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50 Years On The Klamath
by John C. Boyle
Contract of February 24, 1917 - 2006

The Upper Klamath Lake impounds the water from Wood, Williamson and Sprague Rivers and from numerous inflow streams.

To the South in Oregon and California were situated Lower Klamath Lake and Tule Lake. South and east of Upper Klamath Lake were thousands of acres of level and fertile lands in Klamath, Langell, Poe, Yonna and Butte Valleys .

In 1902, following passage of the Reclamation Act, the United States investigated the possibilities of irrigating these lands. By 1904 the Department of Interior through the Reclamation Service was convinced from its studies that over 200,000 acres could be irrigated by gravity and by pumping water to higher levels, but to do so it would be necessary to appropriate all the unappropriated waters in the Klamath drainage basin.

Applications were made to the States of Oregon and California for use of all the water in the basin including Upper Klamath Lake and its tributaries and the right to unwater Lower Klamath Lake and Tule Lake for reclamation purposes.

In 1905 the State of Oregon adopted the following statute:

"Section 1 -That for the purpose of aiding in the operation of irrigation and reclamation conducted by the Reclamation Service of the United States, established by the act of Congress approved June 17, 1902 (32 Stat. 388) known as the Reclamation Act, the United States is hereby authorized to lower the water level of Upper Klamath Lake, situated in Klamath County, Oregon, and to lower the water level of, or to drain any or all of the following lakes: Lower or Little Klamath Lake, and the Tule or Rhett Lake, situated in Klamath County, Oregon and Goose Lake situated in Lake County, Oregon; and Clear Lake located in both states: and to use any part or all of the beds of said lakes for reclamation purposes.

"Section 2. -That there be and hereby is ceded to the United States all the right, title, interest, or claim of this State to any land uncovered by the lowering of the water levels, or by drainage of any or all of said lakes not already disposed of by the State: and the lands hereby ceded may be disposed of by the United States, free of any claim on the part of this State in any manner that may be deemed advisable by its authorized agencies, in pursuance of the pro- visions of said Reclamation Act. Approved January 20th, 1905 . (Chapter 5 of General Laws of Oregon, 1905.)"

Following this action by the State of Oregon, Congress in the same year passed an Enabling Act as follows:

"The Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized in carrying out any irrigation project that may be undertaken by him under the terms and conditions of the National Reclamation Act and which may involve the changing the levels of the Lower, or Little Klamath Lake, Tule, or Rhett Lake and Goose Lake, or any river or other body of water connected therewith, in the States of Oregon and California, to raise or lower the levels of said lakes as may be necessary and to dispose of any lands which may come into possession of the United States as a result thereof by cession of any State or otherwise under the terms and conditions of the National Reclamations Act (33 Stat. 714)."

A change in the levels of the Upper Klamath Lake from those of the natural conditions became a matter of discussion with the owners of land riparian to the lake, with navigation interests, timber and sawmill operations and any others who believed they would be affected. Very few if any had definite opinions on how regulations would damage their properties. In fact some believed that the proposed regulation would be beneficial. So the problem was left pending further developments.

The Klamath Project was favorably recommended April 1905 and allotment of funds requested. The recommendation stated:

(1) The project was feasible.

            (2) Farmers and residents of Klamath Basin were in favor.

(3) Negotiations were well advanced toward acquiring existing canals

(4) Oregon and California legislature and U. S. Congress had enacted all necessary. legislation.

The Secretary of the Interior thereon formally approved the Project on May 15, 1905 and set aside funds for its construction; $4,400,000 was allotted of which $1,000,000 was immediately available.

About 220,000 acres were included in the project at an estimated average construction cost of about $20.00 per acre for water.

About 1,500,000 acre-feet of water flowed in and out of Upper Klamath Lake annually disregarding evaporation losses. During irrigation season, the Reclamation Service estimated a maximum of 1500-second feet and 300,000 acre feet yearly would be required to meet its needs from Upper Klamath Lake . However, the summer outflow of the lake was known to be as low as 800-second feet under natural conditions.

The original plan of the Reclamation Service also included the use of the Upper Lake for storage of water for the generation of electric power for pumping.

The maximum high-water level under natural conditions in the Upper Lake was at elevation 4143.3 feet above sea 1evel and occurred on April 2, 1907 . The minimum low-water level was 4140.0 in September 1908. Average natural fluctuation of the water surface was about 2 feet.

It was evident that there was an abundance of water coming from Upper Klamath Lake to supply water for all irrigation requirements from that source. If the lake was regulated between elevations 4137.0 and 4143.3 (a 6.3 foot draw down) there would be a regulated flow of 1400 second feet to the U. S. Main Canal A and about 1500 second feet for power purposes at and below Keno. The regulation was therefore established as between 4143.3 and 4137.0 or 6.3 feet and the volume of usable storage estimated at 440,000 acre feet or about one-third of the total average annual outflow of the lake.

