Walden Announces Klamath Infrastructure Improvement Act

Congressman Greg Walden visits Klamath Falls to announce the Klamath Infrastructure Improvement Act. (Brian Gailey)

Klamath Leaders Applaud U.S. Congressman Greg Walden’s Introduction of The Klamath Infrastructure Improvement Act

Klamath Falls, OR – Congressman Greg Walden from Oregon’s 2nd District today unveiled the introduction of the Klamath Infrastructure Improvement Act (H.R. 4329), federal legislation that addresses local water and power management issues.

The morning press conference hosted by the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce was attended by dozens of community leaders. Sharing the podium with Congressman Walden were: Scott White, Executive Director of Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA); Donnie Boyd, Klamath County Commissioner; Chrysten Lambert, Oregon Director for Trout Unlimited; April Snell, Executive Director for the Oregon Water Resources Congress; and Wes French, Chamber of Commerce President.

“We’ve been working with Congressman Walden on this bill for over eight months,” said Scott White. “He and his staff have been incredible to work with and we can’t thank them enough.”

“We’ve been working with Congressman Walden on this bill for over eight months,” said Scott White. (Brian Gailey)

The bill includes several provisions intended to address key water and power infrastructure challenges faced by local irrigators. In summary, the legislation:

  • Directs the Department of Interior to take actions to reduce power costs for irrigation in the Upper Basin to bring them in line with rates at similar Reclamation projects.
  • Designates reconstruction of the deteriorating C Canal Flume as Emergency and Extraordinary Operation and Maintenance (EEOM), which will save millions of dollars for Project water users.
  • Provides authorization for federal reimbursement for some D Plant pumping costs when Plant operations benefit federal interests, such as providing water to wildlife refuges.
  • Eliminates the need for federal contracts or permits for conveyance of non-project water, such as groundwater, through Klamath Project facilities operated and maintained by irrigation districts under existing contracts.
  • Provides a clear and permanent authorization for locally-supported water bank activities.

Congressman Walden’s bill is very similar to legislation passed by the Senate last year with the Congressman’s support, and introduced again this year by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley as part of a broad energy and natural resources bill (S. 1460) now pending in the Senate.

White emphasized the importance of the power provision, which not only helps keep producers viable and productive, but also benefits overall Project water efficiency.

“The Klamath Reclamation Project is capable of reusing a single drop of water seven times over, he said. “That level of efficiency is something that we are very proud of, but we are also seeing that it is something that is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve at the current power rates. This legislation is an important step in addressing the rates issue.”

Brad Kirby, President of KWUA noted that while this is a major development towards solving longstanding issues in the Klamath Basin, more work remains among various Basin interests, including agriculture.

“There are continuing issues in this Basin that remain unresolved, most importantly long-term water security,” said Kirby. “We’ve been working with all willing parties to address those issues. Mr. Walden wants to help and this bill is a clear indicator of that and it provides tools that will help us get there.”

KWUA is a non-profit private corporation that has represented Klamath Reclamation Project farmers and ranchers since 1953.  The Association’s membership includes rural and suburban irrigation districts, other public and private entities and individuals who operate on both sides of the California-Oregon border. These entities and individuals typically hold water delivery contracts with the United States Bureau of Reclamation and deliver water to over 1200 family farms and ranches encompassing more than 170,000 acres.