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Don't be too quick to write off Long Lake's value

Craig Ditman is an industrial forester and farmer manager. He has lived in the Klamath Falls area since 1969.

Published Jan. 12, 2004

By Craig Ditman

Guest columnist

I read with interest Dylan Darling's Dec. 11 article that indicated the proposed Long Lake water storage project will cost half a billion dollars or more and is unlikely to be pursued very far.

I can't say whether the reservoir will actually be constructed, but I can say with some certainty that the project has been somewhat misrepresented by the Bureau of Reclamation and that, for several reasons, its cost shouldn't approach the huge number indicated.

First, endangered species: It shouldn't take long to survey the 3,200 acres involved and we keep in mind that the purpose of the project is to improve habitat for already-listed species.

Next, there is no need for the Geary Canal to be enlarged to twice the size of the A Canal to carry surplus lake water to the pumping station where it will be lifted over the ridge. (The A Canal fish screen is designed to carry 1,100 cubic feet of water per second. A thousand cfs moves an acre-foot of water in 44 seconds.

At that rate the new lake could be filled to 200 feet deep in 215 days. At that level, Long Lake will hold as much water as Klamath Lake on a typical summer day. The stored water will leak and be absorbed at first.

It will evaporate and be used and there aren't 215 available days in any one year to fill the lake, but a water transport and screening facility half the size the Bureau proposes will work just fine, if anything will.

It may take five or more years to fill the lake and its water budget is always going to be hard to manage but there are no easy solutions or trade-offs to difficult problems like ours here in the Klamath Basin.

Next, no dam is needed, no ridges need to be raised and no tunnels need to be blasted through any mountain ridges to send the water back to Klamath Lake and the river. The contents of the new lake can be pumped (it'll actually siphon) back through the delivery system.

There'll be plenty of time when it isn't pumping anything into Long Lake to move the water back to the Geary Canal and out to Howard Bay where the returning water will flush out a part of Klamath Lake that, because of its topography and prevailing winds, could use a good flushing. And while the large volume of water is flowing 400 feet back down to the Geary Canal a huge volume of electricity could be generated.

What we would get with this project is a very deep new lake, lots of cool water, a cleaner, cooler, deeper Klamath Lake and River system, happier salmon and suckers, enhanced local recreation opportunities, new electricity capacity and a safer, stronger local economy, farm and otherwise.

Will it work? I don't know. The Bureau of Reclamation's 1987 study report indicates that it might. Local conditions, geologic and economic, have changed a lot since then, perhaps making the project much more viable now.

Cost? Who knows, but if the Bureau thinks $500 million is realistic for a project including a dam, a tunnel and 2,000 cfs of pumping and screening capacity then we're talking a lot less than that for the reservoir we need.

And, there's nothing wrong with looking for new shallow wetland storage, either, if that's what we need. It seems a little foolish to consider deep and shallow storage somehow mutually exclusive.





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