Bill would boost size of Upper Klamath Refuge
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
July 10, 2006
By Steve Kadel
A $2.5-million funding package earmarked for wetlands and water storage on the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is working its way through Congress.
The money is part of the Senate’s Department of Interior funding bill. It contains $5 million for natural resource projects in Oregon, including $2.5 million to acquire the private Barnes Ranch property.
Those 2,671 acres would be added to the upper refuge’s current 12,000 acres, although the Bureau of Reclamation would manage the site under a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bureau spokeswoman Rae Olsen said acquisition will increase water quality for fish and wildlife.
It also will help the bureau meet federally mandated levels for Upper Klamath Lake by storing more water above the lake, funneling some from the holding when needed.
Dike too low
A dike separates Barnes Ranch on the west from Agency Lake Ranch – currently owned by Reclamation – to the east.
“The reason we need it is the dike between Barnes and Agency Lake Ranch is low enough that we cannot store the full amount of water on Agency Lake Ranch that we could if we use both properties,” Olsen said.
It will allow an extra 30,000 acre-feet of water to be stored to support Upper Klamath’s Lake’s level, she said.
“All of these lands at one time were part of a vast network of wetlands,” Olsen said. “This provides the perfect habitat for sucker development. In the long run it will provide more benefits than just lake level.”
Curt Mullis, USFWS field supervisor, noted the House cut natural resource money from its version of the bill several weeks ago. The issue will be decided in conference committee, he said, adding the funding “is getting closer.”
Bill has high priority
Sen. Gordon Smith’s press aide, R.C. Hammond, said the 2007 Interior funding bill is due for passing in the fall. He said Oregon Sens. Smith and Ron Wyden are giving the Oregon funding high priority.
“They will watch this bill to make sure these projects stay in there,” Hammond said.
In addition to refuge funding, the bill’s Oregon projects include $1.4 million for the Oregon watershed cooperative research program and other improvements.
“These funds are vital to Oregon communities’ environmental priorities,” Smith said.
“Part of what makes Oregon so special is the unique combination of natural beauty and rich natural resources our state has,” Wyden said. “The funds included in this legislation (help) to sustain Oregon’s natural resources for the future while providing an economic boost to our state’s rural communities.”