Washington, US-based Klamath River Basin Federal Working Group has announced a number of steps the federal government is taking to assist farmers in Oregon’s Klamath Basin who depend on water for irrigation, and to conserve the basin’s fish and wildlife.

At its first meeting since it was established by US president George Bush on 1 March 2002, the group announced that the US Agriculture Department (USDA) will provide more than US$1.6M to accelerate the delivery of conservation, technical and financial assistance for irrigation water management, filter strips and creation of wildlife habitat to improve water quality and result in water savings of up to 30% in some cases.

In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation will accelerate the construction of proposed fish screens on A Canal, the major water diversion point out of Upper Klamath Lake.

‘President Bush instructed us to move quickly to address the complex economic and natural resource issues in the Klamath river basin,’ said interior secretary Gale Norton, chair of the group. ‘We are pleased to be able to announce substantive actions at our first meeting that will help both people and fish and wildlife resources.