Merkley, Wyden Applaud Department of Interior’s Decision to Award $2 Million for Klamath Basin Drought Relief

Washington D.C.
– U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today applauded Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s decision to award an additional $2 million to the Klamath Water and Power Authority for water bank and land idling. Today’s decision comes as many farmers and ranchers are facing a devastating drought.

“I want to commend Secretary Salazar and the Department of the Interior for today’s announcement of additional assistance to the Klamath Basin. While there’s no substitute for the water to keep farming, this money will go a long way to help water users make it through the season without losing their farms and livelihoods,” Merkley said. “I also want to commend the cooperation and collaboration of the water users in the Klamath Basin. I have been down to the Basin twice during the past few months to discuss ways that we can mitigate the effects of the coming drought and every time I am impressed by their cooperation and commitment to finding constructive solutions.”

“With Klamath Lake expected to be at record low levels this summer, it is encouraging to see the Department of Interior taking steps to support farmers today that will temporarily help avert disaster,” Wyden said. “Mother Nature is a harsh opponent, but with 1,400 family farms and ranches at stake along with 200,000 acres of farmland and hundreds of jobs we need to do everything we can to help. That’s why today’s announcement of an additional $2 million for Klamath Water and Power Agency is so important.”

The decision by the Department of the Interior will allow an additional $2 million to the Klamath Water and Power Authority who administers the groundwater pumping program, often referred to as the “Water Bank”, and land idling program on the Klamath Project.  The additional funds will be used for additional land idling and to help alleviate the effects of below record carry over storage and extremely dry conditions affecting irrigation customers.

Currently, the Klamath Water and Power Authority estimates a savings of approximately 2 acre-feet for every acre idled.  In addition, they predict local irrigators will receive assistance for the pumping of more than 100,000 acre-feet of well water.   The additional funding announced today will increase these efforts.