The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation has completed the Final Biological Assessment on “The Effects of the Proposed Action to Operate the Klamath Project from April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2029 on Federally-Listed Threatened and Endangered Species.”
The document was submitted Dec. 21, 2018, to the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to a press release, the 2018 BA was written as Reclamation’s portion of the reinitiation of consultation with the services. Reclamation believes all information necessary to continue and complete the formal consultation process with the services has been provided. However, exchange of information will continue during the development of the services’ coordinated biological opinion, which is anticipated to be complete before the 2019 irrigation season.
The BA contains:
- Detailed description of the Klamath Project and its operation;
- Description of the specific area that may be affected by the action and the environmental baseline;
- Description of Endangered Species Act-listed species and critical habitat;
- Description of the effects of the proposed action on ESA-listed species and associated critical habitat; and
- Other relevant available information incorporated by reference and citation.
The information in the BA represents the best scientific and commercial data available, Reclamation says.
The Klamath Project was authorized in 1905 and its purpose is to provide water for irrigation, domestic and related purposes to about 230,000 acres of farmland in southern Oregon and northern California. The project includes seven hydroelectric developments on the Klamath River with a total generating capacity of 169 MW, owned and operated by PacifiCorp.
Reclamation’s action analyzed in the BA proposes to continue to: store waters of Upper Klamath Lake (or UKL) and the Klamath and Lost rivers, operate the project for the delivery of water to meet authorized project purposes and contractual obligations inclusive of deliveries to national wildlife refuges, conduct routine maintenance activities on project facilities, and implement conservation measures intended to minimize impacts of the proposed action.
The proposed action includes a water supply-based operational strategy and consists of a water management approach for UKL and the Klamath and Lost rivers that mimics natural hydrologic conditions observed in the Upper Klamath Basin. This approach attempts to optimize the ecologic benefit of the available water supply, resulting in the ability to maximize the amount of remaining water available for the project while seeking to fill UKL during the fall/winter to increase the volumes available for the Environmental Water Account (including disease mitigation flows), UKL, and project irrigation supply during the spring/summer operational period.