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Friday, February 18, 2005
Community News http://www.heraldandnews.com/articles/2005/02/18/news/top_stories/top2.txt

Project farmers' power bills may go up, PacifiCorp says

Sally LaBriere, PacifiCorp's regional manager in Yreka, talks about how power rates could be going up almost tenfold for Klamath Project water users at a Klamath County Cattleman's Association luncheon at the Oregon State Extension Service office Thursday.

 February 18, 2005

By DYLAN DARLING Herald and News

A PacifiCorp official told Klamath Reclamation Project water users Thursday to brace for a boost in power rates come next irrigation season.

"We don't want to minimize it. We know it is going to be a big change," said Sally LaBriere, PacifiCorp's regional manager based in Yreka.

A 1956 contract between the company and Project water users that keeps power rates below a penny per kilowatt hour is set to expire next year. Water user groups have been working to keep the rates down, but LaBriere said it looks like they will be going up.

Come April 2006, the rates could vault up to about 5 1/2 cents per kilowatt hour, the amount paid by other irrigators around the state of Oregon, she said. There would also be an additional annual charge based on each customer's demand.

"This is what everybody else in the state of Oregon pays," LaBriere said. "We are not asking them to pay more than the other irrigators in the state."

LaBriere told of the possible changes at a Klamath County Cattlemen's Association luncheon at the Oregon State Extension Service office. Many of the about 80 people will be affected by changes in power rates.

"I can't afford it," said Frank Wallace, who has 400 acres near Merrill. "That's more than I make in a year. It just won't work."

If the prices go up as much as LaBriere said they could, Wallace said he won't be able to irrigate and he can't afford other options.

Some of those options include getting more efficient irrigation systems and switching to diesel or solar-powered pumps.

Rodney Todd, grain and hay agent for the Extension Service, said water users should be preparing for the possible change.

"This is going to get your attention," Todd told the group Thursday.

The power rate change would impact overall production costs for farmers and ranchers, he said, and they will need to figure out how to keep their businesses going.

"This is going to have a ripple effect through this community that will be unpleasant," Todd said.

But Klamath Water Users Association officials and its lawyers are still trying to stop the change. A water users contingent just got back from Washington, D.C., where they visited with members of the Oregon and California congressional delegations. The power rate was one of the major issues discussed, said Steve Kandra, water users president.

The water users are also still in talks with PacifiCorp officials, trying to avoid a big jump in power rates. He said nothing has been settled in the negotiations.

"I think things are premature to start talking about what's going to happen," Kandra said.

LaBriere said the talks could change the outcome of the power rate change, but the company wanted to make customers aware of the possible leap in rates next spring so it didn't take them by surprise.

The current rate paid by Project power users is 6 mils, or .6 cents, she said. A mil is a thousandth of a dollar. As is, the company is charging less for power than it costs to produce it. She said it's hard to find any justification for people to be paying less than it costs the company to produce power.

Although the company wants customers to be aware of the possible change, she said things could change in the next year and the power rate change could be different, depending on talks and legislation.

"The ink isn't dry on anything," LaBriere said.






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