Farmers rally in Klamath Falls one day after Bureau of Reclamation announces ‘A’ Canal shut down

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — NBC5 News first told you Wednesday, the Bureau of Reclamation has shut off the A Canal, the principal irrigation canal for the Klamath Project. It’s the first time, it’s converted no water, meaning thousands of farmers are without water for the irrigation season.

Thursday, several dozen took to the streets of Klamath Falls, to peacefully protest. Around 50 people gathered Thursday in front of the Klamath Irrigation District office. They’re asking for more water to be released from Upper Klamath Lake.

The group Thursday, made up of farmers, ranchers, and members of the Klamath Water Users Association, and the Klamath Irrigation District Board.

“The canal has been delivering water since 1907, and this is the first year in history that it will convey no water for irrigation,” said Paul Simmons, KWUA Executive Director.

The Bureau of Reclamation released a letter Wednesday, announcing the decision. It says the water supply from Upper Klamath Lake is insufficient to operate the A Canal, during the 2021 irrigation season.

“There are about 150,000 acres that can make use of water from the A Canal, they won’t get a drop from the A Canal this year,” said Simmons.

On Thursday, at the Irrigation District Board of Directors meeting, the group met with representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation. Jared Bottcher, Acting Area Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, said there isn’t much that can be done.

“I want to recognize the announcement Wednesday, and certainly want to emphasize and acknowledge the depth of the crisis for not only kids but the entirety of the Klamath Project,” said Bottcher.

Reclamation anticipates only approximately 3,000 acre-feet of water, will be available. That is less than half the water needed to charge the A Canal.

“The heart of the matter is we simply don’t have the supply necessary to charge the canal this year, we understand the depth and magnitude of what this means for the Klamath Project,” said Bottcher.

Klamath Water Users Association President, Ben Duval, says it’s catastrophic for farmers. Many are taking steps now, but only so much can be done.

“Everybody is pulling their horns in, saving money where they can and really watching expenses to try and survive through this year, and to be honest with you, no everybody is not going to survive this year, there will be farms that go bankrupt,” said Duval.

Despite the hardship, Duval, a farmer himself, says it’s important the community remain peaceful.

“If we’re unified and have that kind of a message, we’re going to be more powerful in interacting with the administration and with other stakeholders on the river to work toward something that gives us long-term stability,” said Duval.

We’re told the Bureau of Reclamation began installing the bulkheads on the A Canal Thursday morning. That step makes it physically impossible to take any water from Upper Klamath Lake into the A Canal.

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Jenna King is the 6pm anchor and our Feature Reporter at 10pm and 11pm for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship 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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