Klamath Agreements Provide Water Assurances for Klamath Wildlife Refuges for the First Time
The Klamath National Wildlife Refuges benefit from the KBRA in many ways, but most importantly, the Agreement ensures that the refuges will receive water each year- an assurance the Refuges currently do not have.
Settlement parties agree to legislatively modify the purpose of the Klamath Irrigation Project to include “fish, wildlife, and National Wildlife Refuges.” This will assure that the refuge water allocation is equal in priority to the irrigator’s allocation. This provision also allows the Refuge to enter into contracts with irrigation districts and/or the Bureau of Reclamation for the delivery of Refuge water through Project facilities (KBRA Appendix A.1).
Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge will receive between 48,000 and 60,000 acre feet of water depending on water year type. (KBRA Section 15.1.2)
Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge’s water needs are met within the Project irrigator’s allocation.
“Walking Wetlands”, the practice whereby wetlands are inserted into commercial crop rotations, will receive its water from both the Lower Klamath allocation (1 af/acre) and the irrigator’s allocation (2 to 2.5 af/acre). The refuge gains additional wetland habitat for a relatively minor cost, in terms of water allocation, and the Project irrigators are not penalized for using additional water to provide wetlands on private lands
Management of Refuge lease lands will remain consistent with the current Kuchel Act. The parties agree to pursue collaborative conservation measures on the lease lands including walking wetlands as well as other practices beneficial to wildlife. The Refuge lease lands can also function as an experimental area in which innovative farming and wildlife management practices can be developed for potential implementation on private lands
Water rights for the Refuges would be held by the United States.
If, in drought years, additional shortages must be applied to the water deliveries to the Project irrigators and the Refuge, then the refuge has agreed to reduce the Lower Klamath NWR demand further from 48,000 acre feet to 24,000 acre feet. If additional allocation cuts area needed to address shortages beyond this point, then the refuge and the irrigators will share equal percentage reductions in their respective allocations until the need is met. It is anticipated that allocation shortages to Refuge and Project water users will occur in approximately 5% of future years.
For more information see USFWS memo describing KBRA benefits to Klamath Refuges.