Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
posted to KBC
Letter sent from Dan Keppen to contacts below explaining why Clear Lake reservoir should not be considered for water storage for the Klamath Project.
Keppen previously worked for the Bureau of Reclamation, was director of Klamath Water Users Association, and presently works for Klamath Water and Power Agency as a media consultant and engineer, and is executive director of Family Farm Alliance.
Dan Keppen [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Clear Lake Proposal
Hi Everybody -
The attached was transmitted to Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District today. It is intended to tee up some questions that we feel must be addressed before the Clear Lake "idea" that has been getting so much recent publicity can truly be considered a viable water management option to the critical water challenges facing the Klamath River Basin.
Please feel free to share with your associates.
Best regards -
Dan Keppen, P.E.
Klamath Falls, OR
January 28, 2015
Mr. Martin Kerns
Re: Clear Lake Proposal
Dear Chairman Kerns:
Thank you for your efforts to raise awareness on the water supply challenges we face here in the Klamath Basin. The signatories to this letter have also collectively spent decades of time working on these serious matters on a daily basis. The Klamath County Board of Commissioners recently voted to formally support an idea the Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District (KSWCD) has proposed that would construct a new dam on the Lost River and transfer any surplus water from Upper Klamath Lake to Clear Lake in winter months. As you prepare to advance this idea forward, we strongly suggest that you consider the following questions and recommendations towards that end.
It is our understanding that KSWCD has prepared a PowerPoint presentation in support of the Clear Lake concept. To date, we are unaware of any sort of report that has been prepared, and, notably, no professional engineers or resources organizations outside of KSWCD have been employed in the development of this idea. Based on the recent publicity surrounding this proposal, we are very concerned that most local residents and some of our elected officials might understandably assume that this idea is now truly a viable option. We believe – and it appears that your spokespersons do as well – that this proposal should be considered as an "idea" at this point, and not a viable option to the Klamath settlement agreements.
QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS
There are ten critical questions that must be answered to give this idea the momentum it really needs:
1.How long will the permitting and environmental compliance process for this project take? What is the likelihood of actually successfully permitting this project?
The permitting and environmental process associated will building a project that will require issuance of federal "take" permits for two Endangered Species Act (ESA)-protected sucker species, impact assessments on at least three national wildlife refuges, and sign off from tribal interests (who have time-in-memorial water rights) will likely take years and could prevent this project from ever being constructed.2
2.Which existing studies has KSWCD reviewed as it developed this idea? Joe Watkins told the Herald and News, "We've looked at storage, but nobody has looked at it as in-depth as we have." This is simply incorrect. In addition to reams of surface water studies performed in recent decades by the Bureau of Reclamation and others, a very thorough recent assessment was included in the final On-Project Plan (OPP) prepared by the Klamath Water and Power Agency (KWAPA) and a team of professional engineers and water rights examiners. Clear Lake expansion has been looked at already, and, as you know, Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams used one of those studies - completed over 50 years ago - as an attachment to testimony for a 2013 Senate Committee hearing. Unfortunately, this report was completed in 1962, a decade before significant federal environmental laws - including the ESA, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act - were enacted, which casts significant doubt on the applicability of that report in the modern era.
3.How does this proposal work in light of recent Klamath Basin water rights decisions?
To our knowledge, KSWCD has not performed an analysis of water rights, which is a critical issue, particularly in light of the recent Final Order of Determination (FOD) regarding the Klamath River adjudication. Advancing a water resource "solution" in the absence of such an analysis appears to be getting the cart in front of the horse.
The Water Availability Analysis (WAA) developed by the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) in 2012 identified that approximately 400,000 acre-feet of water was available for storage, mainly due to the withdrawal of the application for Long Lake storage project by the Bureau of Reclamation. We learned during development of the OPP that this application was withdrawn by Reclamation (effective on December 6, 2012) as a result of inactivity, and due to the fact that Reclamation found it unlikely that the project would be able to be completed given the unfavorable cost/benefit ratios the project received during the feasibility analysis. This was reinforced by the additional reduction in available water for storage as a result of the claims filed in the Klamath River Adjudication as further described below.
