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California irrigators to see rate hike
Tulelake district to be hit hardest
By STEVE KADEL H&N Staff Writer

   California irrigators who are part of the Klamath Reclamation Project will pay higher electric costs to pump water in the coming years.
   The state’s Public Utility Commission voted unanimously Thursday to end PacifiCorp’s long-time low power rates for Project members and charge them the rates other irrigators pay.
   The California decision came one day after a similar ruling by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission. Oregon law stipulates a seven-year phase-in for new rates, but California irrigators have a four-year phase-in.
   Those in the Tulelake Irrigation District will be hit hardest by the cost increase. That’s because the low-lying district is where Project water is pumped back uphill before reaching the Klamath River.
   Tulelake district manager Earl Danosky said it’s a potentially disastrous situation. The D pumping plant, the district’s largest of 37, now has an annual electric bill of $30,000 to $40,000.
   “If it goes to tariff rate it’ll be over a million dollars,” Danosky said.
   Tariff rate — the per-kilowatt hour fee non-Project irrigators pay in California — is about 7.9 cents, PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme said.
   Project irrigators pay .6 cent per kilowatt hour under the contract that expires Sunday.
   A spokesman for the Oregon Natural Resources Defense Council cheered both states’ PUC decisions.
   “The return to a level playing field for irrigation in the basin will encourage more efficient water use, and that will have a positive effect on flows in the river and help salmon,” Jim McCarthy told the Associated Press. “The subsidized rates basically encouraged waste and allowed irrigation on marginal land.”
   Reclamation Project members strongly dispute McCarthy’s contention.
   Bob Gasser, a Klamath Water Users Association board member, said Thursday during a press tour the Klamath River has more water than before the Project existed. Water from Lost River used to go into Tule Lake and evaporate, but now the Project pumps it back to the Klamath River, he said.
   “There’s no standing water in this system and that’s what makes it so efficient,” Gasser added. 

   93 percent utilitization 

   He said the Project reuses water seven to nine times and averages 93 percent water utilization. Most irrigation systems have a 60 percent utilization rate, he said.
   Only 3 percent of the Klamath River’s water is used by the Project or local wildlife refuges, Gasser said.
   He said PacifiCorp’s hydroelectric turbines on Klamath River run during the summer because of water stored in Klamath Lake during winter. That’s one of the Project’s benefits, he said.
   “That’s why we think we deserve a (lower) power rate,” Gasser said. “It’s not because we’re good old boys.”
   PacifiCorp’s Kvamme said the utility supports the phase-in to higher rates. But he said higher rates will put all irrigators on a level playing field.
   “Currently, these (Project) customers pay one-tenth of the rate other irrigation customers pay,” Kvamme said.



Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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