Klamath :Representatives call for investigation

By The Associated Press

Klamath, Oregon - 7/1/03 - Three U.S. Republican representatives from the Klamath Basin area are calling for an investigation of last week's near shut-off of irrigation water.

"This incident raises questions about the model being used to determine how much water the Klamath Project receives, in addition to the method of measuring the lake level," Rep. Greg Walden said. "Thousands of people's livelihoods are at stake, and it is critical that the federal government makes these decisions correctly."

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation told irrigators on the Klamath Reclamation Project last Wednesday that they would have to forego water for a week to leave enough in Upper Klamath Lake to meet Endangered Species Act requirements for endangered suckers.

Later in the day, the bureau changed course, saying it would work with farmers to strictly limit irrigation to leave more water in the lake. Water is expected to continue flowing to farmers for the time being, although farmers and officials are nervous about the remainder of the summer.

Water shortages came after the bureau upgraded the water year from "dry" to "above average," meaning more water had to stay in the Upper Klamath Lake for fish. When the weather wasn't as wet as expected, there was less water available for irrigators.

Walden, along with Wally Herger and John Doolittle of California, wants Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton to release the data and technical information used to reclassify the type of water year, as well as the scientific process used to ensure reliability and accuracy in decision-making. They are also asking whether state or local officials reviewed the data before the Bureau made its decision.

Meanwhile, Oregon Water Resources Department official Del Sparks spent Thursday and Friday checking gauges on irrigation diversions and looking at streamflows above Upper Klamath Lake, and said he didn't find any evidence of illegal water diversions that could have led to the shortage.

The National Resources Conservation Service reports precipitation in the Basin at 86 percent of normal, but most of the snow and rain came during a wet spell in April and early May


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