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New group may run water bank

New Klamath water and power agency meets for the first time

By TY BEAVER, Herald and News, August 23, 2008

Transfer of ownership of a pilot water bank program maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will be the first goal of a new Klamath Basin intergovernmental group.

The Klamath Water and Power Agency officially formed Wednesday with a meeting of representatives from a few irrigation and drainage districts. More irrigation districts are expected to join.

“We got our feet wet, so to speak,” said Ed Bair, newly elected chairman of the agency and Klamath Irrigation District board member.

While a part of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, organizers said the concept of the agency was determined long before the agreement was proposed and seeks to address concerns outside of it.

The agency, called KWAPA, was envisioned to investigate and maintain energy generation on the Klamath Reclamation Project for irrigation. It also will look to management of water resources for irrigators.

Bill Ganong, legal counsel to the agency, said while irrigation districts in California can deal with power issues, Oregon irrigation districts must go through a process to gain the authority of a public utility district, such as KWAPA.

Joining up

Klamath Irrigation District, Klamath Drainage District and Tulelake Irrigation District are current members of the agency. Bair and Ganong said many other irrigation and drainage districts in the Basin are considering joining KWAPA.

“We’re looking for 100 percent participation,” Bair said.

Water bank

In pursuing ownership of Reclamation’s water bank program, Ganong said the agency has sought a grant to operate it and expand it further. A water bank compensates landowners for idling farmland that would otherwise use irrigation water.

The agency also could play a role in the restoration agreement, where it is included to help implement and manage aspects of how 256-page document will affect water and power.
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