Water fallout in Upper Basin
Tax office sends refunds to shut-off irrigated ranches
By SAMANTHA TIPLER
Klamath Falls Herald & News
January 7, 2014
The dry water year and the implementation of adjudication is affecting Klamath County again, this time on the tax rolls.
Last week, the Klamath County assessor’s office and the tax collector’s office sent refunds to between 1,200 and 1,300 accounts for those owning irrigated agriculture in the Upper Klamath Basin in Klamath County.
Those in the Upper Basin had their irrigated water shut off this year when the Klamath Tribes and Klamath Project irrigators made calls for water under adjudication’s first-in-time, first-in-right prior appropriations doctrine.
That means 115,288 acres of Klamath County land previously under special assessment of farming and irrigated soils were reclassified as dry-land values.
“They had to have the soils that were irrigated acres,” Margaret Kenneally, chief appraiser in the county office, said.
For example, someone may own 80 acres, but only 60 are usually irrigated. The landowner would only get a tax refund on the 60 acres, not the full 80.
Kenneally worked with two staff members for three weeks to calculate the refunds.
The refunds only applied to acres without wells or those unable to use wells to irrigate — in other words, the acres that actually went dry. She said staff compared a list of affected acres in the Upper Basin to a list of wells from the water master’s office to determine who went dry this year.
“We didn’t get to do it as well as in 2001 and drive the area,” Kenneally said. “We gave everybody the benefit of the doubt.”
Kenneally didn’t have a total amount that was refunded, but said it varied from one landowner to the next.
“There’s some ranches that got over $10,000,” she said.
Which means it will have an effect on the taxes collected by Klamath County.