Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Solving the water crisis
It's a somewhat crazy concept - But, you know what? It could work to address all the water problems
By Lance Waldren, Pioneer Press April 11, 2007
KLAMATH BASIN - Sometimes the best ideas come to you in your sleep. Doctor Edgar Viets, a Klamath Falls Chiropractor, came up with a unique one. When discussing the water issues of the Klamath River System, Viets seemed to have the answers.
He explained to the Pioneer Press his primary concern is how to keep water on the ground he owns. Viets, who had a minor in college of civil engineering, owns a small farm in the Henley area of the Klamath Basin. In the middle of the night, he woke up with the idea and said "this is it."
A lake within a lake
There are several issues that must be solved. The first is keeping water flowing to the 1,400 farms in the Klamath Basin and to the wildlife refuges. The others include protecting the sucker fish and keeping the water flowing downstream for the salmon. His plan addresses these and adds a recreation area to the Klamath Lake. For reference, Viets used a report called Water Allocation in the Klamath Basin: An assessment of Natural Resource, Economic, Social and Institutional Issues. The huge report was conducted by Oregon State University and the University of California.
The report showed there is more than enough water coming into the lake to meet all of the needs. The problem is storage. A huge amount of water is released down river in the spring when the lake is full and cannot hold anymore. According to the report, on an average ten year cycle, more than 3,700,000 acre feet of excess water is sent down river.
There are other problems that need to be addressed, according to Viets. The lake is so shallow that in the summer the water temperature rises which creates not only algae problems but also affects the fish when the warm water is sent down river.
The Bureau of Reclamation agrees that more water needs to be stored in the spring. Their plan is to purchase the Barnes Ranch near Upper Klamath Lake, breach the current dikes and use the area for more water storage - basically expanding the area of the lake.
The problem with this plan, according to Viets, is that by increasing the surface area of the lake you increase the evaporation rate also. Viets said this would create more shallow warm water.
Viets has the details of this plan worked out and has the numbers to back them up. The following is a brief description of what he thinks will solve most of the water issues.
The plan Viets designed includes building a large dike on the west side of the lake. It would extend out into the lake and basically box off a section of the deepest part. The dike would be built 40 feet above the current water level. In the spring, when there is excess water, it would be pumped into this section. This would raise the inside lake level an additional 40 feet. It would also create a very deep area where the water would stay cold.
To simplify the idea, it would be a lake inside the lake.
The dike would start where Highway 140 starts to climb Doak Mountain. It would extend out into the lake for approximately three miles then turn north and go an additional seven miles before heading west again and back to the shore.
By raising the water level an additional 40 feet in the air in this
21 square mile area it would be able to store enough water for the irrigators and the refuges.
The rest of his plan would be to dredge the lower portion of the lake an additional 20 feet. By making the lower half of the lake deeper he feels the water would be cooler before being sent down river. The upper portion of Klamath Lake would be left alone.
In the summer, when more water was needed, it would be released from inside of the diked off portion. This water should be much colder than the surrounding lake water.
Another aspect of the Viets design is it creates a 21 square mile recreation area inside the diked off area. According to Viets, the algae would be significantly reduced inside of the dike because of the colder, deeper water. He envisions this area being used for boating, water skiing and having picnic areas.
The dike would be constructed by building two dikes approximately
1,400 feet apart. Then using the sludge from the dredging to fill in between them. The rock needed for the dikes could be taken from the mountain where the dike would start. The reason for building two dikes with fill dirt in the middle is a design used to prevent damage from earthquakes.
Walking and bike paths could be built around the dike and it could be planted with trees and vegetation for wildlife. Over time the vegetation would make the dike look like a natural part of the scenery.
Viets said the plan would cost approximately $200 million. It would take 40 workers, 18 months to complete it. According to Viets, he took all of his figures to an engineer with Bureau of Reclamation who reviewed them and told him he was within 10 percent on all numbers.
The Pioneer Press sat down with Christine Karas, Deputy Area Manager and Cecil Lesley, Chief of Water and Land, with the Bureau of Reclamation and showed them the plan. Both called it a very interesting concept, but said it had some problems. They were not sure that lowering the lower half of the lake 20 feet would have much effect on temperature. They also said it would take years of environmental studies to get it approved.
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