200 cattle ranchers and hay farmers in the upper Klamath Basin are preparing for irrigation shutoffs as the Klamath Tribes take control of senior water rights for the first time in a century.
Since a formal declaration of drought last month, representatives of the governor's office have been making regular visits to Klamath County to brief local law enforcement and other officials on what they can expect if irrigation withdrawals are shut off. A nearby federal irrigation project saw weeks of bitter protests in 2001 when drought triggered a water shut-off to conserve flows for protected fish.
"Now if there are shortages of water in the basin, people can request that newer more junior water rights are shut off so older water rights can be satisfied," Richard Whitman, natural resources adviser to the governor, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "There is a fairly high likelihood of that happening in the upper Klamath Basin this year."
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