Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Klamath Courier 11/23/05
Tulelake Irrigation District holds
election to raise operation rates
TULELAKE – Tulelake Irrigation District informed landowners at a meeting Thursday that their rates must go up to cover expenses, but eventually how high is anyone’s guess.
More than 90 farmers, ranchers and landowners came to hear about the special election and why the Operation and Maintenance, O&M, rates must increase substantially.
California’s Proposition 218 requires landowner approval prior to any increase of assessments that are based on property ownership. Renters of public lands in the district will also see an increase. If the majority of voters approve the rate change, TID will have the authority to adjust rates throughout the next ten years based on expenses.
Earl Danosky, TID Manager, Office Manager Grace Phillips, and Board of Directors Ed Baley, John Crawford, Jim Havlina, Gary Wright, and Bill Heiney, as well as Marc Van Camp from MBK Engineers, were there to present information and answer questions.
According to the MBK Engineer’s Report, the assessed special benefits provided by TID include "delivery of water, flood control and drainage, and protection of water rights and other matters. The amounts of assessment must be proportional to the special benefit conferred."
Required by law were Thursday’s informational meeting, a hearing which will be held in January, an engineer’s report, and a vote for whether the irrigation district may increase O&M rates. The election cost TID $100,000. The Engineer’s Report was used by the TID Board as a basis for the proposed maximum assessment. Costs are projected to increase over time.
Van Camp said there is a possibility of a maximum power rate increase of 2600 percent in 2006. The water adjudication process is costing $200,000 per year. Tens of thousands of dollars are being spent annually on regulatory issues, including the takings case, legal representation in ESA issues, and other litigation.
Project farmer John Crawford explained the alternatives to a rate increase. Irrigators could meter every irrigation pump and headgate at their own expense and be billed for actual water used. He said that would be a logistical nightmare because, due to regulations against moss and weed control, it could be physically impossible to keep the meters unplugged from moss. "It would be unworkable and terribly expensive."
Crawford’s said the second alternative would be to base O&M rates on projected crops that the farmer may or may not plant, compounded with soil types, causing a "bookkeeping nightmare."
- "It would provide Project Irrigators with a slow death."-
The biggest threat to Project Irrigators in the possible power rate hike of 2600 percent. Crawford said that would mean our eventual end; "It would provide Project Irrigators with a slow death."
Currently Project Irrigators pay pumping costs at several pumping plants to move water. D Plant is where excess and runoff irrigation water is pumped through a tunnel under Sheepy Ridge to Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge and into Klamath River. The benefit by Fish and Wildlife is being paid for by TID. Crawford said if the power rates increase substantially, it would make it impossible to afford pumping that water for the Lower Klamath refuges and Klamath River return. And it would make it unaffordable for many farmers to run sprinkler irrigation systems that they invested in to conserve water.
Farms and wetlands provide more than 50 percent,
or 70 million pounds of food, for migratory
waterfowl in the Klamath Basin, according to
California Waterfowl Association President Ph.D.
Robert McLandress, UC Davis ecologist. Leaseland
farming, including many organic fields in public and
private walking wetlands, may become unaffordable.
The Bureau of Reclamation would then be responsible
to pay the O&M charges currently paid by the
irrigators of public lands for the TID operational
charges on those lands.
The Klamath Project diverted water out of the
Klamath Basin and into the Klamath River, which
allowed land to be farmed, elevated historic Klamath
River flows, and provided free water for power for
the Power Companies. In exchange Copco power company
promised the Bureau of Reclamation and Project
Irrigators an affordable power rate for agriculture.
The websites also have power sections explaining
the history and importance of Water User’s
negotiated power rate.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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