects an understanding of nearly two centuries-worth of basic water law.

This guidance really boils down to two major points.

First, ESA section 7 can only require Reclamation to curtail Project diversions if its contracts with irrigation parties provide it with the discretion to do so. The contracts do not provide such discretion. 

Second, Project diversions, like all others, are subject to water law. Senior tribal water rights for fisheries could require curtailments of diversion, but any downstream rights to flows would not include the right to have water released from storage in Upper Klamath Lake. The only rights to the stored water are for irrigation.

Irrigators universally wonder whether the updated guidance will survive in President Biden’s Administration.  It should.

The updated ESA guidance applies current principles that, undeniably, were recognized and advocated by President Obama’s Administration. Besides, any call for “undoing” the new guidance would only reflect a philosophy of curtailing irrigation because “that is what we have done,” not because it benefits ESA-listed species.

The immediate challenge is for Reclamation to translate the new guidance into action. Reclamation has identified legal procedures that it must follow in order to “do it right.” That may be so, but the critical need is to “do right” by the Project, and fast.

No one should assume that the new guidance is a ticket to unlimited water forever. There are big issues like tribal water rights that we need to address, and KWUA will work with all the important interests in the basin to find balance and stability. But, at least there is hope of local family farmers and ranchers getting a fair shake while we work collaboratively on meeting parties’ legitimate needs and interests.

Free On-Farm Energy Audits

Sustainable Northwest, Klamath Watershed Partnership, Oregon Renewable Energy Center (OIT), Lake County Resource Initiative, and Wy’East recently announced a USDA Rural Energy Development Assistance (REDA) grant they received to support landowners in Klamath, Lake, Harney, and Modoc counties. The “Rural Energy Works for Oregon and California” project will provide energy audits to agricultural producers so that they will be more eligible for various energy efficiency funding and programs.

The grant funding is for the audit only. If projects, they will have to provide the funding producers want to pursue energy-efficiency g or apply for additional grants.

For more information on the free energy audits contact local team members for more information: Nick Johnson (LCRI)541-947-5461, nick.johnson@lcri.org; or Bill Lehman (KWP): 541-850-1717, blehman@klamathpartnership.org  

Klamath Irrigation District and KWUA board member Jerry Enman was awarded the 2021 Special District Service Award.

Jerry received the award based on his countless volunteer hours working to protect irrigation water supplies and other community service, including volunteer trail maintenance.

“KID relies heavily on Jerry’s mentorship candid feedback and grounds advice on years of experience,” stated SDAO. Jerry was instrumental in helping create the Klamath Project DRA.  

Between 2019 and 2020, Jerry has donated over 1040 hours towards improving KID, the community, and the region, and that attitude of generosity and desire to help others led to his 2021 Special District Service Award. Congratulations Jerry.

Hydro Update

Current Snow Water Equivalent = 85%    Water Year-to-Date Precipitation= 76%

Based on the mid-February NRCS forecast for April-September Upper Klamath Lake inflow, the Bureau of Reclamation’s 50 percent probability estimate of Project Supply (water for the Project from Upper Klamath Lake during March-October) is 132,000 acre feet.  This estimate will almost certainly change, up or down, depending on whether.  The Project Supply is determined based on the April 1 forecast of Upper Klamath Lake inflow.  It can be adjusted downward by 23,000 acre-feet, depending on hydrologic conditions as of May 1.

  • Current Upper Klamath Lake Elevation is 4140.30
  •  54% Full = 305,0546 AF  (capacity =561,838 AF )
  • Clear Lake is 29% Full = 117,355 AF  (capacity = 410,000 AF )
  • Gerber Reservoir is 28% Full = 26,6160 AF  (capacity = 94,270 AF )

Why the low run-off? In past dry years, KWUA has seen at least a few precipitation events in the Klamath Basin throughout the season, but there were none in 2020 leading, into the very low upper Klamath inflow winter we are observing. 

In recent months, inflow to the Upper Klamath Lake has been extremely low. Basin snowpack identified at NRCS Snotel sites at higher elevations does not reflect the condition of the watershed as a whole. The watershed is dry, especially in the low lying areas, to the point that we have been observing major dust storms from high winds. The condition of the low lying areas not picked up by Snotel or considered in the SWE %, can have a significant impact on inflows. In the situation we are observing now, inflows will seem abnormally low in a straight comparison of snowpack to inflow in a isolation. We have seen this before, but we believe the effect has been magnified because of how atypical precipitation, or lack thereof, played out in 2020. 

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