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Klamath Drought

OPB | May 14, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:24 p.m.

Governor Kulongoski recently declared a drought (pdf) in Klamath county and five neighboring counties. Thousands of farmers in the Klamath Basin depend on federally controlled irrigation canals that flow from Klamath lake to water their crops and support pasture for livestock. But water levels in Klamath Lake are low this year. And farmers will receive only about 30 percent of the surface water they usually get, to ensure that endangered suckerfish in the lake will also survive the drought.

Many farmers in the Klamath already took a financial hit last year, due to low crop prices and the recession. Some say that the assistance the federal and state government are offering during this drought isn’t enough to save them from bankruptcy.  Other people in the basin worry that a rush to dig wells and pump groundwater to make it through this growing season could have long term consequences. 

And many people worry that the stress of this dry growing season will undermine support for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, a compromise between farmers, tribes, and environmental groups over future water use in the basin.

Do you own a private well in Klamath county? Are you a farmer that has lived through a drought? What do you think of state and federal disaster assistance programs for farmers? Are land idling programs and emergency well use a good solution? 

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