Opinion, Siskiyou

Reclamation and US Fish & Wildlife requests billion for project in the Klamath Basin

See Interior Department Press Release at end
publishers note: The Klamath Basin restoration activities are a prime example of the Department of the Interior’s strategic initiatives to address climate change impacts, specifically drought resilience. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, dedicated funding has been allocated to enhance drought resilience within the Klamath Basin. This initiative is part of a broader effort to reduce water loss and increase water availability in the region. The Department plans to leverage additional funding across its programs and coordinate with Tribal and other partners to advance wetlands enhancement and post-fire restoration efforts. This collaborative approach aims to improve the basin’s resilience to drought conditions while supporting the overall ecosystem health and the communities dependent on these water resources.

“$35.3 million for the Klamath Project (Oregon, California), including funds for studies and initiatives related to improving water supplies and addressing competing demands for agricultural, tribal, wildlife and environmental needs.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Press Release:

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced nearly $64 million in funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for ecosystem restoration activities that address high-priority Klamath Basin water-related challenges in southern Oregon and northern California, with an additional $6 million in funding from other infrastructure investments.” 

This is good news for the Klamath River, Klamath River Basin federal tribes and restoration organizations which will receive some of the funding. And the projects will be solid: based on decades of learning about ecosystem needs and how to address them. 

However, based on past budgets and Biden Administration past actions, I expect that none of these funds will be used to complete the most important Klamath River Basin restoration need, that is, a Klamath River Flow Assessment to identify Klamath flow needs by water year type. 

I’m also confident this proposal does not include funding to reduce the amount of acreage under irrigation within the federal Klamath Irrigation Project. While that is the only way to balance supply and demand for Klamath water, the Biden Administration will not prioritize the needed reduction in irrigated acres because it fears alienating federal irrigators who don’t want to see one less acre irrigated with federal water. 

Instead we will see yet another round of funding to irrigators to “improve irrigation efficiency.” That ignores the fact that we have already had several rounds of funding going back decades provided to irrigators in the Upper Basin, Shasta and Scott to “improve water use efficiency”. As I Pointed out on KlamBlog at the time, however, some of those funds actually increased agricultural water use by providing access to groundwater, thereby extending the irrigation season. 

In the Upper Basin, Shasta and Scott, tens of millions in taxpayer “restoration” dollars has been used to benefit the Basin’s most wealthy irrigators by providing them with new irrigation wells and irrigation systems paid for by US Taxpayers.  

The Big question is, will any of this new money actually be used to assess Klamath River flow needs? I doubt it will but I’ll be on the watch and will let y’all know what I find.  


cover photo: publishers ai generated art

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