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RBWUCI - Fact Sheet


In the Rogue River Basin Project (Project) the Talent, Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts irrigate approximately 35,000 acres. The irrigation water supply is obtained from the natural flows of Bear Creek and the Little Butte Creek watersheds and from storage facilities in the Rogue River Basin and Klamath River Basin.

Non-Federal interests in the 1910’s and 1920’s constructed many of the irrigation facilities of the Project. The list is as follows:

Fish Lake Dam on the North Fork of Little Butte Creek was built in 1908.

Fourmile Lake Dam on Fourmile Creek in the Klamath River Basin was constructed in 1922, and the transbasin Cascade Canal that conveys this stored water to Fish Lake was completed in 1924.

Emigrant Dam was initially built on Emigrant Creek in 1924.

Hyatt Dam on Keene Creek in the Klamath River Basin was also completed in 1924. Stored water was conveyed to Emigrant Reservoir by means of Sampson Creek.

Howard Prairie Reservoir was built in 1959.

Most of the diversion and water delivery systems of the Talent, Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts were completed between the early 1900’s and mid 1920’s.

In 1954, Congress authorized the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to construct the Talent Division of the Rogue River Basin Project for irrigation, flood control, hydroelectric generation, and other beneficial purposes. The construction of fish and wildlife facilities and a minimum of basic recreation facilities were also authorized. Congress also authorized some of the facilities constructed by non-Federal interests to be rehabilitated.

The reconstructed facilities were enlarged to the following approximate active capacity:

Fish Lake Dam 7,900 acre-feet

Fourmile Lake Dam 15,600 acre-feet

Emigrant Lake Dam 39,000 acre-feet

Hyatt Lake Dam 16,200 acre-feet

Total 78,700 acre-feet

New facilities constructed by Reclamation were Howard Prairie Dam on Beaver Creek in the Klamath River Basin, a collection system in the Rogue River Basin to transport water for storage into Howard Prairie Reservoir, and transbasin facilities to move water from Howard Prairie and Hyatt Reservoirs to the Rogue River Basin. Emigrant Dam and Reservoir were enlarged and the Green Springs Power Plant was constructed by Reclamation for hydroelectric generation.

In 1962, Congress authorized Reclamation to construct, as additions to the Talent Division, Agate Dam on Dry Creek and to divert the flows of Antelope Creek for storage in Agate Reservoir. Facilities for the conservation and development of fish and wildlife and minimum basic recreation facilities were also authorized.

Contracts were entered into between Reclamation and each of the three irrigation districts for construction and rehabilitation of the facilities, operation and maintenance, and repayment. Ownership of Fourmile Lake Dam, Cascade Canal, Fish Lake Dam, and the diversion dams on North and South Forks of Little Butte Creek is vested in Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts. These irrigation districts also hold the rights for storage of waters of Fourmile Creek and the North Fork of Little Butte Creek.

Water storage, diversion and delivery facilities are operated and maintained by Talent, Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts. Reclamation operates and maintains the Green Springs Power Plant and appurtenant facilities. The Bonneville Power Administration markets the generated energy from the Green Springs Power Plant. Stored water in Fourmile Lake and Fish Lake is assigned two-thirds to Medford Irrigation District and one-third to the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District. The active storage capacity for both reservoirs is 23,500 acre-feet.

Storage space in Howard Prairie, Hyatt and Emigrant Reservoirs (active storage capacity of 115,000 acre-feet) is assigned among the three irrigation districts as follows:

“Preferred capacity” of 8,500 acre-feet (7.3913 percent) is assigned to Talent Irrigation District with “first fill” entitlements

“Residual capacity” of 106,500 acre-feet (92.6987 percent) is assigned:

8,000 acre-feet (7.5117 percent) to Medford Irrigation District

4,000 acre-feet (3.7559 percent) to Rogue River Valley Irrigation District

94,500 acre-feet (81.3411 percent) to Talent Irrigation District

Rogue River Valley Irrigation District has full use of Agate Reservoir (active storage capacity of 4,700 acre-feet) and operates it both as a storage and re-regulating reservoir.

Reservoir filling is restricted by flood control “space” reservations at:

Fourmile Lake from November 1 through March 31

Fish Lake from November 1 through February 28

Emigrant Reservoir from October 1 through April 30

The average annual quantity of water collected and conveyed from the upper reaches of the South Fork of Little Butte Creek system into Howard Prairie Reservoir is 17,800 acre-feet.

