Klamath Basin News, Thursday, 4/15 – Farmers Won’t Get Enough Irrigation Water Again This Summer; Federal Regulators Announce Allotments Under Terrible Drought Conditions; The Battle Heats Up

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The latest and most comprehensive coverage of local News, Sports, Business, and Community News stories in the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM / 102.5FM, The Herald & News, and BasinLife.com, and powered by Mick Insurance.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 62. Overnight clear with a low around 36.

Friday Sunny, with a high near 66.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 72.
Sunday Sunny, with a high near 77.
Monday Sunny, with a high near 75.
Tuesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 69.

Today’s Headlines

Hundreds of farmers who rely on a massive irrigation project that spans the Oregon-California border learned yesterday they will get a tiny fraction of the water they need amid the worst drought in decades, as federal regulators attempt to balance the needs of agriculture against federally threatened and endangered fish species that are central to the heritage of several tribes.

Oregon’s governor said the prolonged drought in the region has the “full attention of our offices,” and she is working with congressional delegates, the White House and federal agencies to find relief for those affected.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation briefed irrigators, tribes and environmental groups early Wednesday after delaying the decision a month. The federally owned irrigation project will draw 33,000 acre-feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake, which farmers said was roughly 8% of what they need in such a dry year. Water deliveries will also start June 1, two months later than usual, for the 1,400 irrigators who farm the 225,000 acres.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement that Oregon water regulators are reviewing a plan to allow irrigators to pump more than twice as much groundwater per acre for their crops as allowed last year when drought reduced water supplies to a lesser extent.

U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden say they are working with Congressman Cliff Bentz to get aid for the Klamath Basin as it faces a particularly dry year.

Klamath County received an official drought declaration from Governor Kate Brown at the end of March — citing low snowpack, sparse precipitation, low streamflows, and predicted warm temperatures. Meanwhile, irrigators in the Klamath Basin say that the Biden administration has withdrawn Trump-era legal guidance that was more sympathetic to their cause.

While drought has increasingly impacted all stakeholders in the Klamath Basin, there is long-running conflict over the limited water supply between farmers and ranchers on one side and local Tribes, environmentalists, and Pacific coast fishers on the other.

In a statement released Wednesday, Senators Merkley, Wyden, and Congressman Bentz said that they had met with newly-confirmed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to discuss the dire outlook for the Klamath Basin and the emergency resources that will be needed for relief.

Meanwhile, The Bureau of Reclamation has officially released temporary operating procedures for this spring and summer, acknowledging that there’s not enough water in the Klamath Basin to fulfill the agency’s obligations under the Endangered Species Act, let alone provide meaningful irrigation diversions to the Klamath Project.

As usual It appears that the current plans prioritize lake levels for endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers which are in the midst of their spring spawning season.

There are three new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,449, the Oregon Health Authority reported today. Oregon Health Authority reported 816 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the state total to 172,206.

Klamath County reported 27 new cases yesterday.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (14), Benton (25), Clackamas (97), Clatsop (2), Columbia (13), Coos (4), Crook (2), Curry (3), Deschutes (84), Douglas (8), Grant (32), Harney (1), Hood River (8), Jackson (50), Jefferson (3), Josephine (19), Klamath (27), Lane (49), Lincoln (6), Linn (23), Malheur (2), Marion (83), Morrow (1), Multnomah (126), Polk (18), Sherman (1), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (9), Union (2), Wasco (8), Washington (86) and Yamhill (9).

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 200, which is three more than yesterday. There are 52 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is unchanged from yesterday.

Today, OHA reported that 39,326 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 24,097 doses were administered on April 13 and 15,229 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on April 13. Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize.

The 7-day running average is now 38,392 doses per day.

Oregon has now administered a total of 1,215,804 doses of Pfizer, 1,052,206 doses of Moderna and 86,624 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. As of today, 945, 453 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. There are 1,492,658 who have had at least one dose.

The Rocky Point Fire District’s only ambulance was found inoperable last week and the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office is investigating if someone maliciously damaged the emergency vehicle.

