[env-trinity] Klamath Basin irrigators, fish face dry year, officials say
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Tue Feb 13 10:37:18 PST 2018
Klamath Basin irrigators, fish face dry year, officials say
Feds’ proposal seeks to improve water supply management
By Will Houston, Eureka Times-StandardMonday, February 12, 2018Anticipating a poor water year in California’s and Oregon’s Klamath River Basin, the federal government is seeking to find a way to balance its obligations to protect fish species while also ensuring Klamath Basin irrigators and water districts have access to water. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is now taking public comments on a proposal that would allow irrigators and water districts in the basin to use its Klamath Basin Project infrastructure, such as canals, to transport their private water should the project’s water supplies be constrained.Hoopa Valley Tribe Fisheries Director Mike Orcutt said he met with officials from the bureau’s overseeing agency, the U.S. Department of Interior, last week. He said given the context of the poor precipitation so far and a federal court order last year requiring a new flow plan to protect fish on the lower Klamath River, the feds will be looking at any alternative possible to meet demands.“They’re going to be really, really hard-pressed to meet the project water needs this year with the injunction in place and that’s just the reality,” Orcutt said Monday.U.S. Bureau of Reclamation natural resources specialist Kirk Young in Klamath Falls, Oregon, said the agency proposed a similar program in 2015 during the drought, but said that never was used because of improved snow and rain levels.Under the latest proposal, water districts or irrigators with water rights in the Klamath Project that are unable to get their full water allotment because of low water availability would be able to contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Under the contract, the user would be able to use the bureau’s canals and other infrastructure to transport their own private water such as groundwater or stored rainwater. “It would allow a little more flexibility in our management during water short years,” Young said. “... Any contracts that result from this, Reclamation would have no claim to that water. That would not be our water.”This proposal is undergoing environmental review, with the public being able to submit comments through Feb. 23. The draft review has found there would be no significant impacts to the environment as defined under the National Environmental Policy Act.Young said any groundwater withdrawals would be regulated by state governments.Following the finalization of the environmental review, a draft of the program would need to be created and vetted by the public. Young said this could occur in a matter of weeks or months.Karuk Tribe natural resources policy advocate Craig Tucker said Monday the tribe is still reviewing the proposal.“We are engaged in discussions on how to navigate what looks like a horrible water year and it’s unclear to me how this factors in,” Tucker wrote in an email to the Times-Standard.Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.
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