WASHINGTON DC – Today, the United States Departments of Interior and Agriculture took the important first steps to begin addressing the drought facing Klamath Basin residents. Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden had earlier pushed coordinated assistance from the Obama Administration and praised this first step in providing relief.
“I thank Secretaries Salazar and Vilsack for their prompt and substantial action to address the Klamath Basin drought. It is great to already see coordinated federal assistance,” said Merkley. “But we need to keep on this. This drought will last months and its impact may extend beyond that. We should be continually pursuing options to mitigate the effects and help the Basin through this difficult period.”
“This is good news for ranchers and growers in the Klamath basin and shows that the Federal agencies involved are truly working together to try to address the crisis — but it is only a first step,” Wyden said. “Senator Merkley and I will continue to fight to help farmers and ranchers make it through what is sure to be a difficult season.”
Earlier today, the Department of Interior announced that the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife have worked in conjunction with the Department of Commerce to calculate the amount of surface and ground water expected to be available to farmers. Project water from Klamath Lake will be turned on in mid-May and will be expected to provide 30-40% of normal levels. Additional water from drought wells will bring total water provided up to 50%. $5.2 million in funding will be accessible to pay for the operation of the ground water wells and to fund some land idling.
The Department of Agriculture also announced that $1 million will be released for Oregon (with an additional $1 million for California) as part of the Environment Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which helps farmers maintain soil quality by planting cover crops while lands are in idle.
This announcement comes just one week after Senators Merkley and Wyden pressed the Administration for coordinated action and is expected to be just the first step in providing improved information and assistance to residents of the Basin during the drought.