          To carry out such regulation, it would be necessary to construct a dam at the head of Link River and recognize that changes from the natural state might adversely affect interests of any and all riparian landowners, or vested rights, whether private or governmental. It meant that natural conditions would be largely reversed, that normal spring flows to the lake would be impounded and released later in the season. Also that maximum flows in the Klamath River might often occur in the summer rather than in the spring adversely affecting riparian rights below the dam.

The Klamath Water Users Association was organized March 4, 1905 and incorporated with capital stock of $2,000,000. The association contracted with the Secretary of Interior to assume responsibilities for paying to the government the cost of the irrigation works. The association helped in signing up land, and in other land and water right matters, and worked in friendly relations with the Reclamation Service until 1908 when the original estimated $20.00 per acre charge was modified to actual costs. The association denied liability for any extra costs.

When the Secretary of Interior ordered all construction on the Klamath Project suspended, the association agreed to pay the charges of $20 or more if fixed by the Secretary of Interior, and the association fearing that funds for the Klamath Project would be diverted, assured the Secretary of full cooperation.

The Klamath Water Users Association served a useful purpose during the development of the early irrigation system. It was headed by farmers, livestock men, businessmen, bankers, attorneys and many well-known citizens who were interested in seeing that the Klamath Reclamation Project was constructed at the least cost and for the lasting benefit of the entire community.

Of the $2,250,000 allocated by 1908 about $1,350,000 had been spent on purchase of canals, property, water rights and the construction of Clear Lake Dam, Keno Canal and Lost River diversion.  Items, which were expected to be utilized on development of future units of the project, were considered as "control purchases. " These expenditures were not charged to the project, and title was held exclusively by the United States .

The Reclamation Service with its know-how was building an excellent project in engineering, construction and operation. By 1909 the landowners believed that the costs per acre for water were going to far exceed the original estimates and asked that a special board be appointed to investigate and review the general features of the project.

The board report indicated that:

(1) The original construction estimates would be materially exceeded.

(2) Contingencies in the original estimates were inadequate due to added engineering and administrative charges, purchase of lands, etc.

(3) The total acreage in the upper part of the project could be cut from 48,000 acres to 36,000 acres.

(4) The Keno Canal from Klamath Falls to Keno and west side of Lower Klamath Lake could be eliminated.

(5) Some pumping projects and the Modoc subproject could be postponed.

(6) The reclamation of Lower Klamath Lake was questionable, due to soil conditions. The lands surrounding it were largely in private hands and could be released to private owners.

(7) The Keno cut for draining Lower Klamath Lake and helping the Lost River diversion could be eliminated and by use of head gates and pumps at the railroad crossing at Ady, Lower Klamath Lake could be dried up.

(8) Unforeseen drainage problems needed attention.

At no time up to 1910 was mention made of a need for regulation of the Upper Klamath Lake. Clear Lake was considered to be a better reservoir than Upper Klamath Lake. Since only 30,000 acres were then served under the Upper Klamath Lake it was believed that lake regulations would not be necessary for some time to come.

By December 31, 1912, the Government had made allotments of about $3,000,000.00 to the Klamath Project, had spent over $2,250,000.00 and had only been able to serve about 30,000 acres, 10,000 of which had formerly been irrigated. As the Government had already undertaken 20 or 30 reclamation projects and had spent over $50,000,000.00 in efforts to develop the arid west, the feeling prevailed that it was time to take a good look at future expenditures on the Klamath Project.

          The predecessors of the California Oregon Power Company (Copco) in 1902 had owned riparian property that constituted a power site on the Klamath River in California. In 1909, the Company made water appropriations and in 1910 started construction work on its No. 1 Copco power plant. Careful stream gaugings were taken of the river. By 1915 it was realized that unless the United States carried out its plan of regulating the Upper Klamath Lake, the river would often, if not regularly, be extremely low during the summer months, but if this regulation was carried out by the U. S. Government, a uniform flow of about 1500 second feet could be maintained in the Klamath River at Keno.

The U. S. Government was approached and the company was told that although the Government contemplated the regulation and control of Upper Klamath Lake where needed, it was not in a position to get appropriations for that purpose and could not indicate when Congress might make an appropriation. 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, and power would be furnished to the irrigation project at estimated cost.

The outcome was a contract between the power company and the Department of Interior dated February 24, 1917.  This was one of the first if not the first joint venture between the Department of Interior and a private industry.

The California-Oregon Power Company had already entered into the distribution of power in the Klamath Falls area.

The predecessors of Copco had purchased the Klamath Light and Power Company from the Moore Bros. on December 31, 1910 . The Moores had built transmission lines to Merrill and Bonanza. This purchase included all the electric generating and distribution facilities then located on Link River and the water system serving the City of Klamath Falls.

