Upper Klamath Basin irrigators, the Klamath Tribes, and officials from Oregon and several Federal agencies signed a final Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement on April 18, 2014. The agreement includes:
• A Water Use Program that will increase inflows into Upper Klamath Lake at an annual average of at least 30,000 acre feet by reducing water use in key reaches of the tributaries above the lake, while also providing a stable, sustainable basis for the continuation of irrigated agriculture;
• A Riparian Program designed to permanently improve and protect riparian conditions;
• An Economic Development Program designed to create economic opportunities for the Klamath Tribes and its members, and including increased opportunities for the exercise of Tribal cultural rights; and
• A transition program while the permanent elements of the agreement are being put in place.
Summary of Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement Accomplishments
Since signing the agreement the parties have made significant progress on implementation:
• The Landowner Entity has been formed to work with landowners to implement the water use and riparian programs; it is comprised of irrigator representatives from each of the major basins above the lake.
• The parties have formed the Joint Management Entity (JME) to oversee implementation of the agreement. The JME is comprised of representatives from the Klamath Tribes, the Landowner Entity, and the state of Oregon (formal participation by federal entities requires passage of the Federal legislation). These parties have established bylaws and other administrative provisions.
• The Landowner Entity has developed a ledger for tracking acres and acre feet of participation in the Water Use Program (WUP). The initial 2014 target for participation was 5,000 acre feet of increased instream flows. The final WUP ledger recorded 5,278 acre feet participating in the WUP. The Landowner Entity has secured letters of interest for the riparian program from landowners representing 66 percent of the eligible river bank miles of habitat; the initial target was 50 percent.
• The Landowner Entity and the JME are working to develop the detailed permanent agreements for the water use and riparian programs.
• The parties are implementing the monthly specified instream flows (SIFs), and irrigators have been cooperating among themselves to rotate water use so that the monthly flow levels are met.
• Funding for the water use program comes from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board; the funding is sufficient to continue existing agreements through the 2016 water year. Passage of the Federal legislation and funding is needed to continue scaling up the program in 2017.
• Oregon, USGS, and the Klamath Tribes are working on the siting and installation of gauging stations to measure stream flow at the various SIF locations.
• Oregon has provided information on water right transfers and leasing since the baseline year of 2001 and is preparing to receive and process instream lease and transfer applications as part of the agreement.
• Oregon has adopted new groundwater rules that clarify when groundwater will be regulated to protect senior surface water rights.