[env-trinity] Herald and News: Basin water shutoffs begin

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu Jun 13 10:20:42 PDT 2013

Basin water shutoffs begin
By DEVAN SCHWARTZ H&N Staff Reporter | Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:00 am
Water shutoffs began Wednesday in the Klamath Basin after a call for the water was issued by lower basin irrigators and the Klamath tribes.
Irrigators along the Sprague River and its tributaries are first to have their water shut off by the state.
“There’s a lot of water users on the Sprague system and that’s why we’re starting there,” said Doug Woodcock of the Oregon Water Resources Department.
Becky Hyde’s Upper Basin ranch was one of the first to be regulated. Her 9-year-old son took the watermaster’s card, and then they voluntarily shut off their water.
Irrigators whose water rights have lowest priority dates are cut off first, said Danette Watson, a local consultant with the Upper Klamath Water Users Association.
In order to respond to calls for water made by the Klamath Project and the Klamath Tribes, local watermaster Scott White was aided by five state employees who came to the basin after the call was made earlier in the week. They checked water gages before informing residents of the impending regulation.
The Klamath Project call aims to fill Upper Klamath Lake for irrigation purposes; tribal claims aim to keep water in the streams to benefit fish and riparian health.
Watson explained how water users are cut off and then the water gages checked to verify the impact on stream flows. Until calls for particular amounts of water are satisfied, the watermasters will continue moving down the list and shutting people off.
The watermaster’s office wouldn’t provide any further details on these early regulations, which are new in the Klamath Basin but common in many Oregon watersheds. The basin recently fell under state adjudication regulations. The adjudication of water claims was nearly 40 years in the making and is now on file.
“They’re going to want to keep things very close to the chest until they figure out what’s going on,” Watson said.
Becky Hyde, who is also a board member with the Upper Klamath Water Users Association, said, “There’s just so many people who will be affected. Individuals are trying to figure out what’s going to happen for their own ranch. For some folks, the clarity may not come until they hear from the watermaster. When the shutoffs begin is when things become very real.”
And though these early water shutoffs represent a flashpoint, Hyde said deeper impacts won’t be felt until the fields dry out. With dry fields, and the high price of hay, she predicts a lack of feed for area cattle.
“More than ever, this community needs to work together and deal with this reality,” she said. “We need the people of Klamath County to get behind solving this problem and not pretend it’s not here.”
Hyde has been asked to speak on Klamath Basin water issues before a senate committee hearing June 20. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairs the Energy and Natural Resource Committee and will oversee the hearing.
Tom Mallams, who opposes the Klamath settlements that Hyde endorses, is another invited speaker at next week’s Senate hearing.
Mallams is a county commissioner with a ranch near Beatty. He said attempts at seeking state and federal aid have so far proved fruitless.
“For every dollar lost in the industry it could be multiplied four or five times for the entire region. We saw that in 2001 when the project was shut off and it was a huge, major impact on the entire county.”
dschwartz at heraldandnews.com
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