Volunteer crews discovered the ambulance was inoperable after they were dispatched April 8 to a call for service and the rig’s engine would not start. An EMT on scene at the emergency was forced to provide medical services while waiting for an ambulance to arrive from Klamath Falls, about 30 minutes away. The ambulance was towed and a mechanic on Monday found the engine had been maliciously damaged.

Klamath County Fire District 4 loaned Rocky Point an ambulance through the weekend, and the department is now borrowing a vehicle from Basin Ambulance in order to continue to provide medical services in the Rocky Point area, according to Chief Diann Walker-Pope. Walker-Pope said she had no idea why someone would try to sabotage medical services in the community, calling the crime “horrible” and “deplorable.”

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon’s unemployment rate is down slightly. The Oregon Employment Department has released a report showing the state’s jobless rage was at six-percent in March. That’s down from six-point-one-percent in February. Officials say two-thirds of the jobs gained last month were in leisure and hospitality.

The Oregon Department of Forestry says that it will put $1.8 million toward forest resiliency and wildfire prevention projects across southern Oregon — seven between Jackson, Josephine, and Curry counties, and another seven in Klamath and Lake counties.

The Oregon Legislative Emergency Board in January allocated a total of $5 million for reducing wildfire risk across the state. ODF said that it has a total of 37 projects statewide that will use the funds. The vast majority of these projects involve direct treatments of forestland.

In southern Oregon, projects will focus on removing flammable stands of gorse on the coast and fuel treatment around Ashland, Gold Hill, Klamath Falls, Lakeview, Rogue River, Wimer and the Bear Creek Valley. Three projects will focus on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and two on the Fremont-Winema National Forest. In all, the projects are expected to result in more than 7,000 acres treated for fuel reduction, 750 trees felled, 20 miles of right-of-way fuel mitigation treatments, and hundreds of hours of volunteer work and training for young adults.

The Oregon Department of Forestry said Tuesday the number of small wildfires has tripled this spring partly because of dry conditions across Oregon.

The agency said Tuesday they’ve already doused 70 fires, almost half of which resulted from escaped backyard debris burn piles, the Statesman Journal reported. In a normal season, usually 24 fires occur by April 13. In response, the City of Salem issued a ban on all open burning within the city, including recreational fires.

The Dallas, Oregon, Fire Department was called to a grass fire Tuesday threatening homes in an area where a resident had been burning over a couple days, Dallas Fire Department officials said. With the high winds and dry conditions, the fire grew beyond the control of the property owner, officials said. No homes were burned and no one was injured, fire officials said.

Susan Tranberg of Eugene, Oregon, was sentenced to federal prison today for defrauding her former employer, the Weyerhaeuser Company, out of more than $4.5 million, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug. Tranberg was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release.

According to court documents, beginning as early as June 2004 and continuing to January 2019, Tranberg defrauded Weyerhaeuser out of more than $4.5 million by submitting fraudulent invoices for payment to a fake vendor she created. Tranberg had worked for Weyerhaeuser in Springfield, Oregon in various positions for more than 40 years. A financial analysis determined that the vast majority of the money was used to fund a lavish lifestyle of expensive dinners, vacations, six-figure wedding expenses, and shopping sprees. At some point in or before June 2004, Tranberg created a fake timber contract between the company and a vendor she named after her mother, who was unaware of the scheme.

Over the next 10 years, Tranberg would use her positions in the company’s accounting and finance departments to request cashier’s checks, which she then cashed into her own bank account. During this time period, Tranberg requested and received more than $2.6 million.

Environmental experts are concerned about Oregon’s wild rabbit population after multiple cases of a virus that is deadly to the animals were confirmed in different parts of the state.

The latest case of the rabbit hemorrhagic disease, which was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, was in La Pine. Last month, the disease was detected nearly 200 miles away in Milwaukie, a suburb of Portland, in eight dead domestic and feral rabbits. Following last months discovery, Dr. Ryan Scholz, Oregon’s state veterinarian, said the virus has taken hold in the feral rabbit population.

The disease, also referred to as RHD, causes sudden death and is highly contagious among the animals, spreading through contact with infected rabbits, meat, fur or other materials. Birds, rodents, flies, predators and scavengers can also spread this virus, as well as people by carrying it on their clothing, hands and shoes.

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