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Stanford-educated farmer backing development of hydroelectric project
by ELON GLUCKLICH, Herald and News 1/20/12
H&N  photo Lauren Jespersen, 27, on his family hay farm northeast of Klamath Falls.
Lauren Jespersen has gone from the fields of Klamath County to the hallways of Stanford and back again.
Now Jespersen, 27, is focused on helping his family hay farm thrive.
Jespersen was born and raised on his family farm roughly 11 miles northeast of Klamath Falls. The Jespersen-Edgewood hay operation, purchased by the Jespersen family in 1972, grows alfalfa, timothy and orchard grass, and produces grass pellets for livestock feed.
But in recent months, the farm has planted itself firmly in the center of a debate over a proposed pumped storage hydroelectric project. The family is advocating that the $2 billion facility be built on their land. When operational, it could create more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity and potentially generate $20 million in property taxes for Klamath County.
“My short-term goals are to help build my family’s business,” Jespersen said. “And I think obviously this Swan Lake (hydroelectric) project. It could open up a whole list of opportunities” for the Klamath Basin.
Looking for growth
For Jespersen, life is about balancing personal and professional goals.
An avid runner, Jespersen ran track and cross country at Klamath Union High School. His father, Larry Jespersen, is known for having run marathons on six continents.
But the younger Jespersen switched his focus from the race track to civil engineering when he enrolled at Stanford University in 2005. After graduation, he spent a year in Chicago apprenticing as a design engineer for an engineering firm.
Though much of his work was relegated to drawing up diagrams for the senior workers, “One of the projects I was able to work on was pretty big. I came on at the tail end of the development of the Trump Tower,” Jespersen said.
Upon finishing the apprenticeship, he decided to earn his masters in business administration at Oregon State University — a program he completed last June.
The engineering work he took part in helped him better grasp the scope of the Swan Lake hydroelectric project when the possibility was brought to his family three years ago.
“It really came in handy for me to have that engineering background, when (developers) first approached us back in 2009,” Jespersen said. “It’s been helpful in that sense. But I am not a civil engineer.”
Looking ahead
For the near future, Jespersen says he’ll keep talking with developers and investors to try and nail down the hydroelectric project. He also plans to meet with some neighbors in the nearby Poe Valley, who have raised concerns about the transmission lines that would span from the facility down into Northern California.
He also has some personal matters to attend to. While earning his master’s degree at Oregon State University, Jespersen fell in love. A wedding is planned for June.
Jespersen said he can’t help putting the health of his family business first and foremost.
“We’ve hired a few more people in the last year, worked with some organizations around town to help us find ways to fund our expansion,” Jespersen said. For now, “I’m planning on staying in Klamath Falls, working on helping my family’s business grow. I’ve got a few different strategies on how to do that.”
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