Water battle brewing in Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls, Ore. – A legal challenge between federal and state rights is brewing over water in Klamath Falls.

The legal statement was posted on the gates to the Link River Dam late Thursday afternoon.

“Basically, the Oregon Department of Water Resources has taken control of the water in Klamath Lake.”  Explains Klamath County Commissioner Donnie Boyd.

The Klamath Irrigation District has been pursuing a legal effort to have water controlled by the state, rather than the federal government.

“This has been going on for several years.”  Boyd notes.  “There was a writ of mandamus that was issued by a judge in Marion county on late Monday night that they had to do this.”

The ruling could shut down a release of water aimed at improving water conditions for endangered salmon downstream.

“The Oregon Department of Water Resources just posted the dam, telling the Bureau of Reclamation that they needed to shut down the flows.”

Those flows would release about 40,000 acre feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake down the Klamath River.

Reclamation has earmarked 140,000 acre feet to farmers on the Klamath Project.

Boyd doesn’t believe that’s enough.  “Because of the low water year we’re having, this has put the irrigators into extreme jeopardy in the Klamath Basin.”

Reclamation says the current allocation is about a third the historical irrigation demand of the Klamath Project.

Laura Williams of the Bureau of Reclamation tells NBC5 that the increased flows will continue as planned for now.

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