A review of the current status of availability (January 26, 2015 WAA) of Klamath River water is attached, which provides a water availability analysis (for appropriation from the Klamath River) following the incorporation of many of the water rights associated with the Klamath River Adjudication. Recent conversations we have had with Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) staff suggest that although not all, most of the instream water rights claimed in the Klamath River Adjudication have been incorporated into the modeling efforts for the availability of water for new applications. The limiting watershed appears to be the Klamath River at the state line, and at this location, for a 50% exceedence, the WAA identifies that approximately 83,200 acre-feet is available during January, March, April and May for a new storage application. A general rule of thumb is that new storage applications will be considered if there is water available at a 50% exceedance (i.e., in 5 out of every 10 years). However, this is not a set rule, and in many cases it depends on the basin. At an 80% exceedence (which is also reviewed by OWRD prior to approval of an application, and represents 20% of the years) no water would be available for appropriation.
Depending on the location you are looking at on the attached WAA, additional water may appear to be available (up to 400,000 acre-feet), but it is our understanding that the amount of water available per the WAA needs to be evaluated based on the limiting watershed. This fact should be confirmed before using these numbers. In addition, please keep in mind that additional instream water rights or modifications to the Adjudication claims as they are currently identified in the model for the WAA will change these values, and it3
is likely that less water will be available for appropriation following incorporation of these "final" numbers.
4.Where does the 400,000 acre-feet of "extra" water come from?
It is not clear how KSWCD concluded that 400,000 AF of water "beyond the needs of fish" at Iron Gate Dam will be available to use in the Upper Basin. Brian Quick told theHerald and News that the KSWCD idea would give On-Project irrigators water to irrigate on a "yearly basis" by allowing them to "get their full allocation without idling land and without pumping water out of the aquifers." It is not clear how this would be accomplished, and again, water rights matters relating to time of use and priority use are not factored in to reach this conclusion. Further, the current biological opinion in place for the Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River allocates 100% of the water to either support the "Environmental Water Account" (Klamath Lake Elevation and Klamath River Flows) or Klamath Project supply, including water for Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. As you know, Upper Klamath Lake has not filled to capacity in the last two seasons nor has there been water available for diversion to the refuge. Certainly if there were extra water available, it would have been used for these purposes.
5.Assuming surplus water was available to pump into Clear Lake, how much would actually be available for use when it is needed?
Let us suppose a year comes along where there actually is enough surplus water to store in Clear Lake. That could only likely occur in a year where all other water rights needs – including Klamath Irrigation Project needs – were already satisfied due to the wet conditions. Thus, that stored water would actually not be needed until the following year. In the meantime, it would be pumped into and remain in Clear Lake – a facility originally designed to evaporate water and diminish downstream inflows into historic Tule Lake (which is part of the reason that Tule Lake no longer exists). In the meantime, that water would be subjected to a year of evaporation before Klamath Project water users would need it the following year. How much of that water would actually be available a year later, when it is needed? The actual water supply benefit would be significantly less than the amount pumped into Clear Lake.
6.How much will this project cost?
A preliminary cost estimate has not been developed for this idea, which, nevertheless, the Klamath County Board of Commissioners still endorsed, although Commissioner Minty Morris publicly raised this same concern. We believe this proposal will be a hugely expensive venture (both from a capital investment and annual cost perspective), particularly when you consider the environmental challenges of developing a new dam (on its own, a very costly proposition) in a system that has ESA – protected fish in it.
