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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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KBRA (Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement) Storyline...
by: Klamath County Commissioner Linthicum October 14, 2011
The KBRA agreements, “aim to improve fish habitat, establish sustainable water supplies for irrigators and acquire a 92,000-acre tree farm for the Klamath Tribes.” The KBRA/KHSA storyline continues along its fanciful march. Don't get me wrong, these "aims" are great ideas. However, in various KBRA promotional pieces there is never any mention of costs, trade-offs, or possible unintended consequences.

Let's weigh these admirable goals against real world constraints. In other words, let's see how it really works...

Increasing available water for irrigators is not on the table. The phrase, “sustainable water supplies” means a known quantity of assured water allocation. Therefore, the amount of water available to agriculture will be limited. Any water, above the allocated amount, that could be available will NOT be saved, stored, or used, but will instead spill into the salty Pacific.

This promotional story sets up a contradiction about the fundamentals of supply and demand. Excess water would encourage lower cost for water. Increases in the availability of water would also allow new, competitive agricultural startups to enter the marketplace. Yet, limited supplies will mean higher prices and the KBRA mandate will not allow for any new competitors into the agricultural marketplace. This may create an attractive monopoly for existing participants but it will harm consumers and new Klamath Basin business ventures.

Last week, the Klamath Water Users Association held their annual Fall Harvest Tour. I was unable to attend but I’m sure it was a rich day packed with information. Topics covered ranged from the Basin's soil and climate, to agricultural requirements for water resources and affordable energy. The tour must have emphasized the danger that future power rate increases pose to our agricultural community because the Herald & News (Thursday,10/13/11) followed the script closely, noting,

"As part of the KBRA. Oregon irrigators are negotiating with the Bonneville Power Administration and California irrigators are working with the Western Area Power Administration."

In reality, the KBRA’s verbiage about power rate negotiation is meaningless (cf., KBRA - Sec 17). There is no binding contractual agreement, there are no time frames, or deliverables. In fact, everyone is free to negotiate any deal they can muster on any day-of-the-week. Although a group of farmers may represent a more forceful presence during negotiations this has nothing to do with the KBRA.

This too violates our knowledge of pricing in light of resource constraints. The KBRA’s unqualified support for the KHSA will remove several clean, renewable hydropower dams. Removing hydropower generation facilities will reduce available energy on the grid. This will result in higher power rates because more homes, businesses, industrial and agricultural users will be competing for limited resources.

If Basin farmers want cheaper power rates, then, inexpensive power generation will be required. Demolishing existing infrastructure and reducing power generation capacity will not create lower rates.

If these facets of the story are causing uneasiness then, I have one more item...

As we accumulate and weigh information, we filter this through our knowledge of comparative facts, notions, and ideas. This provide us with a sense of mutual correction and continual adaptation. This is where plain, ordinary, good judgment and sound practical sense finds a home.

So, given our common-sense knowledge that increasing the availability of a commodity lowers the price of that commodity, then how do we get lower energy rates?

The following graph shows, in stark terms, that China is increasing its energy production through inexpensive means. This will mean lower power rates for Chinese businesses and agriculture. Yet, the US is still-born in their development of inexpensive energy sources.


If Global Warming is a fear, review the chart again. Strike out the entire US portion of Coal Fired Energy (operational, under construction, and planned); then, ask, "How would this impact the Global results?" Note, this chart doesn't even include India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Australia, or any other nation.

Without access to affordable energy we will be hungrier, thirstier, and evermore dependent on imports of foreign grown food and commodities.

Our children might enjoy a good bedtime story but you and I need to plan for living in the real world.

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