Klamath Irrigation District defies order to stop water deliveries

August 23, 2022
Klamath Irrigation District defies order to stop water deliveries

KLAMATH FALLS — The Klamath Irrigation District says it will continue delivering water to farmers in the drought-stricken basin, despite the federal government ordering a shutdown of the Klamath Project on Friday.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manages the project, which includes the Klamath Irrigation District and serves 170,000 acres of farmland straddling the Oregon-California border.

Only a limited allocation of water was allowed for irrigators from Upper Klamath Lake this year because of extreme drought.

While the Bureau of Reclamation has stated the project is now out of water, the irrigation district board met Monday and authorized the district’s manager, Gene Souza, to continue operations — defying the agency’s order to immediately cease diversions.

The irrigation district operates the project’s A Canal, providing water to nine irrigation districts totaling approximately 122,000 acres.

In a letter to Alan Heck, acting area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, Souza argued the agency has not provided a legal basis for shutting down the project, and doing so would deny patrons water to which they are lawfully entitled.

“I am not doing my duty if I just comply, because I do not have a legal justification to deny the people I serve their property,” Souza told the Capital Press.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation could not immediately be reached for comment.

-George Plaven

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