WASHINGTON, D.C. — A "critical fix" for the ongoing water worries in the Klamath Basin has now passed both chambers of Congress, lawmakers announced on Thursday. The House companion to an earlier Senate bill has been approved and will now head to President Trump's desk to be signed into law.
The bill is a modification of the 2018 Water Resources Development Act, which allowed for $10 million in drought relief funds per year to irrigators in the region. The fix allows greater flexibility in how those funds may be used — providing application to land idling or groundwater pumping.
"Irrigators in the Klamath Basin are enduring another challenging, drought-stricken year, and we need to ensure they have the tools to get through it. We also need to be prepared if our farmers get hit with severe drought conditions in the years ahead,” said Representative Greg Walden. “This bill will ensure the Bureau of Reclamation has [the] authority for the next four years to help farmers, ranchers, and water users navigate the current water year and survive the difficult water years we may face in the near future."
Like many years over the past decade, the Klamath Basin saw severe drought conditions this year. Due to federal court rulings intended to protect fish populations in Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River, the amount of water available to farmers and ranchers in the Basin is often limited.
"Through drought, the global pandemic, and most recently these unprecedented wildfires, Klamath Basin irrigators have shown they’re committed to working collaboratively with the many water stakeholders in the region, and it is critical that the federal government steps up to be a strong partner to their efforts," said Senator Jeff Merkley. "To ensure that farming and ranching have a strong future in the Basin, we need to get through this drought and work on long-term solutions to our water supply challenges. This fix will help us do that."
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced at the end of July that it will invest $1.2 million into research of the Klamath Basin's water woes, reportedly in an effort to find a happy compromise for the different stakeholders.