Klamath Basin News, Thursday, 5/13 – Water Users Outraged as Bureau of Reclamation Announces Klamath Project’s “A” Canal Will Be Closed for the 2021 Irrigation Season

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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 82. Overnight, it will be clear, with a low around 47.


Friday A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 75. A 20% chance of showers with a low around 48.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 78.
Sunday Sunny, with a high near 81.
Monday Sunny, with a high near 81.

Today’s Headlines

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The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that Klamath Project’s “A” Canal will remain closed for the 2021 irrigation season, meaning that irrigators’ allocation of 33,000 acre-feet of water has been reduced to zero. 

Reclamation also announced that a Klamath River surface flushing flow, which would have mitigated salmon disease outbreaks below Iron Gate Dam, will not be implemented this year.

Upper Klamath Lake is sitting at an elevation of 4,140.5 feet, having declined nearly half a foot from its peak in early April. The current elevation is a foot and a half lower than what’s required during April and May by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent biological opinion, intended to maintain habitat for spawning C’waam and Koptu (Lost River and shortnose suckers).  

The “A” canal typically provides access to Upper Klamath Lake water supplies for more than 130,000 acres of farmland in the Project. 

KWUA Responds…
Klamath Water Users Association today expressed grave disappointment with the announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation that no water is to be diverted at A Canal for irrigation in 2021.
 
“The first water delivery from the A Canal was in 1907. This is the first year ever it will deliver zero water,” said Paul Simmons, Executive Director and Counsel for KWUA.
 
A Canal, which diverts water from Upper Klamath Lake, normally provides water serving over 150,000 acres of productive farmland in Klamath County, Oregon and Modoc and Siskiyou Counties, California. The only land in the 200,000-acre Klamath Project that will receive any water at all from the Klamath River system is in Klamath Drainage District, which will have a severely limited supply. The remaining land in the Project is in Langell Valley and Horsefly Irrigation Districts, which rely exclusively on water from the Lost River system. They will have water for part of the summer only.
 
Although there is enough water in Upper Klamath Lake to supply all irrigation needs, current federal agency management of the Klamath Project is driven by allocation to fish species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In past years of similar drought conditions, there have been full irrigation deliveries. This year, regulation under the ESA will result in essentially all water being retained in Upper Klamath Lake or released downstream for salmon in California.
 
“Water users are extremely upset with what the federal government is doing to us, and with good reason,” according to KWUA President Ben DuVal. “Taking water from Project irrigators for ESA species is a failed experiment that has produced no benefit for the species.”
 
“This just couldn’t be worse,” added Klamath Irrigation District President Ty Kliewer.  “The impacts to our family farms and these rural communities will be off the scale.”
 
Mr. Kliewer noted that about 375,000 acre-feet of water will be released to provide flows in the Klamath River, most of which will be water that was stored in Upper Klamath Lake under an irrigation right.
 
“The flow in the Klamath River will be wildly more than would have occurred in nature or without the Klamath Project’s storage that was developed for irrigation,” he said. “Irrigators pay for this system but it is being operated for completely different purposes.”
             
KID Manager Gene Souza says the lack of water will damage Project infrastructure.
 
“The dried-out canals will crumble and crack,” said Mr. Souza. ”Significant animal damage to the infrastructure already occurring at an alarming rate. We will have expensive repairs to address before we can deliver water in the future. The negative environmental impacts of this decision will have long-lasting negative impact on our ground water, domestic wells, wildlife, culture, economy, and communities.”
             
Mr. DuVal, who farms in Modoc County, confirmed that there will be environmental and public health and safety impact as well.
 
“We’ve already had dust storms where you can’t see a hundred yards. That will get worse,” he predicts. “Also, lack of water in the delivery system will result in domestic wells going dry due to lack of recharge.”
 
Mr. Duval also expressed concern for mental health in the community.
 
“There is no avoiding the difficulties for individuals and families who are trying to cope,” he said.
 
Project farmers and ranchers have long co-existed with wildlife and national wildlife refuges that use water from the Project’s delivery system.
 
“Normally, we see and hear waterfowl, reptiles, and amphibians throughout the Project,” said Mr. DuVal.  “With no birds, it will be the worst kind of quiet out here.”
 
KWUA is working with the Biden Administration and Congressional delegations from both Oregon and California to secure funding to attempt to mitigate the harm. Currently, the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (DRA) expects to have $15 million available, but that is far short of the need.
 
“We need water, period,” said DRA board member Mike McKoen. “Unfortunately, we have to resort to going after funds to deal with this disaster.” Mr. McKoen also expressed appreciation to the Congressional delegation from Oregon and California: “we have their support, and they are doing what they can to help.”
 
Mr. Simmons said that KWUA and districts in the Project are committed to actions that will steer things in a better direction.
 
“There are important legal issues crying out for resolution,” he said. “ We also need a dose of common sense. The Project stored water is the only knob that can be turned, but that is not helping species. That has to hit home some day with federal decision-makers.”
             
