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Long Lake part of the answer to water problems

July 23, 2007 Herald and News editorial

Long Lake is living up to its name.

The dry lake could provide badly needed water storage and that possibility lives on in the long-running tests and studies being done by the Bureau of Reclamation.

The latest word is that it will take three years to complete the studies.

Pablo Arroyave, the Bureau’s manager for the Klamath Reclamation Project, told a meeting of the Klamath River Compact Commission earlier this month that at the end of the three years, “the challenge then becomes getting funding.”

The Bureau has the study on a “fast” track that allowed it to proceed without congressional approval, and the Bureau deserves credit for that. But, still, it’s a long, long process, and as people come and go in federal agencies and elsewhere the agencies need to stay focused on the proposal’s potential.

There’s a lot at stake.

Long Lake is one of a series of usually dry lake beds west of Klamath Falls and has been investigated in the past for water storage.

The storage is vitally important. The region’s climate has turned drier, but the demands on the Klamath River remain heavy.

One of those demands is the Klamath Project, which usually irrigates about 190,000 acres. While it isn’t the only thing that depends on the Klamath River, it’s the only one that the federal government can readily tap to regulate flows on the river and the water on Upper Klamath Lake which fish depend on.

More water storage would help everyone ??” irrigators and the fish at both ends of the river and the people who depend on them.

Water stored in “wet” years could be available in dry ones and, unlike water storage in Upper Klamath Lake, it would be deep-water storage. That’s a huge consideration. Long lake would store about the same amount of water as Upper Klamath, but with only 10 percent of the water surface. It would be about 160 feet deep. The average depth of Upper Klamath Lake is 8 feet.

Upper Klamath loses 290,000 acre-feet a year to evaporation. The loss projected for Long Lake would be 8,000.

The water, though, would be a supplement to Upper Klamath, which is the principal reservoir for the project as well as being the origin of the Klamath River.

That “extra” water wouldn’t necessarily be available every year. That would depend on what the precipitation is from year to year and how the lake’s storage is allocated.

Long Lake is a part of the answer to the Klamath Basin’s complex problems, not the whole answer. It would, however, provide additional flexibility in meeting the needs of agriculture, fish and even power, depending on what becomes of the Klamath River hydroelectric dams.

This assumes the project comes back as doable and desirable.

It’s going to take awhile that answer. Federal officials, political leaders and water users need to keep pushing it along.

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