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Dry Summer Could Strain Klamath Basin Water Agreement

OPB | May 8, 2013 3:08 p.m. | Bend, Oregon

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As water users in the Klamath Basin brace themselves for what many expect will be a long, dry summer, Governor Kitzhaber’s office is trying to minimize potential conflict over water. 

This year, after years of unregulated water use, the state’s Water Resources Department finalized what’s called the Klamath River Basin Adjudication.  

The document, for the first time in more than a hundred years,  recognizes the Klamath Tribes as the holder of the most senior water claims in the area.  

The tribes are using that water to restore their fisheries.  That means hundreds of ranchers could be cut out if the expected water shortages come to pass this summer.

Richard Whitman, Governor Kitzhaber’s Natural Resources Policy Advisor says, “It is a tough situation.  I think it’s putting a lot of pressure on everybody.  And there aren’t any  easy answers I’m afraid right now.”

Whitman says current projections indicate that the federal Klamath Irrigation project could see some water curtailment, but he expects the impact there will be minimal. 

He says his office is working with both the tribes and ranchers to see if the parties can reach some common ground before summer.

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