Money available to Klamath irrigators
— $4.5 million in aid for water conservation practices
After the long road to a resolution in the Upper Klamath Basin water situation, the first golden bricks are showing up for those who chose to keep going.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced it will make $4.5 million available this year to assist agricultural producers seeking to make water conservation efforts. This is the first year’s allocation of $11 million, which will be made available for that purpose over the next five years.
“Landowners, conservation partners and tribes have taken a proactive approach to water resource issues in the basin, and USDA has a great opportunity to support their efforts,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said in the group’s announcement of the aid, referencing the recently signed Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement. “We have a suite of conservation activities to help private landowners voluntarily take steps to conserve the quantity and improve the quality of water.”
Andrea Rabe, Landowner Outreach Project Manager with Water for Life, rancher and professional wetlands scientist with Rabe Consulting, told WLJ the NCRS and the Off- Project Settlement Technical Team is working on what water conservation projects will get priority and what type of projects will be eligible for funding.
“Project types being con sidered are dryland conversion (from irrigated lands), riparian restoration and management (grazing management, off-site livestock water, riparian fencing, weed control), and other management practices necessary to allow the accomplishment of tasks in the Klamath Off-Project Settlement Agreement.”
The official announcement suggested priority would be given to those ranchers and farmers who are participating with the Klamath agreement. The total $11 million over the course of the next five years is said to be in addition to $81 million in funds NRCS has spent to improve water conservation and quality in the Klamath Basin area since 2002.
“This strategy strengthens our efforts to provide landowners the resources and assistance to keep their agricultural lands viable,” said Ron Alvarado, Oregon State Conservationist for NRCS.
Though only just recently announced, the timeframe for responses is tight. Applications from interested landowners must be received by May 30. And Rabe pointed out the funds must be obligated by Sept. 30 of this year.
“There is a lot of landowner outreach and work to complete before that time.”
NRCS will be holding workshops this week to identify conservation efforts that could suit their operations and have their questions answered. Workshops run from noon to 4 p.m. on their respective days and will include a light lunch:
• May 12, Sprague River Community Center, 23536 Sprague River Rd.
• May 13, Chiloquin Community Center, 140 S. 1st Ave.
• May 14, Bly Fire Hall, 60800 Hwy. 140 East
• May 15, Klamath County OSU Extension Office, 6923 Washburn Way
Interested landowners can also visit the Klamath County NRCS Office for more information or for application materials at USDA Service Center, NRCS, 2316 South 6th Street, Klamath Falls, OR, or call 541/883- 6924 extensions 101, 118, or 122. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor