Upper Klamath Lake

Klamath Falls, Ore., on the far side of Upper Klamath Lake. Oregon water regulators will seek to recoup money spent investigating water releases from the reservoir.

In July, a state judge ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation lacked a “right, license or permit” to take water from Upper Klamath Lake and flush it down the Klamath River for federally protected fish.

The judge told the Oregon Water Resources Department in so many words that it needs to take charge of the lake.

The department has now told the Oregon Water Resources Commission that it doesn’t know how much water is in Klamath Lake or how much flows into it or out of it.

The department wants to spend about $52,000 to figure that out, and wants irrigators to foot most of the bill.

The Upper Klamath Basin has been farmed for 115 years or so, since the Klamath Irrigation District was formed. Included in the basin are 2.2 million acres. About 502,000 acres are irrigated. For those farmers and ranchers, irrigation water is the lifeblood of the region.

Yet the department is just now measuring the amount of water in the lake.

To say that irrigators or other water users should pay the state to do its job seems more than a little unfair.

Klamath irrigators have been abused enough. For decades they have faced water shortages caused by drought and water management decisions aimed at helping fish to the detriment of agriculture.

They have had Bucket Brigades and Tractor Convoys and “Shut Down and Fed Up” rallies. They’ve pleaded with members of Congress and anyone else who will listen for relief from the patently unfair and short-sighted Endangered Species Act.

They have compromised on the fate of the four dams on the Klamath River, and they have gone the extra mile to make it all work.

This year they received less than half of the irrigation water they needed for their crops, and they were told after their crops were planted.

And the state says it wants more money so it can do its job.

We are told that the state of Oregon owns all water. That being that case, the state should pay to manage that water.

Recommended for you