Klamath Water Users Association 

Weekly Update

Sep. 11, 2004




Herald and News: Klamath Falls, Oregon


Cut Long Lake's costs, keep water storage project moving ahead

Published April 12, 2004


Dan Keppen is executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association.

Guest columnist

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently completed its draft geologic investigation for proposed offstream storage in Long Lake Valley.

The latest Long Lake study should provide a catalyst to spark continued and focused attention on this proposal, using the authority provided by the Klamath Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2000, which was crafted by local interests and legislated by the our congressional delegation.

The Long Lake project has been effectively promoted by the Klamath County commission. My organization, the Klamath Water Users Association, is one of more than 20 groups - including five California and Oregon counties - who support continued study of Long Lake.

Last December, Reclamation officials released a preliminary assessment, which suggested that a full-blown study of Long Lake would take up to four years and cost up to $10 million. Reclamation's report further noted that building the project would cost more than half a billion dollars.

This finding was based on an update of costs previously developed by Reclamation in a 1987 report. Earlier this year, directed its engineering consultant - MBK Engineers of Sacramento - to review both of Reclamation's studies. MBK's review discusses the main items that each study examined, and reports their findings.

Reclamation's Upper Klamath Offstream Storage Study was issued in 1987. The study examined the construction and operation of three potential offstream reservoirs: Long Lake, Round Lake and Aspen Lake. The report found that none of the studied project alternatives produced an adequate cost-benefit ratio, and thus none were considered economically viable. Lack of demand for additional power was the primary reason for the low benefit-cost ratios.

Benefits not included

The purpose of the 2003 Reclamation analysis was to update construction costs associated with the 1987 study. The costs of a Long Lake-only project were estimated in this work to be $510 million (no reservoir lining) and $690 million (3-foot impervious lining).

Our engineers found that this report had no significant specific findings other than the updated construction and implementation costs. The benefits were not re-characterized, and the cost-benefit analyses performed in the 1987 report were not performed again. Notably, no consideration was given to the potential benefits provided by these projects for contributing to Endangered Species Act-related Klamath River instream flow requirements or Upper Klamath Lake levels.

Reclamation's work on Long Lake has not addressed the impact generated by the additional demand for water resulting from endangered species regulations imposed in the past decade. Obviously, based on the disastrous 2001 water curtailment to Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators, there are significant costs associated with adhering to rigid lake level and flow requirements in the Klamath River. In order to accurately assess the feasibility of an offstream storage project in the Upper Klamath Basin, an analysis of how these costs might be alleviated with expanded water supplies must be performed.

We also recommend that a comprehensive study examine a range of potential conveyance capacities for the pipeline carrying water from Upper Klamath Lake to Long Lake reservoir. While the 2003 construction cost update assumed a capacity of 2,000 cubic feet per second, Reclamation failed to justify the selection of this capacity. The pumping and pipe capacity should be based on a water supply analysis showing the availability of excess water that could be used to fill the reservoir.

For this analysis, a range of capacities should be examined in order to pinpoint the economically optimal value. Preliminary analysis conducted by others indicates that a reduced capacity of as low as 750 cfs would provide adequate Long Lake water supply. This capacity reduction results in a corresponding reduction of approximately $45 million from the 2003 Reclamation project cost estimate.

The geologic study just released by Reclamation shows that water will not leak from the bottom of Long Lake Valley, which means that a smaller Long Lake storage project could be put in place without constructing a dam or lining the reservoir. Our engineers estimate that removing the dam and reservoir lining from the project would drop Reclamation's 2003 cost estimate by another $131 million. With these considerations, the Long Lake project begins to look much more feasible.

Local water users view the current Klamath Project Environmental Water Bank - a mandatory requirement imposed by the coho salmon biological opinion from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service - as an interim measure that should only be employed to compensate irrigators for voluntary action in drier years.

Storage a key

Ultimately, the resources of the Klamath Basin can best be satisfied through the development and crediting of new water storage facilities and effective restoration. As new surface storage facilities are developed, the yield generated by those facilities should directly reduce - and ultimately eliminate the need for - the amount of water required by the water bank.

Reclamation has made some progress towards completing feasibility studies authorized by the 2000 Enhancement Act. However, in the past four years, it has been hamstrung from aggressively moving forward with these studies because of the annual crisis-driven nature that has characterized recent Klamath Project management.

Until recently, Reclamation appeared reluctant to move forward with studying Long Lake because of the perceived high costs associated with it. Reclamation's recent geologic study, however - coupled with the preliminary findings of MBK - suggest that this project has merit, and that additional investigation should proceed, post haste.

Despite incorrect assertions from some Klamath Project critics, our association has not put all its eggs in the Long Lake "basket."

We believe that significant questions remain to be answered, and that this project should be evaluated relative to other potential projects, including the Barnes property, Swan Lake and other proposals, using the same screening criteria. For the projects that survive the screening, we should accelerate and focus our efforts to construct them. For the ones that don't measure up - put them on the shelf for consideration at some point in the future. The 2000 Enhancement Act provides the authority to do this. Let's get on with it.


Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
(541)-883-6100 FAX (541)-883-8893  kwua@cvcwireless.net

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