The head of the Klamath Irrigation District said Monday that recent federal cutbacks in water availability will have dire consequences for crops and farmers in the region.
“If they have onions in the ground‚ those onions are probably going to die and wilt,” Gene Souza, executive director of the Klamath Irrigation District, told OPB’s Think Out Loud®.
He added: “I looked at the potato fields, and most of the potatoes are under the size of a AA battery, and that’s not going to meet their contractual requirements.”
With the Oregon-California border region mired in a third consecutive year of drought, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced on Aug. 18 that it would limit water releases from Upper Klamath Lake. The agency said the shut-off was necessary to keep enough water in the lake to support endangered fish that are vital to the Klamath Tribes.
Souza called the move unfair to farmers and initially refused to shut off a key canal. But his group relented last week to avoid potentially losing the region millions of dollars in federal drought relief.
Souza said too much of the lake’s water is being released downstream and making its way to the ocean, where it’s not providing beneficial uses to stakeholders.
“Farmers that have a crop in the ground right now, they are not going to be able to get a majority of that crop to market,” Souza said.
Souza discussed Klamath Basin water challenges on OPB’s “Think Out Loud®.” Listen to the entire conversation here: