Another massive crisis is mounting in the Klamath Basin this year due to extraordinarily dry hydrologic conditions following several years of prolonged drought. The Basin has faced drought conditions almost every year this past decade (2020, 2018, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010) and 2021 is on track to becoming the worst water year in at least four decades. Future projections of climate over the next 30 to 50 years indicate that the Klamath Basin will continue this dry, warming trend. The region has experienced a general decline in spring snowpack, reduction in the amount of precipitation falling as snow in the winter, and earlier snowmelt runoff between the mid and late 20th century. The scope and scale of the drought’s impact on the already-strained people, economies, infrastructure, and wildlife of the Klamath Basin cannot be overstated.
On March 31, Governor Kate Brown Governor Kate Brown signed Executive Order 21-07, declaring a drought in Klamath County, and directed state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to the region. On April 12, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved a drought declaration for Klamath and six other Oregon counties. On April 14, Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-OR-2), announced that Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators will receive $15 million in immediate aid, Klamath Basin Tribes will receive $3 million in technical assistance, and another $10 million will be available for drought assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Immediate relief is critical and necessary. With this emergency, we believe that now, more than ever, the Basin must implement long-term strategies to ensure future generations can farm and fish. In April, some Reconnect Klamath coalition members sent a joint Federal disaster relief request to President Biden that endorsed comprehensive, durable solutions to help move the Klamath Basin to a more sustainable footing that supports Tribal people, family farms, and commercial fishing; recovers endangered species; and restores the ecosystem. Reconnect Klamath stands ready to work with Tribal, agricultural, commercial fishing, and conservationist communities on a vision for the next generation.