A Canal

FILE- The A Canal is pictured from Highway 39 in June.

Oregon’s Congressional delegation has secured another $10 million in federal aid for the Klamath Project. Though irrigators would rather have water for Christmas, the money is still a welcome gift.

This appropriation, secured by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), is in addition to the $30 million in financial assistance already directed to project producers this summer. It comes through a $210 million supplemental appropriations package awarded to the Bureau of Reclamation by recent government funding legislation.

“Although this money does not replace water needed for the community, farmers, fish and tribes, it certainly is welcome,” Bentz said.

Paul Simmons, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said the latest money will likely help fund the Klamath Project Drought Response Agency if it operates in 2022. The KPDRA has already begun issuing checks to eligible project producers that didn’t irrigate land in 2021, so irrigators won’t see those amounts increase thanks to the new pot of money. But Simmons said this may be the first time the KPDRA is heading into irrigation season with money already in the bank.

“If they have to operate, they’ll have at least $10 million,” he said.

The KPDRA is currently entitled to a separate $10 million fund each year thanks to federal authorizations, but it cannot access the money without a yearly appropriation from Congress. Reclamation’s spending plan for its latest windfall essentially unlocked a $10 million advance for drought relief.

“A shortage of irrigation water next year could mean the end for a lot of farm families who have done nothing wrong,” Simmons said. “We are very grateful to Senators Merkley and Wyden for pushing for this funding. We can plan for the worst case even as we work to let farmers farm.”

Senator Merkley said “every bit of assistance helps” after a devastating water year.

“As this historic drought continues, I will continue to fight for the Klamath Basin’s needs at the federal level, and will continue to work collaboratively with local leaders, state partners, and Tribes to implement a long-term strategy to tackle this crisis,” he said.