DuVal restated the importance that the local response remain peaceful. “It’s important to communicate the devastation the Klamath Basin is experiencing.   To be effective we need to pull together and help each other. We do not want our crisis to be hijacked for other causes.  That will detract attention from our problem and diminish the voice of this community.”

Information has finally been released about a fatal single car accident over the weekend in Klamath County.

At approximately 11:00AM May 9, 2021 Klamath County Sheriff’s Office deputies, fire personnel from Kingsley Fire, Fire and EMS personnel from Klamath County Fire District 1, volunteers from KCSO Dive Rescue, and troopers from Oregon State Police, responded to a single vehicle crash in the area of Spring Lake Rd and Old Midland Rd, south of Klamath Falls, OR.

The driver was identified as Rashonda Monique Kazen, age 38, of Klamath Falls. Kazen was the only occupant of the vehicle and was pronounced deceased at the scene. While the crash is still under investigation deputies believe alcohol was a factor.

Oregon reports 616 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 9 new deaths

There are nine new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,558, the Oregon Health Authority reported today. 

Oregon Health Authority reported 616 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of today, bringing the state total to 193,014. 

Vaccinations in Oregon 

Today, OHA reported that  34,415 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 17,961 doses were administered on May 11 and 16,454 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on May 11. Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize.   The 7-day running average is now 34,869 doses per day.  

Oregon has now administered a total of 1,850,101 first and second doses of Pfizer, 1,413,162 first and second doses of Moderna and 113,436 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines 

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (14), Clackamas (80), Clatsop (1), Columbia (7), Coos (9), Crook (11), Deschutes (63), Douglas (15), Gilliam (1), Grant (2), Hood River (2), Jackson (42), Jefferson (13), Josephine (6), Klamath (15), Lake (2), Lane (49), Lincoln (2), Linn (21), Malheur (6), Marion (53), Multnomah (105), Polk (11), Tillamook (2), Umatilla (20), Union (1), Washington (49), Wheeler (2) and Yamhill (10). 

Person wearing face mask, baseball hat and carrying a bag.

Klamath Union High School students Kaden Coulter and Maria Osuna Gonzales  were recently recognized in the Wildlife Forever’s fish art contest.

Maria was awarded third place for the state of Oregon with her drawing of a white marlin and Kaden received a second place award for his drawing of a northern pike.

The Fish Art Contest was inspired in 1997 by a fifth grader’s homework assignment and has grown into an international competition introducing young people to the wonders of fish, the joy of fishing, and the importance of aquatic conservation.

The Fish Art Contest uses art, science, and creative writing to foster connections to the outdoors and inspire the next generation of stewards.

Following state reversals of two of its dredging permits last week, development of the Jordan Cove Energy Project is officially on pause.

Donald Sullivan, the project’s manager and associate general counsel, filed a letter with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday citing a laundry list of state permit denials that prevent the project from moving forward despite a federal approval from the agency.

The project involves a liquid natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay, connected via a 229-mile pipeline to a compression station near Malin, and would cross through four southern Oregon counties.

The letter also requested that FERC withdraw its consultation requests with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service on Jordan Cove’s behalf “to conserve the resources of the Commission and other operating agencies.” That process will have to be restarted if the company decides to resume the project in the future.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that gives tenants who are struggling with financial hardships due to the pandemic more time to pay past-due rent.

Currently, tenants have until July, but under Senate Bill 282 tenants will have until Feb. 28, 2022. The bill passed in the House with a vote of 39-17 and goes to the governor.

The measure protects renters from the long-term impacts of not making payments on time by barring reporting to consumer credit agencies and removing back rents from consideration when submitting future rental applications. The measure also bars potential landlords from screening out applicants based on COVID-era evictions and prevents pandemic evictions from appearing on Additionally, the bill relaxes occupancy limits as lawmakers say some Oregon residents have needed to stay with friends and family due to financial or safety situations during the pandemic. However, the bill does not extend the current eviction moratorium past June 30 and does not forgive back rent.

Two weeks after 15 Oregon counties were temporarily plunged back into Extreme Risk restrictions, the relief funding promised by Governor Brown for impacted businesses is becoming available.

Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. (SOREDI) said Wednesday that Jackson County has more than $1.4 million in available funding for businesses impacted by the Extreme Risk move. Applications for the funds will open up at noon on Friday and will remain open through May 17. SOREDI will serve as the grant administrator.

Grant funds are being made available in all 15 counties impacted by the move, with a total of $20 million in funding made available by the state. The funds are intended to be equally accessible to all businesses, including to historically disadvantaged groups, SOREDI said.

Applicants should check the eligibility requirements before applying, and should allow at least one hour to complete the application process. 

The Oregon Employment Department is activating a new program to help “hybrid workers” who earn both self-employment income and W-2 wages.  The department launched the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation program yesterday.  The program offers an additional 100 dollars a week to workers who earned at least five-thousand dollars in self-employment income during the most recent taxable year before they applied for unemployment benefits.  

Benefits are available from December 27th of last year through September 4th of this year and will be retroactive.  Application details are on the employment department’s website.

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