Klamath Growers Continue Struggle

Published online: Aug 10, 2001
Growers in the Klamath Basin of California and Oregon are struggling to keep their 6,000-plus acres irrigated and ready for harvest. For those growers who have potatoes, they are doing fine.

Acreage is down from the 16,000 average, leaving the 10-12 packing plants in the area short of potatoes. In fact one of the largest packing plants has had to go to Washington and eastern Oregon to find enough potatoes to fill orders. Industry experts believe only half the plants will be in operation this fall.

Some of the 2001 acreage is under reservoir systems other than the Klamath Lakes Reservoir, which has been barricaded by the government to protect endangered suckers and salmon.

Other potatoes are under existing or new wells. In the case of wells, it is unknown how much impact there will be on the groundwater drawdown, especially with the new wells.

A good thunderstorm in mid-July gave some relief to the drought-stricken area and also put water on the top of Klamath Lake. This water was then allowed to flow through the irrigation canal system to dry pastures and hay fields. It was too late for many but did help some.

According to Harry Carlson of the University of California Extension, the telltale of the irrigation disruption will be known this fall. Growers will then have to face the reality of little or no production and bills and taxes to be paid. This will leave reverberations on communities in the entire area.