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How about a different approach to water storage?

Published November 29, 2004

By Don Haynes

Guest columnist

Several months ago, a congressional subcommittee, meeting in the Ross Ragland Theater, discussed amending the Endangered Species Act. For testimony, it brought together a full range of stakeholders. As might be expected, there was little agreement among them.

With one exception.

Everyone agreed that one simple answer would be to increase the amount of water available each summer. Talk then turned to the prospect of deepening Long Lake.

In my opinion, there is another way to store more water - one that is simpler, more environmentally friendly and more cost effective. Create a deep-water, manmake lake to the east of Highway 97 between Rattlesnake Point to the south and Hagelstein Park to the north.

Doing so can be accomplished by a simple and logical series of steps.

n Until the dam is finished, divert Highway 97 so that rather than running due north, parallel to the railroad tracks, it temporarily follows the route of what is now Algoma Road, hugging the foot of the ridge

  • Install a release system to run water under the railroad tracks and thus return it to Upper Klamath Lake. This would involve large culverts with movable doors.
  • Bring in heavy equipment, excavate the entire area perhaps 30 feet below its current level.
  • Place the excavated rock on top of what is now Highway 97, thus creating a dam of at least 30 feet.
  • As the dam is finished, install on top of it a series of pumping stations similar to those now in use in the Klamath Project to raise water back to the level of the Klamath River.
  • Use the existing scientific data to determine the lowest level Upper Klamath Lake is allowed to sink to during the summer. Use this benchmark to see to it that in the winter and spring, the level of the lake never goes above this. In other words, pump all the runoff into the man-made lake.
  • As the water is needed later in the summer, release it back into Upper Klamath Lake.
  • Reroute Highway 97 back due north, along the top of the dam.

    This plan offers substantial benefits and few burdens.

    Here are the benefits:

  • It provides immediate and easy access to the work site.
  • There is no earthquake danger, as I have heard there could be with Long Lake.
  • It is environmentally friendly. No need to build roads where none now exist.
  • It keeps the Klamath Project intact. Since the water stored and released will be upstream, no changes will be made. I'm not sure this would be the case with Long Lake.
  • It can be started and finished quicker than any other alternative.
  • Pumping water to storage will not take as much electricity as would doing so at Long Lake. Since the return would be gravity flow, it would take none to return it to Klamath Lake.
  • Since this will be a deep-water lake, the water discharged back into Klamath Lake from its bottom will be substantially colder than existing Klamath Lake water, thus helping with the perennial algae bloom problem.
  • Once the lake is stocked with fish, a whole new tourist attraction will exist.

    There are, however, some burdens to be considered.

  • Some people who live in the area that will be covered will need to be relocated. Here, though, they might be given the option of lakefront property.
  • Farmland will be taken out of production. Those who own it should be compensated. But removing a few acres will substantially benefit thousands of other people.

    I am not an engineer. I'm sure that numerous calculations will be needed before this plan can be fully evaluated. On the other hand, common sense suggests that this is a sensible plan, one that should be considered before moving ahead.

    The author

    Don Haynes is the executive producer for Klamath Community Television. He and his wife have lived in Klamath Falls for more than 10 years, and he has an extensive background in teaching and television.

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