Addressing Irrigators' Concernsby BlueFish
Public Testimony at Pasco, February 17, 2000
Tonight, I would like to propose a solution that addresses the concerns of 13 agribusinesses that pump water from the Ice Harbor Reservoir to irrigate about 36,000 acres of farm land.
First let's consider that ratepayers currently pay $435 million per year for salmon recovery efforts. Congress authorized these dam projects based on a 1930's ACOE report which assigned irrigation with 4.11% of the "cost-carrying abilities."
4.11% of $435 million is about $18 million, divide this by 36,000 acres amounts to about $500 per year per acre that irrigators currently do not pay.
The 100,000 acre feet of irrigation water removed annually from the Ice Harbor Reservoir, results in a loss of about a half million dollars worth of hydropower sales - a half million dollars annually that irrigators do not pay.
A roughly equivalent amount is lost to evaporation from the surface of the 4 Lower Snake Reservoirs.
Currently, the pumping cost for these irrigators is on average about $750 per acre, the elevation benefit of the Ice Harbor reservoir saving them about $150 per acre. This 20% savings is the benefit that these agribusinesses are asking to protect.
From listening to the irrigator's valid concerns and with the goal of minimizing any economic effect, I would agree that along with the dam breach alternative, irrigators should continue to receive up to 680 cfs of irrigation water at the current shoreline altitude of 440 feet above sea level.
A plan similar to the system of pumps and pipes suggested in the ACOE draft report would work, but I would ask that you consider a system that uses gravitational energy more efficiently.
Consider collecting water a few miles above Lower Monumental Dam at 500 feet above sea level, using fish screens from the mothballed dams at the diversion opening.
A pipe along the old railroad grade, flooded 30 years ago, would lead to Burr Canyon. Here the pipe would move up to the newer rail grade that comes from Kahlotus down the Devils Canyon. This rail grade is in excellent shape, very flat, plenty wide, and runs all the way to Ice Harbor Dam with bridges over ravines still intact.
Downstream, pipes will branch off to the various irrigators pumping facilities but now with a 60 foot elevation benefit.
The additional 60 feet of elevation head would be sold to the irrigators for the electric pumping equivalent at the Direct Service Industry rate. The 80 foot average of elevation head that the Ice Harbor Reservoir currently provides would continue to be free of charge.
It is likely that coordinating the various irrigation schedules will reduce the projected 680 cfs flow requirement, thereby reducing costs through the use of smaller diameter pipe.
When water is not being used for irrigation, it can be used to generate hydropower, possibly at the Ice Harbor Dam facility, but now with an additional 60 feet of elevation head. Rough estimates suggests this hydropower revenue may amount to $1 million per year which could help to repay the cost of this irrigation system which has an estimated cost of around $25 million.
Reusing what has already been built is the beauty of this system: continuing to provide irrigators with the dam benefit that they currently receive.
Breach the Lower Snake River Dams: No economic effect need be felt.
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