Interior Department Updates Klamath Water Situation
Norton Praises Mediation Process as Key to Long-Term Solutions to Help Tribes, Farmers and Endangered Species
Late in July, Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced the availability of about 75,000 acre feet of water to assist farmers in desperate need in the Klamath Basin Project. This water has provided critical recharge for depleted wells, irrigation water for livestock, pasture, hay and alfalfa and some row crops. In addition, water is and will be contracted by the Bureau of Reclamation to meet critical water needs of local National Wildlife Refuges for August and September.
Based on current projections, the water districts will have exhausted this water supply by Thursday, August 23. At that time, water in Upper Klamath Lake must be reserved to meet the required elevation level of 4,139 feet. According to the biological opinion on the Lake species, that level is necessary to protect endangered fish. The downstream flows in the lower Klamath River will also be maintained for threatened coho salmon. In addition, Interior remains committed to meeting its trust responsibilities to the Klamath Basin Tribes and promoting a restored fishery.
Secretary Norton is grateful to local irrigators and to PacifiCorp for their willingness to assist in meeting the water needs of the National Wildlife Refuges. With this cooperative spirit, we will meet Refuge requirements
that are critical to protecting the winter population of bald eagles.
Most of all, Secretary Norton praised the hard work and good faith efforts of those involved in the mediation process currently underway.
"It is only by working together that we can reach long-term and fair solutions to these complex issues. With all people united, we can find answers, and move beyond hardship and conflict and toward solving the problems affecting the families of the Klamath Basin," Norton said.