On June 4, KWUA filed written testimony with the Oregon Public Utilities Commission (PUC) opposing a proposed 10 percent increase in the cost for power for irrigation and drainage pumping for KWUA members and their patrons. PacifiCorp, the retail power service provider for the Upper Klamath Basin and some other areas of Oregon, requested PUC approval of the increase in February. KWUA intervened in the ensuing rate case before the PUC, and the Oregon Farm Bureau has also joined with KWUA in opposition.
Irrigation and drainage pumping in the Klamath Project and the rest of the Upper Klamath Basin enjoyed a very favorable power rate for many decades based on historical relationships between water use, water storage, and power generation. That relationship ended in 2006, and irrigation power users were transitioned to PacifiCorp’s Schedule 41 tariff, which dictates power rates for PacifiCorp retail customers in Oregon. It is estimated that Upper Klamath Basin irrigation customers constitute approximately 50 percent of the power usage subject to that tariff on a state-wide basis.
PacifiCorp proposed the rate increase in February, and no increase can take effect until approved by the PUC. The proposed rate increase is the first since 2013. The proposed irrigation tariff increase is 68 percent higher than the average increase across all customer classes (for example, residential, industrial). Due to a separate proposed adjustment in its “Transition Adjustment Mechanism,” the net increase effective in 2021 would be less than 10 percent (specifically 5.4 percent). But this net change for irrigation is 85 percent higher than the net increase across all customer classes. KWUA and several other parties have intervened in the proceeding, and more recently the Farm Bureau joined with KWUA to present a united and stronger front in the case.
KWUA’s testimony emphasizes that this is a poor time to impose new economic burdens on producers for many reasons. Additionally, it takes issue with much of the analysis used to justify the proposed increase.
There are currently settlement discussions which could result in an agreement among all parties as to modified rates jointly supported for PUC approval. Absent such an agreement, there will be a contested hearing proceeding and ultimately a decision by the PUC based on the parties’ evidence and arguments.