Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Rates part of original deal
Herald and News by James Ottoman 1/27/05
The history of hydroelectric power and irrigated agriculture in the Klamath Reclamation Project is like a good marriage. Both have given to the other.
In the late 1800s when private individuals built the first hydro plants, until the present day, all involved have contributed to making this irrigation project both environmentally friendly and economically possible.
This project is one of the best the Bureau of Reclamation has ever built. Where else is stored water used by urban populations, farmers and ranchers, migratory birds and wildlife refuges and then returned to the same river for wild trout and more hydro power?
In 1956 when it was time to renew the power contract with Pacific Power and Light, there were two groups of thought on renewing.
One group of farmers felt that it should buy out the power company's interest. This group pointed to an irrigation district in southern California that built its own hydro system and, as a result, had low electrical rates. The opposing farmers thought the power company had done a good job of furnishing low rates and renewal was in order. The contract, with minor adjustments made, was renewed until 2006.
The Klamath River Basin Compact, which was ratified by the states of Oregon and California in 1957 and consented to by Congress in the same year, was written by forward-thinking citizens of both states who recognized that it might be an insurance policy for future economical power rates for irrigated agriculture in the project.
One of the purposes of the compact is "to provide for the most efficient use of available power head and its economic integration with the distribution of water for other beneficial uses in order to secure the most economical distribution and use of water and lowest power rates."
James R. Ottoman
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