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Lawmakers push for millions in Klamath Basin relief funds

Congressmen Cliff Bentz and Doug LaMalfa have proposed a $57 million aid proposal to help stakeholders in the Klamath Basin suffering amid this latest year of major drought.

Posted: May 19, 2021 3:16 PM
Updated: May 20, 2021 12:02 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With precious little water available for farmers and other stakeholders in the Klamath Basin this year, two Congressmen who represent large areas of southern Oregon and northern California are pushing for millions of dollars in relief funding for the region.

U.S. Representatives Cliff Bentz and Doug LaMalfa, of Oregon and California respectively, have put forward a $57 million proposal to assist the Klamath Basin. Much of the funding would take the form of monetary aid for farmers, with some elements going toward infrastructure, wildlife refuges, and Tribes.

The lawmakers pointed to a decision from the federal Bureau of Reclamation earlier this month to halt diversions of water from Upper Klamath Lake for irrigation, which leaves the majority of farmers without a water supply.

“Last week’s decision by the Bureau of Reclamation to eliminate water deliveries to farmers and wildlife is absolutely crippling to the Klamath Basin," Rep. LaMalfa said. "The federal government has failed to properly manage the water in the Basin, and Congress must take action to help prevent further damage to the area’s residents, crops, and wildlife. Congressman Bentz and I are committed to offer solutions and will work with any partner to help deliver needed aid and get the region through this crisis.”

Particularly amid a severe drought year, the Bureau faces competing demands for the water stored in Upper Klamath Lake, governed by a complex web of laws and court rulings that stretch back years. Farmers in the Basin require diversion of the water for irrigation needs, Tribes along the Klamath River have fought for flows downstream to spare native salmon species from disease, and the Klamath Tribes want to preserve water stored in Upper Klamath Lake in an attempt to save the Lost River and Shortnose sucker species.

The severity of the 2021 drought is such that none of the major stakeholders are particularly pleased with the outcome. The Yurok Tribe reports that low spring flows have resulted in a die-off in young salmon due to rampant disease, and the Klamath Tribes worry that low water levels in Upper Klamath Lake will exacerbate the decline of sucker species even with irrigation curtailed.

The proposal introduced by Reps. Bentz and LaMalfa primarily seeks to get Basin farming communities through the crisis, signaling that the roughly $25 million in aid previously made available by the federal government will not be enough.

“The catastrophic drought and historic zero water allocation by the Bureau of Reclamation have been absolutely crushing to irrigators, water users, and wildlife in the Klamath Basin," said Bentz. "I have already worked – and will continue working – with Oregon’s U.S. Senators to secure assistance for those in the Basin. However, our farmers simply cannot ride out this crisis or afford to rely on current measures to deal with this catastrophic drought. I appreciate the commitment by Congressman LaMalfa to lead with me in the House of Representatives on requesting enhanced, immediate relief for those in the Klamath. We are focused on elevating the needs of everyone in the community for further federal action.”

The proposal allocates $40 million in aid for farmers through USDA programs, $2.5 million to wildlife refuges, $2.5 million for families with parched residential wells, $4 million to water districts for canal repair, $3 million for commercial fisherman impacted by the loss of salmon on the lower Klamath, and $5 million in food aid for Tribes.

Bentz and LaMalfa said that the proposal would also shield farmers from paying for Bureau of Reclamation operations in the Basin for the 2021 season, while defunding a planned $4.5 million Reclamation headquarters in Klamath Falls.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 362561

Reported Deaths: 4334
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah56445713
Washington39207326
Marion37314457
Clackamas30208312
Lane28166308
Jackson23297314
Deschutes20819125
Umatilla14616151
Linn13198132
Douglas12294251
Josephine9476198
Yamhill8868114
Klamath8194122
Polk750281
Malheur570079
Benton562431
Coos512396
Columbia388944
Jefferson382456
Lincoln325540
Union322950
Crook298146
Wasco293341
Clatsop245528
Baker205229
Tillamook198333
Hood River196637
Morrow187123
Curry182925
Harney114927
Grant100813
Lake96112
Wallowa69512
Gilliam1624
Sherman1603
Wheeler1081
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 4854041

Reported Deaths: 71417
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148510526549
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3678574183
San Bernardino3586775720
Orange3251235578
Sacramento1596362313
Kern1472941652
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921415
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus862991335
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924352
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766787
Lassen758747
San Benito744972
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa133916
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
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