Wednesday April 6, 2022

Klamath Falls Herald and News

One year after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation shut off water to the Klamath Project amid a devastating region-wide drought, conditions appear to be worse heading into the 2022 irrigation season.

Upper Klamath Lake is again getting record low inflows following another dry winter. As of April 5, the Klamath Basin had received just 67% of its median precipitation for the water year dating back to Oct. 1 and 26% of median snowpack. Brian Person, a senior adviser for the Bureau of Reclamation in Klamath Falls, Ore., said the agency will announce its annual water allocation for the Klamath Project on April 12. He declined to speculate whether there would be a second consecutive shutoff, but said it has been “a very difficult year.”

“We had a promising start to the water year,” Person said, adding the basin had above-average snowpack in November and December. “It just stopped. It almost flatlined through this calendar year.” During that time, Upper Klamath Lake inflows totaled 425,000 acre-feet of water. That is a record low, Person said, even lower than the previous record of 427,000 acre-feet set last year. Person said each of the last three years — 2020, 2021 and 2022 — rank in the top five driest years on record for Upper Klamath Lake. “That’s not a record we were hoping to set,” he said. The Bureau of Reclamation manages water in Upper Klamath Lake for irrigators and two species of endangered sucker fish, known by the Klamath Tribes as C’waam and Koptu. Under the agency’s interim operations plan, the lake’s water surface elevation must remain above 4,142 feet in April and May to provide shoreline spawning habitat for the sucker fish.

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