News Release Archive

Klamath Project 2015 Operations and Drought Plans Released Amid Extreme Drought

Media Contact: Erin Curtis, 916-978-5100, eccurtis@usbr.gov

For Release: April 07, 2015

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – The Bureau of Reclamation today released the 2015 Operations Plan and the 2015 Drought Plan for the Klamath Project. The plans outline water deliveries for the 2015 irrigation season, which runs from March 1 to November 15, for over 200,000 acres in northern California and southern Oregon.

Based on the current elevation of Upper Klamath Lake and forecasted inflows, the Klamath Project irrigation supply from UKL is expected to be 254,500 acre-feet, or 65 percent of full supply. The anticipated water supplies available from Clear Lake Reservoir are zero acre-feet, and about 16,000 acre-feet from Gerber Reservoir, or 47 percent of full supply.

“Klamath Project water users are facing an unprecedented situation as the Klamath Basin experiences its fourth consecutive year of drought,” said Brian Person, Acting Area Manager for the Klamath Basin Area Office. “Management of the limited supply this year consistent with the Biological Opinions that govern operation of this Project will require extraordinary coordination and cooperation, but I am confident that based on the level of communication that has occurred to date, we will be able to make the most effective use of existing water supplies.”

Since the start of the water year (October 2014) through April 1, 2015, the Klamath Basin has received 96 percent of average precipitation, but those conditions have come alongside snowpack that is significantly lower than normal at only 7 percent of average. This is the largest disparity on record between precipitation and snowpack, meaning that runoff from snowpack will be extremely limited. The Klamath Project relies upon snowpack to sustain inflows to Project reservoirs during the summer months in order to meet the Project’s irrigation demands.

The Operations Plan provides an estimate of the available water supply for irrigation within the Project, the volume of water to be released to the Klamath River for coho salmon, and the water supply to be reserved in Upper Klamath Lake for Lost River and shortnose suckers, as consistent with the 2013 Joint Biological Opinion on Klamath Project Operations. The separate Drought Plan describes the background for and process of allocating the available water supply from UKL and the Klamath River during the 2015 spring/summer irrigation season (March 1 to November 15), consistent with the system of contractual priorities that exist within the Project. These plans are based upon current and anticipated hydrologic conditions, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s April 1 inflow forecasts, and current reservoir elevations. Overall, the plans provide information for use by agricultural water users, Klamath Basin tribes, national wildlife refuge managers, and other stakeholders as a planning tool.

2015 Operations Plan
As identified in the 2015 Operations Plan, as of April 1, the water surface elevation of UKL was 4,142.91 feet, corresponding to approximately 483,080 acre-feet of storage. The NRCS’ April 1 forecast for inflows to UKL from April 1 to September 30 was 186,000 acre-feet, about 39 percent of average. Under these conditions, the Klamath Project irrigation supply from UKL, as described in the Operations Plan, is expected to be 254,500 acre-feet (65 percent of full supply) for the 2015 irrigation season.

Based on current lake levels and forecasted inflows for Clear Lake and Gerber reservoirs, the anticipated water supplies available for the 2015 irrigation season are zero acre-feet from Clear Lake Reservoir and approximately 16,000 acre-feet from Gerber Reservoir (47 percent of full supply).

The Operations Plan notes that with ongoing drought conditions, Reclamation will need to manage Project deliveries throughout the irrigation season such that requirements under the 2013 Biological Opinions are met.

2015 Drought Plan
When available water supplies from UKL and the Klamath River are insufficient to meet the demands of all Klamath Project contractors, Reclamation is contractually obligated to allocate the available supplies.

Based on discussions with Project contractors regarding a number of hydrologic factors, the 2015 Drought Plan announces that, at this time, Project water from UKL and the Klamath River is not currently available for lands under Warren Act contracts. This action is necessary to ensure contractually obligated deliveries to Reclamation senior repayment contractors.

The Project water allocation for Warren Act contractors is subject to change, due to either an increase in supply or a reduction in actual demand. Reclamation will reevaluate the available supplies for all Project contractors following the May 1 and June 1 inflow forecasts by NRCS. Other factors that could result in Reclamation increasing the allocation include additional inflows into Project reservoirs due to precipitation events, water conservation efforts, water rights administration, and implementation of voluntary demand management measures.

“If the snowpack was average this water year, the resulting inflow to Project reservoirs would have been sufficient to meet all the irrigation needs within the Project,” clarified Person. “As the water year progresses, Reclamation will continue to work with Project water users, tribes, federal and state agencies, and other stakeholders to do everything possible to identify opportunities to exercise operational flexibility and effectively manage existing water supplies.”

The Klamath Project’s 2015 Operations and Drought plans are available at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/kbao/. If you encounter problems accessing the documents, please call 916-978-5100 (TTY 800-877-8339) or email mppublicaffairs@usbr.gov.

For more information, please contact Jason Cameron at 541-883-6935 or jcameron@usbr.gov.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at https://www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.

Relevant Link:

Klamath Basin Area Office