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Deep-water storage vitally important to Klamath River

Editorial Herald and News June 17, 2007

   When it comes to solving the Klamath Basin’s water problems, deep-water storage is the Holy Grail.
   The water in the Klamath River — whether used for irrigation or fish — rises in the shallow basins of the upper Klamath Basin, and much of it gets lost to evaporation before it even gets to the Klamath River.
   More storage — especially storage that minimizes the loss of water to evaporation — could be a big help to those who depend on the Klamath River, whether they’re in the upper part of the basin, or the lower.
   That’s why the possible development of the Long Lake basin for deep-water storage is important. It’s also important to push the Bureau of Reclamation studies along. They’ve been going on for decades.
   The Long Lake basin is just west of Upper Klamath Lake, the principal reservoir for the 240,000-acre Klamath Reclamation Project. They’re separated by a ridge.
   Most of the time the Long Lake Basin and others in the area like it are dry, but they have been known to collect water in wet years. Just don’t go out there looking for a boat dock or a place to water-ski.
   There are times when water could be stored, but there is not much place to do it except in Upper Klamath Lake.

Much deeper    

Putting in dams or dikes at Long Lake could create a reservoir with about the same storage capacity as Upper Klamath, but with only about 10 percent of the surface area. It would be about 160 feet deep. The average depth of Upper Klamath is 8 feet.

   Upper Klamath’s annual water loss to evaporation is 290,000 acrefeet. The projected annual loss from a Long Lake Reservoir would be about 8,000 acre-feet. That’s a huge difference — and a huge benefit. So is the fact that the water from such a reservoir would be much colder than water from Upper Klamath.
   Long Lake wouldn’t be a replacement for Upper Klamath Lake for storage, but an addition. Water could be transferred back and forth with pumps between Upper Klamath and Long Lake. Using the moving water to generate power for sale could mitigate some of the cost.
   The project is far from a sure thing. Reclamation officials estimate it would cost about $500 million. Klamath County commissioners say they’ve heard estimates of half that.
   Obviously, if the project goes ahead, the estimates are going to have to be solid and decisions made on how to pay for it.
   The proposal and its ability to send water downstream as needed may even have an impact on the value of the river’s hydroelectric dams and their ability to produce power on call. The decision on the future of the Klamath River dams, however, is likely to come before the feasibility of Long Lake is decided and construction funds obtained.
   Meanwhile, the studies move along at a pace that has a glacial feel to it. There is need for speed.
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