Upper Klamath Lake

Klamath Falls, Ore., on the far side of Upper Klamath Lake. The federal Bureau of Reclamation has announced that farmers within the Klamath Project will receive 92% of their water allocation.

Bureau of Reclamation will deliver at least 322,000 acre-feet of water — or a 92% allocation — from Upper Klamath Lake to the Klamath Project this summer and fall.

The official number was announced last week by Jeff Nettleton, manager of the agency’s Klamath Basin Area Office, at the Klamath Water Users Association’s annual meeting.

“In addition to that 322,000 acre-feet out of Upper Klamath Lake, we will have what we estimate to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 90,000 acre-feet available on the Lost River there in the Klamath Straights Drain,” Nettleton told water users gathered at Reames Golf and Country Club in Klamath Falls. “Again, that’s based on estimates based off the 36-year period of record that we have. Hopefully the combination of those two things will add up to a good year for the Klamath Project.”

Project operations started April 2.

Nettleton also updated water users on the state of precipitation to date — 104% of average — and snowpack — 126% of normal.

“We heard you loud and clear that it’s pretty important to get a new BiOp in place by April 1,” Nettleton said, noting that Reclamation officials and Fish and Wildlife officials worked hard to complete the two 2019 biological opinions for managing protected fish in the area.

“I know we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but sometimes it’s kind of like threading a needle on these things,” Nettleton added. “Then there’s other days where it’s like being wrapped in bacon and thrown in an alligator pit. It’s a challenge.

“We understand that you’re not completely happy with the BiOp,” he said. “We’re working toward changes that will afford the Project a good supply. ... We may be looking at some changes sooner rather than later.”

Nettleton also said Reclamation’s goal is to build relationships and continue talking and working on longterm solutions for the Project.

Klamath Water Users Association plans to file a lawsuit against the agency soon regarding limitations on water supply in the two biological opinions released earlier this month.

Longtime legal counsel for KWUA, Paul Simmons, was selected as executive director of the association and will play a significant role in the case.

The case is separate from one filed by the Klamath Irrigation District against Reclamation last week.

Simmons said one of his first goals is to try to return the Klamath Project to a stable and reliable water supply.

“The weather’s unpredictable everywhere,” Simmons said.

“The weather was unpredictable back when water supplies were sufficient for full deliveries. So it’s primarily a matter of managing the (Endangered Species Act),” he said. “For that, just like everywhere else, you work on that on legal and technical and policy fronts and try to find opportunities on all of those places.”

Simmons served as interim executive director for four months following the resignation of former director Scott White.

“It’s probably not a typical career move for somebody like me. I have learned a lot over the years about the situation and I feel like I’ve got something to offer,” Simmons said. “I just really don’t want to waste that. I’m going to use it to the best of the people here.”

Simmons said he will continue to work for his law firm, Somach Simmons and Dunn, and as legal counsel for KWUA.

The annual meeting’s featured speakers also included Ernest Conant, BOR mid-Pacific regional director; newly elected KWUA President Tricia Hill, and recorded messages from U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Recommended for you