The Klamath River begins in Oregon, draining the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, and slices through the northwestern corner of California before flowing into the Pacific Ocean. The Colorado River begins in Colorado, draining the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, before meandering southwesterly and emptying into Mexico’s Sea of Cortez – if there’s any water left after California and other states have tapped the river for irrigation and municipal supplies.
The Klamath Irrigation District in southern Oregon has reversed course and now says it has complied with a U.S. government order to stop delivering water to farmers in the drought-stricken area.
The district’s directors initially defied the federal government’s order to shut off water to the Klamath Project, but the Klamath Irrigation District has since closed a canal after federal officials threatened to withhold millions in drought assistance, the Capital Press reported Wednesday.
After decades of negotiation, the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history is expected to begin in California’s far north next year.
The first of four aging dams on the Klamath River, the 250-mile waterway that originates in southern Oregon’s towering Cascades and empties along the rugged Northern California coast, is on track to come down in fall 2023. Two others nearby and one across the state line will follow.
It’s been a rainy April, but prolonged drought is still impacting parts of Oregon. On Monday, Gov. Kate Brown issued drought declarations for four Oregon counties.
Deschutes, Grant, Lake and Malheur counties are the latest where the governor has declared a drought. These counties join Gilliam, Morrow, Jefferson, Crook, Harney, Klamath and Jackson counties, for which the governor declared a drought earlier in 2022.
Dams are killing salmon on the river’s lower half, while irrigation threatens endangered species on the upper half.
It’s been a tough year for the Klamath River.
The Klamath, which flows through Oregon and Northern California and into the Pacific Ocean, is suffering from drought and infrastructure problems. That’s caused trouble, not just for the fish in the river, but also for the tribes and farmers who rely on it for day-to-day living.
Anti-government activists seemed primed for a violent clash with federal authorities this summer in the Klamath Basin along the California-Oregon border.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation had shut off water for most of the region’s 1,400 farms, denying access to the same irrigation canal in Klamath Falls, Ore., where during a drought two decades earlier, activists tried to pry open its headgates and clashed with U.S. marshals.
Forecasts based on U.S. Geological Survey data predict that the Klamath Basin will only fulfill about a third of what’s needed for agriculture. The Upper Klamath Lake is more than a foot lower than it was this time last year, which was also a drought year.
The Klamath County commissioners voted Tuesday to issue a county-level drought declaration. The board voted to request that Gov. Kate Brown’s office issue a state-level drought declaration, which would open up financial resources for water users.
A coalition of environmental and fishing groups are suing a water district in southern Oregon over an aging, privately owned dam that they say hinders the passage of struggling salmon populations in the pristine North Umpqua River.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Eugene, asks a judge to order the Winchester Water Control District to build a new fish ladder and make major repairs to Winchester Dam, which dates to 1890 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The dam is one of the oldest in Oregon.
In a desert far from any city, farmers use groundwater to grow lush green hay. The hay fattens livestock all over the world. But there’s a big problem: The water is drying up. Now scientists warn it will take thousands of years for an aquifer in southeastern Oregon to recover, while residents there are already hurting.