Reclamation shuts down Klamath shutdown

Published June 25, 2003

Herald & News Staff Writer

Klamath, Oregon - Water will keep flowing to irrigators in the Klamath Basin through the end of June, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said Wednesday afternoon - a few hours after lower-level Bureau workers said they'd shut it off.

"It looks like there could be a reprieve," said Jeff McCracken, Bureau spokesman.

Wednesday morning the Bureau told Basin water users to brace for an immediate shutoff. Dave Sabo, manager of the Klamath Basin Area Office, announced the decision in a conference call with irrigators, who expressed anger and frustration.

The announcement sent farmers and water managers into a flurry trying to figure out what to without water, and it set local and regional politicians to calling officials of the Bush administration.

Sabo said the shutdown would probably last until the end of the month, and was aimed at keeping the level of Upper Klamath Lake high enough to meet the water levels called for by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service is charged with protecting suckers listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Then, in the afternoon, the decision was reversed.

McCracken is from the Bureau's Mid-Pacific Region office in Sacramento, and Wednesday afternoon he was driving toward Klamath Falls. In an interview via cell phone, he said the Bureau is asking water users to conserve as much water as they can and is consulting with the Service about the biological opinion.

McCracken said the Bureau wants to find a way keep the Klamath Reclamation Project continue operating for the remainder of the year without violating the biological opinion. He said the water would flow at least to the end of June.

"If we can get enough guidance from the Fish and Wildlife Service we might be able to squeak through," he said.

Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said confusion by the Bureau about the water supply adds to the uncertainty about the future for water users.

"This is pretty much par for the course," he said.


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