Mitchell Brown, a relief ditch-rider with Klamath Irrigation District, navigates the canal banks with his pickup Friday morning, parking the vehicle before turning on irrigation water for a customer who had ordered water.
Water orders have been trickling in to the district since irrigation water delivery officially began Friday, and calls are anticipated to ramp up as the water does, with ditch-riders like Brown there to deliver the water.
With some back and forth at the district, including an announcement earlier in the month that water would be turned on and then the inability to do so, Brown said there had been multiple customers who had phoned in their water orders that couldn’t be fulfilled.
“We’ve had water for the last month, just not very much,” Brown said.
June 1 deliveries underway
Water delivery has been underway since May, though a full allocation had not been official until June 1.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office said that there is roughly 55,000 to 56,000 acre feet available to the Klamath Project during June, with a total of about 195,000 to 200,000 acre feet anticipated for the summer irrigation season.
That amount, projected from the National Resources Conservation Service’ May forecast, could change slightly due to forecasts set to be released this week, along with an operations and drought plans, Reclamation officials said.
“Usually at the beginning of the official water season allocation, we have an operations plan,” said Laura Williams, BOR public affairs officer.
“We are going to wait until we have NRCS’ June 1 forecast, before we make up and distribute the official water operations so that won’t be till later (this) week,” Williams added.
Supply and demand
Meanwhile, Tyler Martin, watermaster for KID, expressed his excitement for the start of water delivery.
“May was a rough month with limited deliveries and we’re just excited to be able to align supply with demand,” Martin said. “We’re diverting a little bit more than we were Thursday by about 25 cubic feet per second.
Scott White, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, believes demand for irrigation water will largely be met for June.
“I guess we can thank God today … water is now flowing,” White said. “We don’t know what the remainder of the growing season is going to hold,” he added.
A drought and operations plan are in progress and are set to be released by the Bureau of Reclamation as early as Tuesday, which will provide a more exact water allocation amounts for the Klamath Project.
“We’ll trying to work with them to make sure those numbers are right, and consistent with the biological opinion,” White said. (The biological opinion guides the amount of water needed downstream to protect endangered fish vs. water allocated to the irrigators).
“We’ll see what comes out in this operations plan,” he added. “That should answer some questions. It also may present some questions, too.”
Emergency funds available
White anticipates rolling out information as early as Tuesday about how to apply for a portion of $10.3 million in federal aid being made available for irrigators affected by drought.
“We have a program, we’re ready to get rolling on that program,” White said. “We just need confirmation that the money’s going to flow once we get that.”
White said irrigators should “stay tuned” for more information about how to apply for federal aid related to the drought.
“Very soon we’re going to have a phone number for people to call and start getting people signed up,” White said.