           In 1911, Copco built a transmission line from Fall Creek via Dorris to Klamath Falls (line No.4) to better serve the Klamath area.

In compliance with the terms of the contract, the power company started work at the head of Link River and built a crib dam in the spring of 1919, which partially regulated the lake and demonstrated the need for storage of water in the lake. This dam had a dual purpose: to start regulating the lake, and to divert the river as needed for foundation work on the main dam.

1918 was a dry year and on July 18, 1918, the Link River was dry due to heavy south winds on the Upper Klamath Lake . Had water been required for the 60,000 acres which had signed for water from Upper Klamath Lake, this acreage would have been short during the summer of 1918 by about 20,000 acre feet. The deficiencies during subsequent years did not occur, thanks to regulation with the crib dam, during 1919, 1920 and 1921, after which the permanent dam was effective. During all the cycle of dry years up to and including 1931, sufficient water was available from Upper Klamath Lake to irrigate all lands that were entitled to it from that source.

Without a regulating dam, the deficiency would have been 20,000 acre-feet in 1918. In 1924, the deficiency would have been 63,000 acre-feet. In 1931, the deficiency would have been 75,000 acre-feet. In January 1920 an appropriation of $1,213,000 was approved by the U.S. Government, and Project Manager Herbert D. Newell stated that he "expected that this appropriation would enable work to start in 1920 on extensions that will carry water to the lands in the Tule Lake district, Langell Valley and Horsefly development will also receive impetus and construction and repairs of the system will be forwarded."

The U. S. Government had purchased the Keno Canal and in 1907 and 1908 proceeded to reconstruct it. On December 31, 1910 Copco purchased the Moore Bros. electric and distribution facilities including the water right for 205 second feet to be delivered to the west side powerhouse by the U. S. project.

The U. S. Government had also purchased the Ankeny Canal and the Leavitt tract with the rights which went with them.

Both of these canals were purchased by the U. S. Government as part of the control purchase needed for the development of the Klamath Reclamation Project.

In 1915 and 1916, when the contract to regulate the Upper Klamath Lake was being considered, the U. S. Government decided to lease or dispose of both of these canals. So when the contract of February 24, 1917 was signed, it provided for a lease to Copco of the Keno Canal for a period of 10 years at an annual rental of $1,000 per year with a renewal clause for an additional 10 years and with the obligation that the leasee should operate and maintain the canal and hold the U. S. Government harmless from any claims for damage.

On May 29, 1918, the Secretary of the Interior authorized the sale of the Ankeny Canal and Leavitt tract, appraised at $21,859.00, but the property was not sold as no bids were received.

Local citizens during 1920-1922 urged the United States to sell both properties and pave the way for a power development on Link River needed in Klamath Falls and surrounding area. So on April 25, 1923 both the Ankeny and Keno Canals were advertised for sale at an appraised value of $120,620.00 and sold to Copco at that figure.

Although the contract to purchase these canals was signed on July 10, 1923, because of continued protests, the deed from the U. S. Government was not recorded until March 5, 1934 .

The U. S. Government, through the Department of Interior, consistently defended the contract of February 24, 1917 and declared it to be in the public interest. It was necessary, however, for Copco to carry most of the defense of the contract and most of the expense.

For a list of many, if not all, of the public hearings and reports involving the contract, see Appendix A.

There was a minority group in Klamath County opposed to any contract between Copco and the government. Some claimed that the contract to regulate the Upper Klamath Lake was a give-away bordering on fraud. Others claimed the power octopus wanted to get control of all the power sites in Klamath County. It would generate power and send it to San Francisco and thereby take the water away from the farmers and the irrigation project. Others claimed the company in regulating the lake was destroying navigation, recreation, and any industries bordering the lake. It was this minority group that caused most of the criticism and was responsible for most of the hearings.

It is interesting to note that the contract was carefully reviewed by four Secretaries of the Interior -Lane, Payne, Fall and Work.

By far the largest majority of businessmen, farmers and citizens of Klamath County supported immediate regulation of the lake because of railroad expansion, increase of industrial development, and the need for more lands to receive irrigation water.

The year 1924 saw the development of the East Side Power Plant No.3 on Link River and Copco No.2 plant was completed in 1925. These were the last plants constructed by Copco in the Klamath basin for the next thirty years.

On December 26, 1928 , John C. Boyle and Nina C. Boyle deeded the dam and land on which it was located to the United States .

On January 31, 1956 the contract of February 24, 1917 was extended until 2006. (See Appendix C.)

It took 18 years or about one-third of the term of the contract to obtain mutually satisfactory agreements with all riparian owners and to regulate the Upper Klamath Lake through the full range of 6.3 feet.




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