Klamath Growers Could Get No Surface Water in 2018

Published online: May 03, 2018 Articles, Irrigation
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Source: KDRV-TV

For farmers in Klamath County, Ore., water is life. It means they have enough to grow and harvest the potatoes in a field. But it also means they get to keep their life here, surviving another drought-like growing season. But these farmers aren't sure they'll get that chance this year.

"Those crops don't have a chance to be productive or offer significant harvest," Robison says. "But now, [with the] irrigation supply ... it's going to be very difficult for those folks that rely on that for their livelihood to turn a profit on it this year."

The local Yurok tribe and Pacific Coast fishermen say the water needs to stay stored to keep the salmon population healthy. That's why a federal judge recently denied a request from Klamath farmers and ranchers to use stored water for crops.

At a meeting with congressman Greg Walden Wednesday, farmers said they're planning to appeal that ruling.

"I think everybody is going to have to give something in order to keep everyone whole or keep everyone on the ground and everyone's needs met," says Robison.

Walden says over $10 million of drought disaster relief is heading to the Basin over the coming weeks.

"That brings us to well over $40 million in the Klamath Basin," Walden says. "The bureau would tell you there's no basin in the 17 states that has received more funding in drought conditions than this one."

That money should lower the cost of water pumping, and is meant to help farmers hit the hardest from this years' drought. But it doesn't mean the impact will keep everyone in business.

"[Some people] are going to have to look at other options or ways to make a living," says Robison. "It's not going to work very well for those folks; it's going to be very devastating for them."

Walden says both the farmers and environmentalists need to come to the table to find a lasting solution.