Water Emergency In Klamath Falls

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KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — A drier than normal winter in the Klamath Basin has Klamath County officials turning to Governor Kitzhaber for help. On Tuesday morning, county commissioners declared a state of emergency and asks the governor to do the same.

Water laps the shores of Klamath Lake and water is flowing in some of the major irrigation canals in the Klamath Falls area, but mountain snow pack is much below average with little more likely to come soon, and Klamath Lake, the basin’s major reservoir is below average. So, commissioners are looking ahead to summer and asking for help.

“Ranging from anywhere from low interests loans to land idling options, to groundwater pumping and we don’t know all the possibilities here because uh, in the Federal project this has happened before,” said Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams.

So commissioners issued a drought emergency declaration and are asking for the governor to do the same. With Klamath Lake the main source of water supply for most of the Basin irrigators, aside from some wells, a low level in the lake and nor much snow on the mountains to refill it, is a bad sign for the summer to come. They say that if they don’t get much more rain or snow from here on out, it may take some help from the state in order to work things out.

“Potentially the Governor’s office would also declare a drought emergency and receive opportunity for federal aid as well. So it’s a 2-fold request. One to our state, and then what we’re expecting and what we request with our correspondence with the governors office is for his office to ask for Federal help as well,” explained County Board Chairman Dennis Linthicum.

Linthicum says talks last week with Kitzhaber’s office gives them hope that the state will make a similar declaration soon. Latest surveys show snow pack in the Klamath Basin is about 67 percent of normal. Reservoirs are about 72 percent of average and 48 percent of capacity.