Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Klamath River power depends on reclamation
March 13, 2005 By Steve Kandra Guest columnist Herald and News
"The fact that the available water supply (in Upper Klamath Lake) would be sufficient for both irrigation and power purposes had been determined by the United States, and its own plan of using the same for both purposes was manifested by the steps taken by it (the United State) ..."
Sept. 20, 1920, letter from California-Oregon Power Companyto John Barton Payne, Secretary of the Interior
Since 1868, when George Nurse and Joseph Conger first diverted Klamath River waters for irrigation, the energy of falling water would be associated with growing crops and prosperous regional economy in the Upper Klamath Basin.
Private irrigation was well developed by the time the 1902 Reclamation Act was passed by the United States Congress. The act provided the ability to develop water and power to service irrigation needs.
In 1905, Congress authorized the Klamath Irrigation Project and the town of Linkville evolved into the city of Klamath Falls. That same year, the legislatures of Oregon and California, in coordinated vision, ceded lands to the United States via statute and reclamation began.
"The original plan of Reclamation also included the use of Upper Klamath Lake for storage of water for irrigation and for the generation of electrical power for pumping," said John C. Boyle in "50 Years on the Klamath."
It was evident that the yield of water from Upper Klamath Lake would support abundant water for irrigation and power generation if a control structure was built on Link River.
In 1905, Reclamation recognized that it needed to acquire water rights and riparian property at Link River in anticipation of power generation and Klamath Lake water regulation.
Reclamation acquired the Moore water rights, purchased the Leavitt tract and Ankey Canal with water rights on Link River in anticipation of power development.
"In 1906, Reclamation surveyed the Klamath River from Keno, Ore., down the canyon to Beswick, Calif., for power generation. Reclamation discovering a fall of 51 feet per mile and, in some stretches, 100 feet per mile. All public lands between Keno and Klamath bordering the Klamath River were withdrawn from public entry and reserved for power development." (Boyle, page 4)
In 1915, the predecessors of PacifiCorp realized that unless Reclamation carried out its plan to regulate flows out of Upper Klamath Lake, the hydroelectric generation facilities planned for the Klamath River would not have sufficient water flows for summer and fall generation.
"The U.S. Government was approached and the company (predecessors to PacifiCorp) was told that although the government contemplated the regulation and control of Upper Klamath Lake were needed, it (the U.S.) was not in a position to get appropriations for that purpose ... Negotiations were started whereby the power company would build Link River Dam, take care of claims for damages and regulate the lake subject to government supervision and subject to supplying all water needed for irrigation purposes first.
"The dam and dam site would be conveyed to the United States (reclamation), and power would be furnished to the irrigation project (Klamath Irrigation Project) at estimated cost.
"The outcome was a contract between the power company and the Department of Interior (reclamation) dated Feb. 4, 1917. This was one of the first, if not the first, joint venture between the Department of the Interior and a private industry." (Boyle, page 34)
1918 was a drought year, and on July 18, 1918, Link River was dry because of wind.
Ewauna is derived from a Klamath Indian term "receding and returning water," a natural phenomenon that Link River would periodically dry up and return later.
In 1919, the utility built a temporary crib dam on the Link River reef and began to regulate the levels of Upper Klamath Lake and Link River flows.
By the spring of 1922, the existing Link River Dam was complete. With regulation, the utility was assured summer flows down the Klamath River for power generation. The regulation of Upper Klamath Lake continues to be a valuable benefit for hydroelectric generation and irrigation today.
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