Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Move things along when someone has a good idea
October 24, 2011 Viewpoints, Herald and News
Irrigators on the Klamath Reclamation Project have had to get creative to deal with rapid increases in power rates after a 50-year rate agreement with Pacific Power ended in 2006. And they're doing it with soon-to-begin construction on a small hydroelectric project where the A Canal splits into the B and C canals southeast of Klamath Falls.
Earlier this month, the Bureau of Reclamation produced a finding that the proposal by the Klamath Irrigation District (KID) -- one of the Project's four districts -- would have no significant environmental impact. The decision wasn't unexpected, but that doesn't diminish the good news.
A 1956 power agreement had kept power rates low for irrigators largely in exchange for steadier streamflows to make the most efficient use of the generators on dams built on the Klamath River south of Klamath Falls. The last one, Iron Gate, was completed in 1962.
The dams and the availability of power also encouraged people to settle in the area. That meant more customers for the electrical utility involved -- which started out as Siskiyou Electric Power and Light Company, and later became Copco Co., which was then absorbed by Portland-based Pacific Power and Light Co.
After more ownership and other changes, the four dams involved are now operated by PacifiCorp, which is owned by Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy.
The new KID facility, which is expected to be operating some time in 2012, would produce revenue that could help irrigators offset a twelvefold increase in power rates that has been phased in during the past four years.
The project also required permission by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which took several years to get -- a process which should be streamlined.
Agriculture, beset as it is by legal battles and always at the mercy of the weather, needs ways to make it easier to stay in business, and small generating facilities such as these surely should be encouraged.
Page Updated: Thursday October 27, 2011 01:39 AM Pacific
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