Water storage deal looks like a good one

January 24, 2003

The H&N View

Herald and News

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Klamath Basin water issues are often emotional and conflict-ridden. But a deal that should cut through those feelings was brokered this month by the American Land Conservancy, and deserves support.

The Conservancy obtained an option on the 2,785-acre Barnes Ranch in the Wood River Valley with the aim of having it purchased by the federal government for water storage. The ranch, located north of Upper Klamath Lake, is a key property because using it for water storage would also increase storage for the adjacent 7,400-acre Agency Lake Ranch, which is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and is also used for water storage. The Agency Lake holding can't be used to full capacity because it would have flooded the Barnes Ranch.

The Barnes Ranch could create storage for up to 50,000 acre-feet of water.

Purchase of the ranch would also allow rehabilitation of the two streams that are important for sucker habitat. That's important because two species of suckers are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal purchase of the ranch has been supported in the past by Rep. Greg Walden, and Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden.

Losing productive agricultural land is hard, and it cuts into the county's tax base. But water's of critical importance, and increasing storage could relieve some of the pressure on Basin agriculture in its annual battles with others who depend on Klamath River water. The river gets much of its water from the lake.

During the past decade or so, more than 20,000 acres of farm lands have been taken out of production along Upper Klamath Lake in order to increase the amount and quality of the water. That often gets overlooked in the bitter controversies swirling around Basin agriculture, and it shouldn't. Basin agriculture doesn't get enough credit for what it's already done.

This looks like a good deal, and the American Land Conservancy and its Oregon director, Rich McIntyre, deserve credit for bringing it this far. Now it'll be up to the federal government to finish things.

The "H&N view" represents the opinion of the newspaper's editorial board, which consists of Publisher John Walker, Editor Tim Fought, City Editor Todd Kepple and Opinion Editor Pat Bushey.

Copyright 2003 Herald and News

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