KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- A Century-old fight over water in the Klamath Basin marked a new chapter Friday.
Rep. Greg Walden, (R) Hood River, introduced a bill he said will help solve infrastructure and irrigation issues. Walden said farmers in the Klamath Basin have seen a 2,000 percent increase in their power costs over the last few years.
"It's forcing not only higher costs but also different ways to do irrigation that aren't as efficient as we need to be. We need to get relief on power. We have aging infrastructure, some of which is close to 100 years old if not older that's in desperate need of repair," Walden said.
Walden said affordable electricity for farmers in the Basin is an issue that cannot be overlooked.
Scott White, Executive Director of Klamath Water Users Association, said power costs started to skyrocket in 2006 when two affordable power agreements expired.
"Within five years of that expiration power rates in some cases are over 2,000 percent up from that point of expiration of the agreement," White said.
He said saving water comes down to power rates, which is why he believes this bill will have a huge impact.
The bill would also use federal authorities to speed up work done on the C-flume, which serves water to 23,000 acres in Oregon and California.
"We've seen this year where infrastructure has failed or nearly failed and the devastation that can come from that so we need to be ahead of that on these projects," Walden said.
If passed, the bill would require the Department of Interior to do a study to lower power costs. The DOI would be required to begin implementing a plan to lower power costs within 180 days of completing their study.
White said the project will hit close to home with many veterans living in the Basin who were promised land and water by the Federal Government in the early 1900s.
"This is just one token that I believe the Federal Government is giving back to those veterans saying hey we're still thinking about you, we're still fighting for you. This is huge for them as well as the many other farmers and ranchers down here," White said.
The bill has been referred to the House Resources Committee.