PacifiCorp lowering Klamath hydro project reservoirs to support basin agriculture needs
Iron Gate and Copco Reservoirs to drop about five feet below normal
Klamath Falls, OR – Yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Klamath Basin Area Office announced that water is available to begin charging the Klamath Project canal system. PacifiCorp, has committed 10,500 acre-feet from its hydroelectric project to help get the Project started. This water will not impact river flows required under the 2013 Biological Opinion for coho salmon.
The timing and amount of Project water availability after this initial diversion remains uncertain. Currently, until June, Reclamation must have a reserve of 50,000 acre-feet through early June to release for dilution flows if triggered under the criteria in a court injunction. Although currently Project supply during May is very uncertain, charging the system now can provide some adaptability and flexibility including managing groundwater where possible.
The federal district court for the northern district of California, which issued the injunction, is currently considering whether to modify the injunction this year, and asked for supplemental briefing on this issue. The supplemental briefs were filed yesterday. This decision will have very significant consequences. KWUA is hopeful that the court will rule very soon.
The decision to charge canals comes after yesterday’s C. Shasta spore analysis that resulted in the court’s injunctive flow regime not being triggered at this time. This analysis is conducted every week and could determine whether additional flows are required to dilute the disease in the Klamath River assuming the injunction remain in effect.
Charging the Klamath Reclamation Project began yesterday.
PacifiCorp began reducing flows out of Link River Dam in Klamath Falls Thursday afternoon in response to a request from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to assist efforts to meet competing demands for water in the Klamath Basin.
The reduced flows out of Link River will result in lower water levels in the Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs, located along the Klamath River in Siskiyou County, California. Flows out of Link River Dam will drop from about 1,600 cubic feet per second on Thursday morning to about 400 cfs by Monday.
Adjusting operations of the Klamath hydro project will allow 10,500 acre-feet of water to be retained in Upper Klamath Lake. This will allow the Bureau of Reclamation to divert an equivalent amount of water to allow irrigators to charge their canals and begin the irrigation season, while also complying with Klamath River flow and Upper Klamath Lake level requirements to benefit endangered and threatened fish.
While the resulting drop in water levels at Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs will be noticeable, boat ramps and other recreational opportunities should not be impacted under the current drawdown plan.
“It’s unfortunately another challenging water year in the Klamath Basin,” said Todd Andres, Pacific Power’s regional business manager in Klamath Falls. “Our hope is that by working with Reclamation and others that we can help stretch existing supplies to meet the many competing needs for water.”
Information provided from the Klamath Water Users Association and PacificCorp.