I was interviewing JB at 11 o’clock on
September 21, 2010 in his truck parked outside of his house. Since his wife was
having a flu, she suggested that it’s better for me to do the interview
outside. JB needed to smoke cigarettes continuously to stay focused, and thus
he kept the truck windows open to let fresh air come in. JB has a geothermal
well on his property, right across the street from his house. The Town of Lakeview is
interested in using it to heat the school district and the hospital.
YY: JB, what do you do for living?
JB: I’m a rancher. Well, I was born in Lakeview, so
I guess I’ve been a rancher for my entire life. I got 100 cows and 4000 to 5000
acres of land. I’m not sure how much exactly.
YY: When did you move into this house?
JB: I moved in back in 1955. But my dad bought this
house and the ranch in 1917.
YY: You were aware of the geothermal resources near
the house since very young.
JB: Yeah, normally you can see a hot spring running by
the three posts over there, but now it’s too dry to have the water out.
Normally, you can see water coming out of the hot spring most of the time, and
that’s how we knew there’s geothermal here. Then there was a geothermal company
who drilled the well over there [across the street] 25 years ago, but they gave
up on that probably because they were running out of the money. It was a new
idea 20 or 30 years ago, and they didn’t have enough money to finish the
YY: Now the town approached you for the well? Or you
proactively approached them?
JB: No, they approached me.
YY: When did they approach you?
JB: About 4 years ago.
YY: Did they come with a contract?
JB: Not really.
YY: Over the past 4 years, what have they done?
JB: They pumped it out and cleaned it out a little
bit I guess. And tested the water and see how good it was for heat. And then
they had some gal from OIT come over. She’s supposed to know all about it.
YY: Is it like a feasibility study?
JB: Yeah, I think so. That is probably it.
YY: But they have never given you a contract or
something like that?
JB: We had a little bit of a contract, it didn’t
mean much, but it just said if they went ahead with this feasibility study, I
would not rent it to anybody else until they give up on it. It was for 2 or 3
years, but it has expired already last year.
YY: When are they going to start building the
JB: I don’t know. I think they are probably applying
for grants now.
YY: Are they leasing the land from you?
JB: No, I’m supposed to get paid by the amount of
water they pumped out of the well. I guess that’s how it works, but I don’t
know for sure.
YY: Do you feel like you have power to negotiate
JB: Oh yeah.
YY: How do you negotiate about how much you get?
JB: Nobody really knows yet, and you cannot put a
figure on it.
YY: You mentioned the contract has already expired,
so does that mean if somebody else comes to you, and ask you to rent the water
to them, you can do it?
JB: Yeah, but I wouldn’t do it. Because I’ve already
given my word to them that I wouldn’t.
YY: They asked you to promise that?
JB: No, they didn’t. I just told them that I
wouldn’t rent it to anybody else [even though the contract has expired] until
you quit fooling around with it.
YY: Did you have to sign anything?
YY: What if somebody comes in now and say I’ll give
you 1 million dollars to rent the water from you?
JB: You go talk to the City.
YY: But it’s your property, and you get to decide.
JB: I know, but I told them I wouldn’t rent it to
YY: But legally, it’s just between the company and
you. Not via the City.
JB: Yeah, that’s true, but I gave them my word. Even
if you sign a contract, they can be broken anyways.
YY: So signatures on a contract don’t really matter.
JB: Not to me, because if you want to break a
contract, no matter what the contract says, you can always find a lawyer and
YY: So if you want to keep your promise, you’ll do
it no matter what. If you don’t want to keep your promise, you’ll break it
anyways, even if you may have signed something.
JB: Yeah. There are a couple of companies, one out
of Eugene, that are interested in drilling new wells here, but I told them go
talk to the city.
YY: Did they go talk to the City then?
JB: I don’t know.
YY: Do they know how long the feasibility study will
JB: No, they don’t know. This is pretty new for this
country. Everything is up in the air.
YY: How hot is the water out of the hot spring?
JB: It will run between 194 degrees to 198 degrees.
YY: Does that water connect to the well?
JB: I’m sure it does! Actually, Oregon State
University comes down every year to test the water temperature.
YY: Do you know who at OSU does that?
JB: I don’t have a clue. They did give me a card every
YY: Do you know why they tested the water?
JB: I don’t have an idea. But they usually send me a
copy of what information they get. They usually ask if they can do testing at
first. One guy didn’t though.
YY: One guy didn’t ask for your permission?
JB: He just came over the fence. I didn’t mind and I
didn’t care, until he started kicking my dog. And we had a very heated
argument. His boss came along and said to him “you get into your car and you go
home. Don’t ever come back!” Then the boss apologized to me and explained what
they were trying to do.
YY: Oh, I’m sorry. Well, as for the geothermal
project, let’s say the City cannot offer you the money you expect, would you
consider hiring a lawyer?
JB: No, no. I’ll just take whatever they offer. I’m
sure they will be fair.
YY: Why does your trust in them come from?
JB: Well, because RS [the City manager] is a good man. If it’s
somebody else, it might be different. He was born and raised around here in
Valley Falls. So he’s got a pretty good idea. We’ve known each other for a long
YY: Has this geothermal project been a happy
experience for you?
JB: It hasn’t been happy or sad, and it doesn’t
involve any emotional feelings for me.