UPDATE - 3/26/18 4:59 PM
Bureau of Reclamation has reported via an email - "The court has decided to NOT move up the hearing date. They will have the hearing on the original date of April 11."
Reclamation Responds to Klamath Water Users’ Motion in District Court, Outlines Proposed 2018 Operations
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – A court filing on Friday outlined the Bureau of Reclamation’s proposed 2018 Klamath Project operations, including how Reclamation plans to provide water to irrigators in the Klamath Basin by mid-April and provide water for endangered species.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed the response to the March 7 motion filed by the Klamath Water Users Association, other individual districts and water users in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California: Hoopa Valley Tribe v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 3:16-cv-4294 and Yurok Tribe v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 3:16-cv-6863.
The water users requested relief from a March 2017 court-ordered injunction that called for Klamath River water flows to mitigate disease concerns impacting endangered coho salmon in the Klamath River. The injunction called for a 72-hour surface flushing flow between Nov. 1 and April 30, and emergency dilution flows later this spring or summer if necessary. The injunction also states that in no event should the prescribed flows interfere with conditions necessary to protect ESA-listed suckers in Upper Klamath Lake.
Since the start of the 2018 water year, cumulative inflows to Upper Klamath Lake have been some of the lowest observed on record. Reclamation has determined that there is not enough water in the system to produce a surface flushing flow with Klamath Project water and still meet lake threshold elevation requirements for suckers. Following significant coordination and collaboration with Project water users, the Klamath River Basin Tribes, National Marine Fisheries Service, other litigant parties, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and PacifiCorp, Reclamation developed a 2018 operations proposal that was submitted in Friday’s reply to the water users’ March 7 motion.
Reclamation’s proposal includes implementing a full surface flushing flow, augmented with non-Project water; forgoing an emergency dilution flow; and providing Klamath Project irrigators with a supply of 252,000 acre-feet – 65 percent of a full project supply – with deliveries commencing on April 19 with charging of main canal networks. Reclamation is proposing to forego the dilution flow because it would cause water levels in Upper Klamath Lake to fall below the minimum threshold elevations for suckers, new information indicates limited scientific support for dilution flows, and the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have indicated that implementation of a surface flushing flow should be prioritized over emergency dilution flows.
“Reclamation believes this proposal provides the best solution for addressing disease concerns for coho salmon in the Klamath River while also ensuring water levels necessary to protect endangered suckers in the Upper Basin. This proposal allows Reclamation to protect important Tribal Trust Resources while allowing for water supply certainty and economic stability for our agricultural communities in the Klamath Basin” said Mid-Pacific Deputy Regional Director Alicia Forsythe.
Reclamation’s proposal to implement the surface flushing flow in mid-April relies on 11,000 acre-feet of non-Project water provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from its Upper and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges as well as 10,500 acre-feet of water from PacifiCorp reservoirs to augment limited project supplies available from Upper Klamath Lake for the surface flushing flow. Reclamation has agreed to repay the voluntary water contribution from the USFWS and PacifiCorp by the fall/winter of 2018.
“Reclamation greatly appreciates the hard work and willingness of the Fish and Wildlife Service and PacifiCorp to help identify and offer alternative water sources to meet the court-ordered surface flushing flow for 2018,” Forsythe said. “We are hopeful that the court fully considers Reclamation’s proposal so that the 2018 water year addresses competing water demands and stakeholder interests within the Klamath Basin.”
The hearing to review the water users’ motion as well as all replies from parties in the case is currently scheduled for April 11, but could be moved to April 4 due to a stipulation agreed to by the parties.
Reclamation remains diligent in monitoring hydrologic conditions and will continue to coordinate closely with all parties as the 2018 spring/summer hydrology develops.
Court filing documents will be available on Reclamation’s Mid-Pacific Region web site by Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2018.