Feb 9, 2023

Our unwavering Commitment to Lower Klamath

Our Continued Commitment to Obtain a Permanent Water Supply for the Lower Klamath

I want to take this opportunity to give you an update on our ongoing effort to secure a permanent, reliable supply of water for the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.

With the valued assistance of many of our supporters, we have now completed the second year of a 3,750 acre-foot water transfer effort from the Wood River Valley in Oregon to the refuge that will ultimately lead to new, permanent water right for Lower Klamath.  The water made available by the transfer was a significant portion of the total water deliveries the refuge received this summer. 

Despite exceedingly difficult drought conditions, Endangered Species Act regulations and incredibly difficult political dynamics, we have shown that purchasing water from willing landowners can work for Lower Klamath just as it has for nearby Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada that similarly struggled with water supply issues for many years.

This success in the midst of the worst 3-year drought period of California’s history has garnered the support of a variety of different partners.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife provided grant funding to help with the water purchase this year, and the Oregon state legislature approved specific funding that may be used to purchase water rights.  In addition, once an appraisal is completed and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal government will likely provide significant funding to complete the permanent water rights acquisition.

Our efforts are led by our Klamath Task Force and supported by a number of members of the California and Oregon Congressional delegations as well as other conservation groups, including California Audubon, Grassland Water District and Delta Waterfowl. 

And with this success, more local landowners are now offering to sell their water to benefit Lower Klamath.  In fact, we were able to broker and pay for a separate agreement last spring with the Klamath Drainage District that provided additional water deliveries in the spring.  Ultimately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that up to 30,000 acre-feet is available through agreements with willing sellers.  Additional funding will be needed to secure this water. 

As you are aware, our Klamath efforts are not only critical to protecting the most important waterfowl staging area in the entire Pacific Flyway, but also the long-term sustainability of our local mallard population.  The Klamath Refuges provide critical molting habitat for California mallards, and with sufficient spring and summer water can host thousands of mallard broods that contribute significantly to our fall flight.

There is also of course a long tradition of waterfowl hunting on the Klamath Refuges that is cherished not just by local hunters but many waterfowlers across California.  We are committed to making sure that important hunting opportunity is available for current and future generations.

One final note.  While there are many changes and improvements that need to occur to properly conserve wetlands and waterfowl populations at the Klamath Refuges, water remains—and will always be—the most critical component.  Our recent successes serve as proof that our water rights acquisition strategy is a viable option to securing new water supplies. 

I am asking each of you to consider making a contribution to acquiring more water for Lower Klamath as additional landowners come forward to sell their water.  Doing so will leave a lasting legacy for waterfowl conservation in the Pacific Flyway.

For more info on our efforts, the task force, and ways you can help please go to: https://calwaterfowl.org/lower-klamath.

Thanks and have a great spring,

John Carlson, Jr.