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Deep water storage remains the true answer

May 21, 2006

The Klamath Reclamation Project's water bank is a stopgap measure, intended to help farms and fish in dry years. It's valuable, but expensive.

In wet years, there isn't as much demand for supplemental water. Thus the Bureau has scaled back this year's water bank operations. The program pays farmers not to irrigate, or to use ground water instead. This year's water bank likely will include options that lessen its use, thus leaving more water in the ground.

But in an ideal situation, water would be pooling deep and cold in a Klamath Basin reservoir every time the Basin has a good water year. It would then be released during the dry years - and there are more of them than there are wet ones.

For that kind of scenario to actually work requires a place for deep water storage, and there isn't one yet. Long Lake is the logical contender and the Bureau of Reclamation is moving ahead with studies.

That proposal is backed by local irrigators, Klamath County and others. It could hold an estimated 350,000 acre-feet of water or more. The water would be pumped into Long Lake from Upper Klamath Lake over a ridge that separates the two. It would flow through turbines as it's released to generate electricity.

The water would be cold because it's coming from a deep reservoir - perhaps 200 feet deep - and, if some of it is sent down river, would be what fish biologists say is needed to help fish on the lower river.

The Bureau's has already done a couple of years of studies on the “lake,” which is actually dry most of the time. The area passed its first series of studies with good reviews.

Some places in the lake area tested better than others, but generally it has a sound foundation and the test results looked positive, according to the Bureau.

The next step is for another series of tests in more locations than the first. The tests generally consist of drilling test holes and analyzing the mixture of material that's found. The tests can only be done during construction season.

Unfortunately, the test phase of the project seems to taking forever and the Bureau should push it along as fast as it can.

Even if everything falls perfectly in place, Long Lake is years away from reality. But if it proves out, it should be a big part of the answer to the Basin's water problems.




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

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