KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Growers in the KLamath Basin on Wednesday lamented the "worst day in the history of the Klamath Project," saying that federal officials have allocated zero water for the A Canal, which would normally deliver water for irrigation.
The Klamath Basin faces a severe drought in 2021, and stakeholders competing for scarce water supplies are each facing disappointment of varying degrees.
According to the Klamath Water Users Association, A Canal generally diverts water from Upper Klamath Lake to irrigate some 150,000 acres of farmland within Klamath, Modoc, and Siskiyou counties. With the Bureau of Reclamation's decision to leave A Canal dry, the KWUA says that most of the Project will be without a water supply.
“The first water delivery from the A Canal was in 1907. This is the first year ever it will deliver zero water,” said Paul Simmons, executive director and counsel for KWUA.
During drought years, the scarcity of water tends to reignite disputes between different stakeholders in the region. Fish protected by the Endangered Species Act in Upper Klamath Lake and within the Klamath River require water retention and flushing flows, respectively, both causes championed by local Tribes.
The KWUA maintains that, in spite of the drought, there is enough water in Upper Klamath Lake to supply all irrigation needs — placing the blame on the ESA requirements for retention and river flows.
“Water users are extremely upset with what the federal government is doing to us, and with good reason,” according to KWUA President Ben DuVal. “Taking water from Project irrigators for ESA species is a failed experiment that has produced no benefit for the species.”
Lawmakers at both the state and federal level have been working with the Biden administration to secure relief. The KWUA said that it expects to have $15 million available, but it is "far short of the need."