Federal biologists have gone too far in mandating water for protected fish in the Klamath Basin of Oregon and California during the next decade, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said June 3.
In an article from the Oregonian, Michael Milstein says the Bureau sent letters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. It creates an unusual standoff between agencies. Because these agencies are responsible for supplying water to farms and protecting fish, the statement is historic.
A year ago, a similar ruling by biologists led the Bureau to cut off irrigation water to more than 1,000 farmers in the basin straddling the state line.
Reports show enough water this year for the agency to supply farms and meet the requirements in new biological opinions the two fish agencies issued. The opinions were intended to last a decade. But they impose unnecessarily steep demands, Bureau officials said, and must be eased for future years.
The NMFS went “beyond what is required” and the FWS “exaggerated the harm” that delivering irrigation water would have on suckerfish in the Upper Klamath Lake.
It is unusual for an agency such as the BOR to disagree so bluntly with fish managers. The move will bring the agencies to the table next year. This means Klamath farmers who had hoped for a reliable long-term water plan will have another year to wait.