County OKs farmers' idea for reservoir - Proposal would turn lake into storage for irrigation

August 6, 2003

By Brook Reinhard

541-885-4415 or 800-275-0982

The Herald and News

Klamath Falls, Oregon

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The Klamath County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to support a proposal by irrigators to turn a shallow lake west of Klamath Falls into a large reservoir.

Long Lake, separated from Upper Klamath Lake by a mountain ridge, could store between 350,000 and 500,000 acre-feet of water for use in the summer and fall, proponents say.

Development of new sites for water storage around the Upper Klamath Basin has been studied for the last 40 years, but no proposals have materialized.

The Klamath County commissioners said Tuesday that converting Long Lake and its surrounding valley into a reservoir could be a long-term answer to water shortages in the Klamath Basin.

"I'm 100 percent behind this," Chairman Al Switzer said. "I think it's time we move forward."

He added that from his previous experience as a banker, he did not think it was possible for irrigators to continue securing bank loans in an area with such an uncertain water supply. Building a reservoir could be a way to ensure farmers' security when water from Upper Klamath Lake stops flowing to irrigators, as it did in 2001.

The Long Lake proposal would pump water from Upper Klamath Lake, via the Geary Canal, over the saddle of the ridge that separates Long Lake from Wocus Marsh.

The commissioners have already received letters in support of the project from Jeld-Wen, whose Running Y Ranch sits on the land that water will be pumped across, and U.S. Timberlands, which also owns land in the reservoir area.

According to a July 29 draft of a letter prepared by the commissioners, the reservoir would collect winter flood waters that otherwise would flow out of the Upper Klamath Basin and downstream.

Commissioner John Elliott said while there will be a cost to pumping the water over the ridge, he expects it might be offset by the potential power generation from the water.

The valley would not just hold water for farmers, however. Local irrigators showed a two-and-a-half minute video Tuesday that outlined the project and who could use the water.

The video stated the cool water, which would maintain a lower temperature in a reservoir more than 200 feet deep, could be used for environmental mitigation, farming or wildlife refuges.

Another idea for the project would include building a dam, which could harness the hydroelectric power when unused water from the reservoir flowed southeast through a pipeline to the Klamath River.

The commissioners are working on the final draft of a letter that encourages support of the project. The letter, which will be sent out within a week, asks for support from different entities, including Modoc and Siskiyou counties, congressional delegations from Oregon and California, the Klamath Tribes and environmental groups.