The Bureau of Reclamation only plans to allocate 50,000 acre-feet of water to Klamath Basin farmers this year, a drought-inspired move that has producers concerned about the 170,000 acres of cropland they hoped to irrigate.
The agency, in charge of dam projects throughout the Western United States, says the Upper Klamath Lake can get no lower than 4,135 feet deep this year to preserve salmon and other species living in the system. The amount of water available did increase from last year, however, when the Bureau completely closed off the project to irrigation.
"The Klamath Basin is experiencing prolonged and extreme drought conditions that we have not seen since the 1930s," David Palumbo, acting commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, said in a release. "We will continue to monitor the hydrology and adaptively manage conditions in close coordination with Project water users, Tribes and state and federal agency partners."
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The Klamath Water Users Association, which represents 1,200 farms in the region, denounced the decision, saying the amount of water the regions farmers will get will be "probably less than 15 percent of what they need."
"On a single acre, we can produce over 50,000 pounds of potatoes, or six thousand pounds of wheat," KWUA President Ben DuVal said in a release. "This year, most of that land will not produce any food because the government is denying water for irrigation. We'll just be trying to keep the weeds and dust under control."
In its release, the Bureau of Reclamation warned producers that it would pursue legal action if they were to take water from the Klamath Project without permission.
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