Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Deep-water storage needed in Basin
May 22, 2205
If the Klamath Basin ever had a good use for extra water storage, it would be this year - or a year much like it.
The key, of course, is that there be something to store, and this year is an example of precipitation falling at unusual times that more storage could take advantage of.
A light snowfall during the winter left Klamath Basin irrigators, and downstream fishing interests, staring at ugly prospects for water in the Klamath Basin.
Thus, the water available was held in what impoundments there were.
For most of the Klamath Reclamation Project, the primary reservoir is Upper Klamath Lake, and it was already pretty close to full near the end of April. That wasn't because of a big runoff from snow melt, but because the Bureau of Reclamation was deliberately holding back the flow down the Link and Klamath rivers so there'd be more in the lake to face what could still be a tough summer in balancing the needs of farmers and fish.
The snowpack is still well below normal, and that usually means not enough water to go around.
But the rains came. And came. And came. And came.
The lake is full. The ground is soggy. And there's really no place to put the extra water that insists on falling.
To be sure, the Basin benefits. But the rains also wash away part of the snowpack, which reduces the amount of runoff feeding the Basin's streams in the late summer. They also delay the planting the irrigation supports, and may reduce yields and quality.
How much better it would be to have a place to put some of the "excess" moisture - ideally, in deep-water storage that minimizes evaporation and can carry water over from one year to the next.
The possibility of using Long Lake, a dry lake basin in Klamath County, is under study by the Bureau of Reclamation as a possibility for that kind of storage. There may be other possibilities as well.
The finances and the geology would have to work, and the benefits to the Basin would have to pencil out.
One thing's for sure, though: If deep water storage can be created in the Basin, everybody benefits. That includes people at both ends of the river, whether their primary interests are farming or fish.
Pat Bushey wrote today's editorial, which represents the view of the Herald and News editorial board
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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