$20M in state drought aid coming to Klamath Co.

KLAMATH COUNTY, Ore. —The Oregon legislature passed $100-million in drought relief funding for the state. Of that, around $20 million is headed to Klamath County for ongoing drought relief and wildfires.

There’s a sigh of relief for many in the Klamath Basin coming. The Klamath Water Users Association says the funding will benefit thousands in Klamath County.

Desperately needed funding is headed to Klamath County for drought assistance, from the state.

The county will administer $4 million in funding for domestic well assistance. It will help reimburse residents, that had their wells go dry during the summer when there was no water in the canals, which usually recharges the shallow groundwater that homeowners rely on.

Paul Simmons, the director of the Klamath Water Users Association says at least 300 people reported dry wells.

“Part of the funds could be used to reimburse those costs, part of the funds could be used to improve their wells or deepen their wells or to connect them to municipal systems or centralized systems,” said Simmons.

An additional $4 million is going to irrigation districts for operation and maintenance expenses. Simmons says property owners are required to pay operations and maintenance costs whether they get water or not.

“A year where many people paid these costs to maintain a water system that did them absolutely no good, on top of that, we’ve seen the canals that have never been deprived in water, they are filling up, full of weeds have animal burrows in them,” said Simmons.

$3 million will go to drilling livestock watering wells and livestock watering access to help keep cattle out of the streams.  Simmons says upstream of upper Klamath Lake, people have been unable to divert water out of the stream to water their cattle because of water rights constraints.

“This would be providing a source of livestock watering that doesn’t require the cattle to get into the stream, so wells to pump water for cattle to drink or access points so that it’s very constrained how they do get to the water they’re drinking,” he said.

Finally, $1 million will go to drought resiliency work in Klamath County, which funds will go be distributed through the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

“I think the whole package is really important because you have different users that have different needs, if you’re well is going dry, you need assistance there, if you had to sell your cattle early, you need assistance there, if you’re an irrigation district and you don’t have any income, there’s assistance there,” said State Rep E. Werner Reschke.

Representative Reschke Represents southern Klamath and Lake counties. He says lawmakers have been asking for this funding since July.

“My one-word summer is finally, finally we have the money that we need that will help Oregonians,” said Representative Reschke.

The remaining $10 million is for tribal-related resources for the Klamath tribes.

NBC5 News Reporter Jenna King is a Burbank native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at the U of O, she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through interning with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors, or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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