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Irrigators Disappointed by Dismissal
By TY Beaver, K-Falls Herald & News
July 27, 2008

Klamath Basin irrigators say the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking low-cost irrigation power rates is disappointing but not surprising.

The lawsuit filed by the Klamath Water Users Association against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was one avenue toward helping irrigators deal with rising energy costs after the expiration of a 1956 contract with Portland-based PacifiCorp.

"We're disappointed the court didn't even consider the merit of the case," said Steve Kandra, irrigator and KWUA board member.

Irrigators will now focus on long-term solutions, including the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, as a way of securing affordable power for farming and ranching.

States have jurisdiction

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the lawsuit Friday, saying that the states of Oregon and California have jurisdiction over electric rates, not FERC.

The lawsuit was filed about a year and a half ago and stems from PacifiCorp's refusal to renew a 1956 contract that provided Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators with low electricity rates. After the contract expired, FERC refused to incorporate those rates into the temporary licenses needed by PacifiCorp to operate the dams until the re-licensing process was finished.

Toby Freeman, regional community manager with PacifiCorp, said he hadn’t read the court’s decision yet, but was under the impression it supported the decision made by FERC years ago that it couldn’t affect power rates.

Kandra and Greg Addington, KWUA executive director, said the lawsuit’s defeat won’t be too damaging to irrigators and won’t change current situations. It is upsetting in the light that whereas fish passage is a condition for dam re-licensing now, the irrigator contract was a condition of dam licensing in the 1950s.

“The appeals court really missed an opportunity to set the record straight,” Addington said.

Off-Project irrigators had no stake in KWUA’s lawsuit. Ed Bartell, president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users said irrigators represented by his organization were under a different contract which has received a favorable ruling from the courts. The group is still involved in other cases.

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