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Water storage plan axed
Bureau of Reclamation: Storage potential of Long Lake not cost-effective option
by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 11/30/10
Long Lake is not a feasible option for off-stream water storage, according to studies conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office on Monday released its final appraisal of the project, which studied the storage potential of a narrow valley west of Upper Klamath Lake.
The goal was to find an area that could store water to be used in dry years.
The study found that water would only be able to be pumped into the valley once every seven to 10 years, based on historic inflows and legally mandated requirements to provide water to the environment.
“The study findings indicated that the return on investment is extremely low and does not warrant further study,” a press release from Reclamation’s local office said.
The project cost was estimated between $550 million and $2.3 billion.
Some stakeholders were disappointed in the findings, but others said they think there was still a chance for building more water storage in the Basin.
“I think we’ve got real potential,” said Marshall Staunton, a Tulelake irrigator.
Federal officials have considered Long Lake, just west of Upper Klamath Lake, as a possible off-stream water storage site for decades.
County officials have pushed for the project in recent years because of water shortages and drought that impacted area irrigators.
Bureau of Reclamation officials say they would continue to evaluate other possible water storage areas.
“Plans are to examine smaller off-stream and on-stream storage options in the Upper Klamath Basin as well as groundwater utilization options that make sense for the entire Klamath watershed,” said Sue Fry, manager of Reclamation’s local office.
State Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, declined to comment on Reclamation’s determination until he’d had a chance to read the full study on the matter.
State Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, and Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott said they were disappointed in the final findings on Long Lake.
“I think a lot of us thought that could be long-term storage,” Garrard said.
Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said he feels Reclamation’s report doesn’t close the door on Long Lake.
But Elliott was less optimistic, saying Reclamation’s findings “pretty well close the door on it.”
Glad for answer
Staunton said he was glad to see the Long Lake question finally answered.
He said he opposed the project, much to the chagrin of fellow irrigators, because the magnitude of water needed to make it work was unrealistic
“I know the irrigators really want storage, but it’s time to move on,” he said.
Staunton said he’d rather focus on smaller storage projects that could be developed within the boundaries of the Klamath Reclamation Project, such as underground storage and reservoirs.
Upper Klamath Lake and Long Lake
Upper Klamath Lake
Area: 121 square miles or 77,000 acres
Average depth: 8 feet
Storage capacity: 420,000 acre-feet
Annual water loss from evaporation: 290,000 acre-feet or 4 feet in depth
:Long Lake (projected)
Area: 4.5 square miles or 2,000 acres
Average depth: between 160 and 200 feet
Storage capacity: 350,000 to 420,000 acre-feet
Annual water loss from evaporation: 8,000 acre-feet or one-tenth of a foot in depth
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Klamath County
Board of Commissioners
How would Long Lake have been built?
Long Lake is a narrow valley that sits west of Upper Klamath Lake and has a higher elevation.
Water can naturally accumulate on the valley floor, but only to a shallow depth and for short periods of time.
Turning the valley into a reservoir would require several improvements. Water would have to be pumped into the area to fill it, likely through the Geary Canal. The floor of the valley would have to be lined to reduce seepage.
Depending on how much water would want to be stored, a saddle dike could be built in a gap on the valley's northeast ridge.
What are the other options?
Bureau of Reclamation officials said there are numerous options for water storage in the Klamath Basin.
Here's a list of possible projects, though officials said some have already determined unfeasible and likely won't be studied:
Page Updated: Tuesday November 30, 2010 11:55 PM Pacific
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