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http://www.heraldandnews.com/articles/2005/02/14/news/community_news/cit1.txt

Feds seek contract to flood Barnes Ranch

The Barnes Ranch is back in the federal budget, but whether the ranch gets bought or not it could soon be under water.

Dave Sabo, manager of the Klamath Reclamation Project, said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is trying to get a contract either to store water on the 2,500-acre ranch or to have the land idled.

"They'll put a whole lot or very little on it," Sabo said.

Talks about storage or idling this year are ongoing. "That's where are now; we are just having discussions," Franklin Barnes said in a telephone interview Saturday from the couple's home near San Diego. Barnes and his wife, Jane, own the property that her family once held.

The 2,500-acre ranch is at the northern edge of Upper Klamath Lake. If it is idled, it would save 2,500 acre-feet of water, figuring an acre-foot saved per acre idled, Sabo said.

If water is stored on the property and the adjacent Agency Lake Ranch, which the Bureau already owns, the water savings would be 25,000 acre-feet.

For two years, officials have tried to get the ranch into its water storage portfolio for the Klamath Basin.

Price has been the sticking point.

The Barneses had asked for $9.1 million for the ranch when they had a deal with the American Land Conservancy in 2003. But the funding for the deal would have come from the federal government and without approval from the U.S. Congress, it can't pay more than the appraised value for land.

In the spring of 2004, the ranch was appraised at $5.9 million by an independent appraiser hired by the Bureau.

An option the conservancy group held on the land has expired, and another appraisal is in the works, which officials think will show a higher price that reflects recent sales of nearby land.

Jane Barnes said the couple now doesn't put a price on the ranch, pending another appraisal.

"Until that is done, there is really nothing to comment on," she said.

Lauren Ward, a consultant for the land conservancy, said the national non-profit conservation organization could get involved again with a possible deal.

Mark Stern, Klamath Basin director for The Nature Conservancy also said his conservation group could get involved.

President Bush's budget for fiscal year 2006 earmarked $6 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use for the ranch.

"I think there is still interest on the part of the administration in acquisition of Barnes as part of a solution," Sabo said.

Curt Mullis, manager of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Klamath Falls office, said the ranch could help the water situation immediately.

"It's poised to go, it's the closest, quickest thing we got to added storage right now," Mullis said.

The Barnes Ranch purchase is one of two storage proposals that have attracted interest in the Basin. The other, storing water in Long Lake, is expected to take longer to develop and be more expensive, if new geological studies show it would be feasible.

Last year, President Bush proposed $4.6 million to buy the property, but the U.S. Congress didn't appropriate the money.

"I think we are in the same situation as last year," Mullis said.

 

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