Amidst Uncertainty, Klamath Project Farmers Increase Water Delivery to Lower Klamath NWR

Waterfowl at the Lower Klamath NWR. February 17, 2019 (Image by, Brian Gailey / Klamath Falls News)

Waterfowl at the Lower Klamath NWR. February 17, 2019 (Image by, Brian Gailey / Klamath Falls News)

In the face of uncertainty about their own irrigation supplies this summer, farmers in the Klamath Project’s Tulelake Irrigation District are funding water deliveries to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, a key breeding and feeding ground in the Pacific Flyway.

TID began operation of its Pumping Plant D, a source of water for the refuge, in early February, and increased pumping to 300 acre-feet per day on February 14. Farmers in TID pay 100 percent of the cost of operating the facility, and annual costs can approach $ 1 million.

TID Manager Brad Kirby is in charge of the pumping facility, which removes water from designated sumps in the Tule Lake basin. Water in the sumps can be used for irrigation in TID or pumped through D Plant to Lower Klamath Refuge. Kirby explained that tight operational constraints imposed by federal regulators and recent weather made it necessary to remove water from the sumps.

“It’s in our interest to limit D Plant pumping as much as possible, but right now it’s a good time to get water out, and over to the Lower Klamath refuge,” says Kirby.

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge has experienced water shortage in recent times due to dry conditions and the inability to divert water from the Klamath River because of Endangered Species Act protections for fish.

“Farmers and the refuge have a shared challenge,” said TID President John Crawford. “Our ability to divert water for farms and wildlife is limited by the Endangered Species Act. We value the magnificent wildlife resources in this area. We keep our commitment to provide whatever irrigation water the ESA allows, and also do as much as we can help our wildlife refuge neighbor.”

Kirby said that the continuation of pumping to the refuge will depend on weather and regulatory obligations.

Press release provided from the Klamath Water Users Association.

Klamath Water Users Association.png