KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Despite above average mountain snowpack levels, Klamath Project farmers will still need to stretch their irrigation supplies this summer.
The mountains above Upper Klamath Lake have 123% of average snowpack for March 25th.
“The bad news is, we are sitting at over 100% of snowpack and precipitation and still we are unable to receive a full project delivery,” said Mark Johnson of the Klamath Water Users Association.
Jeff Nettleton of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation explains the bureau has to balance several demands. “The needs of the endangered coho salmon in the Klamath River, the needs of the endangered shortnose and Lost River suckers in Upper Klamath Lake, and the needs of the Klamath Irrigation Project.”
Another factor is a new, 5-year biological opinion aimed at maintaining that balance.
The new biological opinion going into effect caps the limit of water from Upper Klamath Lake to Klamath Project farmers at 350,000-acre-feet per year.
“They’ll be seeing about 325,000-acre-feet of project delivery,” Johnson said, “which is about 93% of the project allocation under the new biological opinion.”
But, a break from drought conditions will help to keep the water needs in balance, at least for this year.
“I think we’re going to be able to provide a good project supply,” Nettleton said, “as well as meet the endangered species needs.”
The Klamath Irrigation District is preparing to open the headgates to the “A” Canal on April 1st.
In 2018, the headgates weren’t opened until May.