Reps. LaMalfa, Bentz Announce Klamath Basin Disaster Aid Proposal

May 18, 2021
Press Release

Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) and Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) announced a $57 million dollar aid and relief proposal to assist the Klamath Basin. Last week, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) updated their water projections and declared that no water will be delivered to farmers, towns, or wildlife in the Klamath Project. LaMalfa and Bentz have called for immediate action from the Biden Administration to bring additional aid to the area. Many farmers, having been informed earlier in the year they would receive some water, tilled ground, applied fertilizers, and planted crops. Without water, those crops will now die, causing huge economic impacts to the region. BOR is also curtailing water to the wildlife refuges that are home to millions of migrating shore birds. In 2020, a lack of water contributed to a botulism outbreak at the refuge that killed over 60,000 ducks and shorebirds. Locals in the area have gone to great lengths to help the refuge that include leaving extra grain in field and providing additional water. This year, with no water for farmers, local towns, or the environment, the economy and wildlife will suffer a devastating blow.

Numerous court cases have settled that the stored water in Upper Klamath Lake belongs to the irrigators. They pay for the dam, its operations, and the canals. BOR is a federal administrator of the project but owns no right to the water stored in the lake. Southern Oregon and Northern California Tribes also have a “time immemorial right” to have water flow through the river, but do not own “stored water” in the lake. Currently, over 300,000 acre feet of water is stored in the lake, but BOR will seize the water owned by farmers, without compensation, to meet their Endangered Species Act requirements for competing species: salmon in the Klamath River and suckerfish in Upper Klamath Lake. Under the BOR’s updated delivery schedule everyone loses: fish, farmers, local residents, and wildlife.

LaMalfa said: “Last week’s decision by the Bureau of Reclamation to eliminate water deliveries to farmers and wildlife is absolutely crippling to the Klamath Basin. The federal government has failed to properly manage the water in the Basin, and Congress must take action to help prevent further damage to the area’s residents, crops, and wildlife. Congressman Bentz and I are committed to offer solutions and will work with any partner to help deliver needed aid and get the region through this crisis.”

Bentz said: “The catastrophic drought and historic zero water allocation by the Bureau of Reclamation have been absolutely crushing to irrigators, water users, and wildlife in the Klamath Basin. I have already worked – and will continue working – with Oregon’s U.S. Senators to secure assistance for those in the Basin. However, our farmers simply cannot ride out this crisis or afford to rely on current measures to deal with this catastrophic drought. I appreciate the commitment by Congressman LaMalfa to lead with me in the House of Representatives on requesting enhanced, immediate relief for those in the Klamath. We are focused on elevating the needs of everyone in the community for further federal action.”

LaMalfa and Bentz Disaster Aid Proposal:

  • $40 million to assist farmers through USDA programs. These funds will help protect multigenerational family farms though this crisis.
  • $2.5 million to aid wildlife refuges, including funding for a rescue duck hospital to limit botulism outbreaks, funds for necessary maintenance to stop the spread of diseases and improve habitat, funds for pumping groundwater.
  • $2.5 million to assist families whose residential wells have gone dry due to lack of overall water availability in the Basin.
  • $4 million in aid to water districts to repair canals. Without water flowing through canals, subsidence and wall collapse will destroy existing infrastructure.
  • $3 million in aid for commercial fisherman affected by a loss of fishing opportunities on the lower Klamath.
  • $5 million in food aid through USDA and Bureau of Indian Affairs to Tribes and Tribal Governments.
  • Farmers will not be required to pay for BOR operations in the Basin for the 2021 irrigation season in which they will receive no water.
  • BOR was in the process of building a new $4.5 million headquarters in Klamath falls, this with be defunded and have funds reallocated to pay for drought relief.