Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Power rate deal made sense then - and now
Published Friday July 15, 2005
Local irrigators won't face a huge increase in their electrical rates and that's good news for agriculture in the Klamath Basin.
The Oregon Legislature has approved a measure that caps the year-to-year increases in rates at 50 percent for the next seven years. That would still be a big annual hike, but nowhere near the immediate 1,200 percent increase irrigators in and near the Klamath Reclamation Project would have faced when its 50-year agreement with PacifiCorp ends in April.
In that 1956 agreement, the power company essentially traded the low power rates for the right to develop power sources on the Klamath River.
Along with agriculture in the Basin came more consistent streamflows, which benefited power production. And, of course, the more agricultural development there was, the more demand there was for nonfarm uses of electricity, and those users paid market rates.
Today, that deal is painted in different colors elsewhere in the region, where those who want to kill agriculture in the Basin so that the Klamath River can be 100 percent committed to fisheries attack irrigators any way they can. When it suits their purpose to use a free market argument - such as saying that Klamath Basin irrigators should pay the same rates as everyone else - they do so, but ignore free market arguments in situations that work against them.
Local irrigators deserve some protection against dramatic increases in rates. The circumstances would actually encourage them to use less-efficient irrigation methods that demand less electricity, but more water. That wouldn't make sense.
Both houses of the Legislature have approved the measure and sent it to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who is expected to sign it.
Local irrigators are still negotiating with PacifiCorp over the rates, so where they actually will fall remains to be seen. But people should recognize that this was a legitimate agreement that was logical at the time and doesn't deserve to be abrogated.
Tim Fought wrote today's editorial, which represents the view of the Herald and News editorial board
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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