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Plan to help power rates
By Ty Beaver, Herald and News 6/6/08.

   Energy conservation, tax credits, federal energy supplies and alternative energy projects will help subsidize irrigator power rates, if the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is implemented. 

   Proponents of the agreement met with irrigators from on and off the Klamath Reclamation Project Tuesday night to discuss details of how power rates will be made affordable through the settlement, which provides $41 million to develop power subsidies. 

   A few irrigators voiced concerns about the administrative difficulties of implementing the program and whether federal support can be guaranteed. Proponents said it will be a complicated process, but workable. 

   Released Jan. 15, the agreement calls for a variety of projects and actions to allocate water among Basin communities, including dam removal. Money to help pay for purchase of private land for the Klamath Tribes and stable power rates for irrigators also are included. 

   David Stewart-Smith, a consultant hired by the Oregon Department of Energy to work with the stakeholders, outlined how a variety of programs and projects would help subsidize the 15 megawatts of electricity needed in the Basin to power irrigation systems. 

   Taking advantage of business energy tax credits and receiving energy from the Bonneville Power Administration to help run federally owned pumps on the Project would help offset some costs. So would installation of solar facilities and finding investors to help build a renewable energy plant, Stewart-Smith said. 

   Selling energy from the plant would further buy down the rate. 

   But energy conservation efforts, such as refining irrigation systems to reduce water pressure demands, could provide the most immediate savings. 

   “I assume it would take 20 percent off the top and I think that’s conservative,” Stewart-Smith said. 

   The subsidy itself would either be offered as a credit on an irrigator’s power bill or be sent as a check for the irrigator to apply to his costs. 

   Irrigators Tom Mallams and Bill Kennedy asked about receiving power from BPA to help reduce dependence on PacifiCorp. Kennedy said he’d heard that the idea was not warmly received by BPA users. 

   Stewart-Smith said officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are still speaking with BPA, but that if Congress authorized the Project to receive the energy, it would be provided. 

   Irrigator Edward Bartell and Melinda Davison, counsel for Klamath Off-Project Water Users, raised the issue of administering the subsidy, pointing out that it would require PacifiCorp to share their customer files. 

   “The only way to equitably distribute the benefit would be to credit it on the actual power bill,” she said. 

   Stewart-Smith and Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said it will be a complicated process to carry out, but that it could be done.

Where things stand 

   Discussions with PacifiCorp regarding the possibility of dam removal are ongoing, as proponents continue to seek support for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. 

   Three tribes, coastal fishermen, many environmental groups, the government of Humboldt County, Calif., and many irrigators on the Klamath Reclamation Project support the agreement. 

   Those opposed include the Hoopa Valley and Shasta Nation tribes, a few environmental groups, the government of Siskiyou County, Calif., and many off-Project irrigators. 

   Klamath County has yet to support or reject the agreement. The county’s natural resources advisory council postponed making a recommendation for the second time in late May.
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