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Feds offer $10 million to stretch Klamath water

How much can $10 million do to stretch irrigation water coming out of Upper Klamath Lake?

How much can $10 million do to stretch irrigation water coming out of Upper Klamath Lake?

The Bureau of Reclamation is putting an extra $10 million toward immediate drought relief and water conservation in Oregon’s Klamath Basin, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today.

The feds declared the basin a natural disaster area earlier this month following an extremely low-water year in northern California and southern Oregon counties, where farmers have been pumping water from wells to get by and warily watching those well levels drop.

At the start of this year, water levels in Upper Klamath Lake were lower than they’d been in 50 years, and inflows to the basin were the fifth lowest in a half-century.

An extra $10 million will help with the massive effort already underway to help farmers get through what they knew was going to be a very dry year, said Kevin Moore, spokesman for the Klamath Reclamation Project.

The additional funds will pay for farmers in the basin to take thousands of acres of land out of production – roughly 15,000 acres out of 200,000 acres of irrigable land.

“That’s quite a chunk of land,” Moore said.

The money will also go toward pumping more groundwater, building a temporary dike, drawing up a contingency drought plan and to improving water management strategies to stretch available water supplies for fish and wildlife and irrigators.

“These funds represent a timely infusion of assistance for the Klamath Basin during the drought of 2010, helping to improve water conservation while providing relief to the Klamath Reclamation Project irrigation community and the Klamath Tribes,” said Secretary Salazar.

The Bureau of Reclamation had a number of proposals from interests in the Klamath Project service area for use of these funds. Three groups will receive portions of the funds:

  • More than $8 million of the funds will go for land idling, groundwater pumping and opportunities to improve water management strategies on the Klamath Reclamation Project to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act and to provide relief to the irrigation community.
  • Funding of $1.6 million will enable the Klamath Tribes to develop new approaches for managing water and a contingency drought plan for irrigation and fish and wildlife management in the Klamath Off-Project area.
  • In addition, $110,000 will go to the Horsefly Irrigation District to build a temporary dike that will conserve groundwater by preventing contamination of domestic wells. Another $296,000 will provide motors/pumps for existing wells in the Klamath Irrigation District.

Klamath River

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