KSWCD proposes to store water in Clear Lake by moving water through the Klamath Project irrigation canals from Upper Klamath Lake during the winter months. Unfortunately, that is probably the most important time available for the irrigation districts to perform operations and maintenance on the (mostly) empty canals and ditches. There would be further challenges associated with moving water through the canals in winter months, especially if that water turns to ice during prolonged cold periods. Also, in order to get the quantity of water KSWCD has proposed to move in that period of time, the carrying capacity of the Lost River would have to be doubled (which would require extensive excavation in a stream inhabited by ESA-listed suckers), and the J Canal would have to be rebuilt to accommodate flows that would be pumped into Clear Lake near Tulelake.4
So far, KSWCD has made no mention of the additional cost associated with constructing a huge pumping station, pipe, and conveyance system to get the water that has been lifted from the Tulelake Basin back into Clear Lake. The pumping costs associated with lifting water 580 feet from Tulelake into Clear Lake – a lift that would eclipse any other pumping station in the Klamath Basin - would be enormous. We have preliminarily estimated that a giant pump station would be required along with a pipe 15 feet in diameter (based on 850 cubic feet per second – the flow that would be required to move the amount of water proposed by KSWCD in the winter months) to lift the water from the floor of the Tulelake Basin to the lowest ridge line West of Clear Lake. Additional channel construction would be required to move the water from the high point on the ridge down into Clear Lake itself.
We estimate that lifting this quantity of water 580 feet would require around 75,000 horse power. The estimated annual electricity costs associated with this pumping effort would be nearly $18 million or $90 per acre-foot1. So, for a typical 160-acre family farm that uses 3 acre-ft per acre of water during the irrigation season, the annual price tag to lift this water into Clear Lake would be a whopping $43,000. This would be in addition to other power costs the farm is already incurring, which are already in the neighborhood of $30 per acre-ft.
1 Based on pumping 200,000 acre-feet.
7.Who would pay for all of this? It is highly doubtful that Congress would authorize spending for a project that likely will not satisfy federal benefit-cost criteria. The sustainability of this magnitude of expenditure is questionable at best. We have heard that one idea is to use KWAPA’s Water User Mitigation Program (WUMP) funding for this. As you may know, the WUMP is in its final contractual year and is intended only as a stop-gap measure until a long-term solution is in place. Additionally, the funding used for the WUMP is authorized under the Klamath Water Supply Enhancement Act. Using that, or any other federal funding, for another purpose related to Project operations or maintenance would require new authority provided by federal legislation, followed by an annual request for appropriations to Congress. We note the KSWCD staff is quoted in the Herald and News as saying "we don’t want it looked at politically". This seems unrealistic. Further, given the enormous costs likely associated with such a project, we don’t think that you could assume that the states of California or Oregon will assist with this.
8.What is the feasibility of mixing Upper Klamath Lake water with Clear Lake water? Fish and wildlife agencies, conservation groups and tribal interests will likely not favorably view mixing Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) water with Clear Lake water, particularly because of possible impacts to the aforementioned protected suckers and the Clear Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Discharging UKL water into Clear Lake would face significant Clean Water Act permitting hurdles.
9.How would this proposal impact the Tulelake and Lower Klamath Lake National Wildlife refuges? This proposal completely ignores impacts associated with taking "surplus" water and pumping it into Clear Lake. No mention has been made of impacts to national wildlife refuges, which have essentially gone without water the last two years (post-FOD). Refuges have a secure supply of water under other proposals being considered.
10.Assuming all of these issues can be addressed, how long would it take for this project to be completed and the water supply benefits realized? Based on similar projects proposed in recent decades in other parts of the West, we estimate a minimum of 15 years, and that would probably be considered a conservative
estimate. In the meantime, how does the local agricultural community survive with no ESA regulatory relief, tribal trust concerns, water right regulations and tremendous uncertainty, especially in the post-FOD era?
Review relevant existing studies before possibly "re-inventing the wheel" and spending precious time and resources.The On-Project Plan, completed earlier this year and overseen by representatives from every irrigation district within the Klamath Project, demonstrated conclusively that this proposal and dozens of others are likely infeasible in the current era, primarily due to oversubscribed water rights, environmental permitting challenges, and high costs. Importantly, the OPP effort was overseen by a team of professional engineers and certified water rights examiners and developed in tandem with local irrigation district managers. Before vetting this idea further, we recommend that KSWCD review the information from the OPP. This could form the basis for a "pre-engineering" issues report which – if done properly – would likely identify the same fatal flaws described herein.
