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 íTis the season to remember the reason for water storage

February 12, 2009, Herald and News Editorial By Pat Bushey

This winterís snowpack is light enough to worry those who will be depending on water for crops this summer. A serious shortage hurts not just agriculture, but the whole economy along with fish and wildlife.

Water shortages also bring up the subject of Long Lake and its possible use for water storage. Itís been studied for years by the Bureau of Reclamation and the studies go on. And on.

OK, so the length of time it takes is necessary and lots of big questions have to get answered. But as time slides by and one antsy water year follows another, the need for storage becomes more apparent even if the best site for the storage and a way to finance it hasnít been decided.

Long Lake, a dry lake bed east of Upper Klamath Lake, is the front-runner as a site. The Bureau has yet to determine whether it will actually hold water. Assuming it will, then come questions about cost and how to pay for it.

Water levels in the lakes used as reservoirs for the 240,000-acre Klamath Basin Reclamation Project were at about 65 percent of average as of Jan. 1, and the snow of the past few days hasnít done much to alleviate that. There is still time to recover, however.

In the long view the need to push for water storage has to be hard-wired into the Bureau to make sure the studies keep moving as fast they can. Beyond that, though, local water users and public officials also need to make sure that elected federal officials understand the issue.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden gets it. Weíre sure of that. Weíre less sure of Oregonís two U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Both of them are from Portland and Merkley is brand new.

That doesnít automatically mean they donít know much about the Klamath Basin ó Wyden has been good about visiting the area ó but it does put an extra burden on people in the Basin to give water issues a high visibility in Washington, D.C. The truth is the Basin needs support from the two senators more than they need the Basinís political support. If you doubt that, just look at the election returns.

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