Estimated average annual Klamath River Basin runoff transferred to the Rogue River Basin is:

6,200 acre-feet from the Fourmile Creek drainage of which an estimated 30 percent (about 2,000 acre-feet) is transportation loss assumed to remain in the Klamath River Basin

24,200 acre-feet through the Green Springs Power Plant from the Jenny Creek drainage
During the 10-year period of 1990 through 1999, average irrigation diversions of the Project were 70,100 acre-feet from Emigrant/Bear Creek and 29,100 acre-feet from North and South Forks of Little Butte Creek. In addition, an estimated 1,400 acre-feet is diverted from Antelope Creek. Water is also intercepted by some of the water delivery systems at tributary crossings. These intercepted flows are not measured.


April 2000 – The Talent, Medford and Rogue River Valley Irrigation Districts entered into pre-consultation activities with the United State Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act to prepare a Biological Assessment (BA) for all three Districts. Shortly thereafter the Bureau began work on the Consultation. At this time the Bureau concurred with the Districts to work cooperatively to complete the BA.
December 2000 – The BOR agreed that all works and operations (public and private) would be included in the Consultation.

January 2001 through December 2002 – The Bureau and the Districts worked cooperatively together on developing the Biological Assessment, exchanging operational information, water flow data, etc.

January 2003 through Current – William Carpenter, on behalf of Oregon Natural Resource Council (ONRC) and the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) filed a 60-day Notice of Intent against the Bureau. The purpose of filing the Notice of Intent was, in part, because the Bureau had not completed the Consultation Process in a timely manner. The Notice of Intent also mentioned the Rogue Basin’s annual average diversion of approximately 30,000 acre-feet of water from the Klamath River Drainage to the Rogue Basin.

The 30,000 acre-feet of water being diverted from the Klamath Basin to the Rogue Basin is spring run-off and is not available to increase water flows on the Klamath side when more water is needed there. The loss of 30,000 acre-feet of water would be devastating to the Rogue Basin. Not just to agriculture, but the entire economical well being of the Rogue Basin.

The original proposed date for completion of the BA was to be sometime in late 2003. However, in the settlement agreement between ONRC and the Department of Justice (on behalf of the Bureau) to avoid a lawsuit from ONRC, the Department of Justice agreed to the following timeline for completion of the BA and Biological Opinion (Bi-Op).

1) The Bureau was to deliver, and did deliver, the Biological Assessment to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by August 31, 2003.
2) NOAA and USFWS will complete a Bi-Op by April 1, 2004.
3) ONRC will be provided with a copy of the BA when it is submitted to NOAA and USFWS. They will also receive a copy of the Bi-Op when NOAA and USFWS complete it.
4) ONRC reserved the right to sue the Bureau at a later date; however, they will need to file another 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue, prior to filing any lawsuit.

The Districts were not allowed to participate, or even made aware of any part of the settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and ONRC. The Districts were told after the settlement agreement was negotiated, that the Bureau was not to divulge any information about the negotiations.

Once the settlement agreement was reached between the Bureau and ONRC, the development of the BA was put on a fast track.

Due to the time constraints placed on the BOR by the settlement agreement, accurate data was not included in the BA. Because of this lack of accurate data in the BA, there is a concern on what type of findings the Services will render regarding endangered species in the BO. The BA states that certain species are likely to be adversely affected by the Bureau’s (Districts) operations. On the basis of the BA and other information, the BO will either find “no jeopardy” for the listed species or plants in the Districts’ area of operation, or it will find that the species or plants have “jeopardy”. If NOAA and/or USFWS find there is “jeopardy”, then the District will enter into negotiations for mitigation of the Districts’ impact upon that particular species or plant. Mitigation could involve several things, including requiring the Districts to leave water instream, change their operations, etc. Once mitigation is agreed to, NOAA will then issue the District an Incidental Take Permit. The Incidental Take Permit protects the Districts from the threat of citizen’s lawsuits for the Districts’ impact upon the species or plants in its day-to-day operations.

November 2003 – The first meeting between the Bureau, NOAA, USFWS and the Districts occurred in Portland on November 25th. The second meeting was held in Portland on January 15, 2004 with the third meeting was held on February 12, 2004.

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