Show the public the numbers.Concept proponents claim that, since Clear Lake has a capacity to hold 451,000 acre feet of water, "on the average year they store about half of that, roughly about 250,000 acre feet. So there's potentially 200,000 acre feet of storage availability." Although Joe Watkins admits that Clear Lake "doesn't get enough runoff to actually fill it,"2 KSWCD determined that about 400,000 acre feet of water "heads out to the Pacific, above and beyond what's required for fish." Mr. Watkins and Mr. Quick told the Herald and News that if 400,000 acre feet is a 10-year average, getting 250,000 acre feet should be "reasonable". It is not clear how this conclusion was reached. KSWCD needs to demonstrate and justify with engineering and science how this number was reached, especially since your staff have admitted that this calculation completely ignores water rights. It would be good to follow up with Scott White and others at OWRD to confirm the current WAA and availability of water for new appropriations. Additionally, an initial preliminary conversation about the current biological opinion requirements with the United States Bureau of Reclamation would shed much light on the availability of water as it pertains to current biological opinion requirements. CONCLUSION AND NEXT STEPS
2"Some years we may not need to pump any water at all. It may fill naturally on its own," Watkins said to the Herald and News (emphasis added).
To be clear, we strongly support viable water storage alternatives and appreciate the initiative of the KSWCD and its staff. However, it is our collective opinion, informed by decades of experience, that there is no silver bullet that will fix all of the Basin’s water issues. For Klamath Project irrigators to benefit from any water storage proposal, issues related to the ESA biological opinions, the United States tribal trust responsibilities and state water rights must first be addressed. Based on comments made by KSWCD staff in the Herald and News, it appears KSWCD hopes its idea for Clear Lake water storage can be kept separate from the "water agreements" and separate from politics. We respectfully disagree. By drawing attention to this "idea", some in our community, including some elected officials, might actually think this proposal has some sort of legitimate momentum and is an alternative to the Klamath settlement agreements which actually address all of the previously listed concerns related to water6
supply for on and off Project irrigators. This effort could end up drawing time, dollars and other resources away from urgent solutions that have actually been demonstrated will work.
The reality is, at this time, one simply cannot even term this an "option" or "alternative" since it is so very preliminary. The fanfare associated with the KSWCD making it public before answering some basic questions has compelled us to respond.
The KSWCD board of directors – and especially the local community – must understand that, right now, this is simply an idea, and not an option to solve the pressing water needs of the Klamath Basin. It is our sense that even a very preliminary assessment (one that goes beyond a simple PowerPoint presentation) would quickly demonstrate that the costs, environmental challenges and water rights issues that surround this idea would present insurmountable hurdles and stop it dead in its tracks.
We hope you will accept this letter in the constructive manner in which it is intended. We would be more than happy to meet with your board and staff to discuss this further.
Ed Bair Klamath Project farmer and irrigation district board member Dan Keppen, P.E.
Earl Danosky Luke Robison
Manager, Tulelake Irrigation District Manager, Shasta View and Malin Irrigation Districts
Farmer and board member for Shasta View Irrigation District
Attachment: OWRD Water Availability Analysis
cc: U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley
U.S. Reps. Greg Walden and Doug LaMalfa
Oregon State Senator Dough Whitsett
Oregon State Representative Gail Whitsett
Klamath County Board of Commissioners
Klamath Falls City Council
Klamath Water Users Association
Klamath Water and Power Agency
Ron Alvarado, NRCS, Oregon State Conservationist
Kevin Conroy, NRCS Basin Team Leader
Herald and NewsEditor Gerry O’Brien
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
Page Updated: Sunday February 08, 2015 01:49 AM Pacific
Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2015, All Rights Reserved