Note: Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation David Palumbo toured the Klamath Basin during his first visit to the area a couple weeks ago. Palumbo was unavailable for an in-person interview but responded to questions from an H&N reporter via email.
Have you been to the Klamath Basin before? What did you learn on your visit? Where are you visiting?
This was my first visit to the Klamath Basin. While I am familiar with the Klamath Project operations and hydrologic conditions, this trip provided an on the ground opportunity to gain greater insight into the competing demands and stresses in the Basin. I toured some of the area including A Canal Headworks, Link River and Keno Dams, Lake Ewauna, the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Lake refuges and the Gold Dust Potato Processing Plant.
Who are you meeting with while here and what are you talking about?
While in Klamath Falls, I met with the Klamath Water User’s Association and several member districts as well as Reclamation staff and PacifiCorp managers. I also attended the re-initiation of consultation kick off meeting for an updated Klamath Project Operations Biological Opinion. In addition to the Water Users, the Districts, and PacifiCorp, the Klamath, Karuk, Hoopa, and Yurok Tribes, and the National Marine Fisheries and Fish and Wildlife Services participated.
Do irrigation systems in our area need modernizing? Have you been made aware of a desire by Klamath Irrigation District to pursue a piping system for irrigation, and if so, what are your thoughts on this?
Certainly, Reclamation facilities here are aging. Many canals, laterals and dams are 100 years old and older. As far as piping, Yes. I am aware of KID piping plans, which I think can have a positive impact. Relatedly, Reclamation has Water Smart grants available every year to help irrigation district systems. The Horsefly Irrigation District on the East side of the Klamath Project has been quite successful in applying for, receiving and using those grants to pipe ditches. Piping can dramatically decrease the loss of water through evaporation and seepage.
How likely is a water settlement between the Klamath Tribes and all the parties in the Basin at this point in time?
Demands on water are increasing at the same time the water supply is decreasing due to drought, changing hydrologic conditions, court injunctions, and requirements of Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species.The only way to solve these problems is for all parties to work collaboratively toward an agreement on how to meet all the water needs. I’m hopeful that an agreement across the Basin can be reached.
Any other comments about your visit you would like to add?
I appreciated how the people of the Klamath Basin were welcoming and forthcoming with their suggestions. The Klamath Basin is a large and diverse water system with a lot of wonderful and hardworking people. I’m optimistic that we can find balance in the challenging resource management issues.