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Klamath power costs to rise

Capital Press by Jeff Barnard, 8/15/08

GRANTS PASS, Ore. - A federal appeals court has dismissed a bid by farmers in the upper Klamath Basin to continue bargain rates for electricity they use to pump irrigation water.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Friday, July 25, that the states of Oregon and California have jurisdiction over electric rates.

The three-judge panel dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Klamath Water Users Association against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for lack of standing.

PacifiCorp had refused to renew a 1956 contract that gave about 1,000 farmers on the Klamath Reclamation Project very low rates for electricity to pump irrigation water, arguing they would lose millions of dollars. The Portland-based utility did agree to phase in market rates over several years. FERC refused to incorporate the cheap electric rates into conditions for a new operating license being sought by PacifiCorp to operate hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.

Scott Seus, who farms on the irrigation project, said they were disappointed in the ruling, but were still hoping to get low-cost power from negotiations over a proposal to remove the dams to restore salmon in the Klamath River.

PacifiCorp spokesman Art Sasse said they had not seen the ruling yet and could not comment on it.

The utility has been in talks with state and federal agencies over the dam removal proposal.

Tom Schlossear, attorney for the Hoopa Tribe, said the ruling was a victory for tribes working to restore struggling salmon runs.

"This is an important ruling, because given the problems fish are having in the Klamath system, we shouldn't be subsidizing the withdrawal of water," Schlosser said. "This prevents the continuation of a subsidy that has been part of the problem."
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