Tribes Make Call For Water — Water Shutoffs Could Begin As Early As Next Week

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FA Note — This action by the Kla­math Tribes, under author­i­ty of the Upper Kla­math Basin Com­pre­hen­sive Agree­ment (UKBCA), high­lights what is like­ly in Mon­tanan’s future, via the Con­sol­i­dat­ed Sal­ish and Koote­nai Tribes water com­pact signed into law last week.


Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry

Kla­math Tribes Chair­man Don Gentry

Water shut­offs could begin as ear­ly as next week. Since Mon­day, water calls have been made on 10 Basin streams, includ­ing the Sprague, Sycan, and Wood rivers.

Accord­ing to Scott White, water­mas­ter for the Ore­gon Water Resources Depart­ment (OWRD) office in Kla­math Falls, one call (w)as made by a pri­vate water user with an 1864 adju­di­cat­ed water right. The oth­er streams were called on by the Kla­math Tribes.

OWRD adju­di­ca­tion reg­u­la­tion pro­vides sur­face water rights based on pri­or­i­ty date of prop­er­ty claims: The old­er the claim date, the more senior the water right. Junior water users’ irri­ga­tion water can be shut off until senior rights are sat­is­fied.   The Kla­math Tribes have a “time immemo­r­i­al” right, mak­ing them the most senior water users in the Basin.

Kla­math Tribes Chair­man Don Gen­try said the calls were made to ele­vate water lev­els to instream flows agreed upon by stake­hold­ers in the Upper Kla­math Basin Com­pre­hen­sive Agree­ment, a pact designed by upper Basin stake­hold­ers to bal­ance water needs. Gen­try explained that once a call is val­i­dat­ed, the water­way will be reg­u­lat­ed until flows are met. Once flows are met, OWRD will con­tin­ue mon­i­tor­ing them to ensure senior water rights are hon­ored.   The only stream that has been reg­u­lat­ed in 2015 is Sand Creek, which was called on by a pri­vate landown­er on April 1.

White said OWRD offi­cials must assess water lev­els before they can val­i­date this week’s water calls. Right now, it’s pre­ma­ture to say how many landown­ers will be impact­ed or how much water use will have to be scaled back.   “It’s a mat­ter of sit­ting down and assess­ing what pri­or­i­ty date to cut water off at,” White said.

He not­ed that Wood Riv­er lev­els are short by about 80 cubic feet per sec­ond. Irri­ga­tors who are reg­u­lat­ed will   receive shut­off notices by mail, White said.   More streams could be called on, accord­ing to Gentry.

We’ll con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor to see if there are oth­er streams that may need to be reg­u­lat­ed,” Gen­try said. “I know it’s going to be a par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult water year.”