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Water Pressure

H&N photo by Ty Beaver
Jim Creswell of Long Lake Ranch, left, speaks with Larry Holzgang, business development officer with Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, on a ridge above Long Lake valley.

June 14, 2007 Herald and News by Ty Beaver

Imagine an area a fraction of the acreage, but 20 times deeper than Upper Klamath Lake that would hold as much water as the lake for environmental and irrigation needs.

That is the vision Klamath County commissioners and other water storage advocates shared with state officials Wednesday on a tour of the Long Lake valley southwest of Upper Klamath Lake.

Commissioners said they wanted to demonstrate to state officials the benefits of the project as a way to garner support.

“This is truly a water bank,” said Commissioner Al Switzer.

More storage needed

Klamath County leaders say the area needs more storage to augment the Basin’s water supply, and Long Lake has been considered a possible site for decades.

Wednesday’s tour provided an opportunity to demonstrate what would need to be done to convert the valley into a reservoir. A lake with an average depth of 160 feet could be accomplished with minimal improvements. The construction of a saddle dike along a low point on the valley’s northeastern ridge would raise the depth to 200 feet, storing water equivalent to the amount in Upper Klamath Lake.

The reservoir would be filled during times of peak flow in the early spring. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Pacific Power officials indicated there is about three to four months most years when water that is not needed for electricity generation or fish is sent downriver because there is no storage capacity available.

During a particularly wet spring several years ago, Switzer said enough excess water was sent through the river system to provide for the Basin’s annual irrigation needs.



Creating a reservoir for the excess water would allow it to be banked for drier periods of the year and even for longer droughts.

“It’s not new water, it’s just water we’re not able to catch right now,” said Pablo Arroyave, director of the Klamath Basin Reclamation office.

Idea started in 1960s

The concept of transforming the valley into water storage started in the 1960s with Jim Kerns, a Klamath County businessman, said Commissioner John Elliott. Kerns suggested that the valley, along with Aspen and Round lakes, be studied for potential as reservoirs.

Commissioners and groups concerned with local water supplies have stepped up efforts to develop a water storage site. Mandated flows for endangered fish in the Klamath River and climatic changes have diminished snow packs, but increased rainfall require the county to have a better way to manage water gained in excess years.

The Long Lake valley is higher in elevation than Upper Klamath Lake, which would require it to be filled by pumps from the Geary Canal. The pumps would require power, but that could be offset when the water is sent back to Upper Klamath Lake as needed, creating a downhill flow that could be applied to electrical turbines.



Challenges to the project exist.

Reclamation officials estimate the cost at $500 million, though commissioners say they’ve heard estimates half as much. The money would be used primarily to build a saddle dike, move earth and secure rights from the area’s several landowners.

Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said he was concerned with how long it would take to complete the project given its reliance on action from the federal government. Officials from the Oregon water resources department said the new storage site would require a water rights permit and other regulatory measures.

Commissioners also brought up necessary mitigation for the project’s environmental impact, as it would submerge acres of timber and grazing land, part of which is managed by the BLM.

Despite the challenges, the commissioners said they were ready to push through a project already 40 years in the making.

State officials in attendance also voiced their interest and support, as did those who would lose their homes in the process.

The home of Jim Creswell, owner of the Long Lake Ranch at the southern end of the valley, would be covered with more than 150 feet of water if the project goes through, but he said so long as he’s compensated, he’ll find a new home.

“The project is so logical and should work so well,” he said. “I don’t want to stand in front of that.”

��” Ty Beaver

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