Water board gets earful on pumping
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Farmers and federal officials can’t expect pumping well water to be a long-term solution for the surface water crunch in the Klamath Basin, Oregon water officials said at a workshop here last week.
But state permits for pumping in the parched basin will continue to flow, slowly. Five were issued in 2005.
Dan Thorndike, chairman of the Oregon Water Resources Commission, said the state department it oversees has rules and restrictions that ensure further permits won’t add to the Klamath Basin water problems.
“They’re hard to get,” he said.
The commission, meeting formally here Oct. 28, took no formal action after its daylong briefing on Klamath Basin water issues with a focus on the groundwater table that has declined when U.S. Bureau of Reclamation orders water pumped to augment downstream flows below the Klamath Reclamation Project.
In July the WRC turned aside a petition by WaterWatch and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations seeking a moratorium on well permits.
“They are further depleting and draining resources,” said Glen Spain, spokesman for PCFFA.
Debate over scarce water resources became intense after the summer of 2001. Because of a dry year and federal protection of coho salmon in the Klamath River and sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake, irrigation water didn’t flow through canals in the Klamath Reclamation Project at the start of 2001’s growing season. Protests, national attention and fierce debates ensued.
Debbie Colbert, senior policy coordinator for the Water Resources Department, told the commission getting a well permit isn’t easy.
Since June 2002, the state has issued 97 water permits for pumping, she said. The permits, most of which were issued in 2002, add up to 350 cubic feet of water per second, or 700 acre feet a day.
Colbert said someone can’t simply want water to get it, they have to show how they will use it, how their use will affect their neighbors and other information. The application is then reviewed by state officials.