Oregon Water Resource Commission adopts temporary rules granting water rights preference to livestock watering and human consumption in Klamath Basin

(July 1, 2013 – Salem, OR) Today the Oregon Water Resources Commission has chosen to adopt a temporary rule that awards preference of water rights to uses for livestock watering and human consumption in Klamath County. Today’s emergency meeting, requested by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA), was held this afternoon at the Oregon Water Resources Department. This temporary rule addresses an immediate threat to the health and welfare of the people of Oregon that would otherwise occur if regulation of senior water rights in Klamath County curtailed or prohibited use of surface water for human consumption and livestock watering. Tonight ranchers can rest assured knowing their livestock will still have water tomorrow.

“The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association is pleased with the Commission’s decision.” stated Kay Teisl, Executive Director for the OCA, “We greatly appreciate their immediate response to this dire issue. Now ranchers have a fighting chance of keeping their cattle watered through the summer.” On April 18, 2013 Governor Kitzhaber declared a drought in Klamath County (Executive Order No. 13-05) and at the same time indicated that it would have direct and significant impacts on the Klamath Basin’s livestock, agriculture, and natural resources. The Oregon Water Resources Department received requests on June 10, 2013 to enact water rights regulation by senior water rights holders.

Oregon law authorizes the Commission to grant a preference to livestock watering and human consumption over all other water uses when drought is declared by the Governor (ORS 536.750(1)(c)). Yet, the Oregon Water Resources Commission typically would not have met until August 30, 2013. “This matter cannot wait that long. On behalf of Oregon’s livestock producers and family ranches in the areas above the Upper Klamath Lake, I request that you convene an emergency meeting and immediately issue an order granting preference to stock watering and human consumption in the areas above the Upper Klamath Lake…” stated Curtis Martin, President of the OCA, in a letter written to Oregon Water Resources Commissioners on June 17, 2013 requesting an emergency meeting to consider adoption of the temporary rule.

This urgent request was granted through the adoption of temporary rule which awards preference to livestock watering and human consumption. Klamath County is in the top 2% of the nation’s counties for livestock production including cow-calf and stockers, and is home to an estimated 100,000 livestock, with most of them located in the area above the Upper Klamath Lake. Many families and individuals who manage ranches and related businesses also live in the areas above the Upper Klamath Lake. For more information about drought impacts and what ranchers are doing to conserve water, please contact Kay Teisl, OCA Executive Director, at (503) 361-8941 x 11 or kayteisl@orcattle.com.