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Reclamation announces temporary adjustment in Klamath Project operations

Media Contact: Mary Lee Knecht 916-978-5100 mknecht@usbr.gov
For Release: Feb 14, 2023

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore – The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the Services), announced today it will direct temporary adjustments to Iron Gate Dam effective immediately.  

Despite storm events experienced across Oregon and California in late December and early January, the hydrology of the Klamath Basin continues to be hampered by the effects of a multi-year drought. Uncertainty remains with respect to forecasting for this water year, but the three agencies have coordinated on and agreed to an approach designed to minimize risk to Endangered Species Act-listed suckers (shortnose and Lost River suckers), coho salmon, and Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Reclamation and the Services will continue Tribal Nation and stakeholder communications initiated last fall, as well as the adaptive management process they have established to consider the best available scientific information in managing risks. This process is described in the Klamath Project January 2023 Temporary Operating Procedure, as further informed by the document, Klamath Project Operating Coordination, Winter/Spring 2023, February 13, 2023.

The adaptive management approach aims to address limited available water supply in the Klamath Basin, given potential future hydrology scenarios and competing needs for listed species in Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River. These needs include Upper Klamath Lake elevations for endangered suckers and providing Klamath River flows, and a spring pulse flow for salmon disease mitigation to protect threatened salmon and Southern Resident Killer Whales. These species are important tribal trust resources, and their protection is a critical priority for the federal agencies, recognizing the challenges of meeting requirements for all listed species simultaneously.

Consistent with the Temporary Operating Procedure, as informed by the February 13th document, flows from Iron Gate Dam into the Klamath River will be reduced by approximately 11% (105 cubic-feet-per-second) beginning today and adaptively managed through April 1, while seeking technical input received through weekly Tribal Nation and stakeholder meetings. The operational change will be informed by ongoing real-time environmental and hydrologic monitoring; further management may be implemented after considering this information.

Klamath Project updates can be found at www.usbr.gov/mp/kbao.

Background

Beginning in October, Reclamation began hosting technical meetings with Tribal Nations, water users, and federal agency partners to review hydrologic and environmental conditions and discuss proposed changes to Klamath Project operations relative to Klamath River flows and Upper Klamath Lake elevations. Reclamation initiated weekly meetings in January with the release of the Temporary Operating Procedure to review technical and policy considerations for its implementation. Reclamation also holds nation-to-nation meetings prior to major operational changes, and as requested.

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