[env-trinity] Yubanet.com - Klamath Bill in Oregon Legislature

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Feb 4 22:36:29 PST 2009

Diverse Groups and Interests Support Klamath Bill in Oregon Legislature
Dam removal is first step in realizing comprehensive Klamath Basin Agreement to benefit farms and fish

Yubanet.com - 2/4/09

By: Karuk Tribe


Salem, OR, Feb. 3, 2009 - Today lawmakers introduced a bill that would direct funds from PacifiCorp power bills to remove dams instead of paying millions more for federally mandated dam upgrades. Affected Tribes, fishermen, conservationists, ratepayer advocacy groups, and even dam owner PacifiCorp, support the legislation. The legislation is a first step to restoring fisheries and stabilizing tribal, agricultural and fishing economies in the Klamath Basin - as mapped out in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

"Governor Kulongoski has helped negotiate a win-win-win situation that we hope legislators will support," said Jeff Mitchell, Klamath Tribal council member and long time dam removal advocate. "Tribes and fishermen win because we will recover salmon runs, farmers win because dam removal is a cornerstone of our water sharing agreement, and PacifiCorp and their customers win because they control costs."

The legislation is based on a dam removal "agreement in principle" signed by PacifiCorp, Oregon, California, and the United States last November. The legislation essentially caps PacifiCorp ratepayers' contribution to dam removal at $200 million. Without the legislation PacifiCorp's ratepayers would have to pay the full cost of relicensing the aging dams, including mitigation measures such as fish ladders that, at a minimum, will cost the same as removal. Additional costs for addressing water quality issues such as toxic algal blooms are yet to be determined by regulatory agencies, but could add millions more. Groups argue that dam removal solves these problems in a more cost effective manner.

A broad-based coalition of organizations representing diverse interests has been working since 2005 to bring peace and sustainable solutions to the Klamath Basin. This bi-partisan, cooperative effort deserves support, say participants:

"Legislative solutions should offer benefits for more than just one interest," says James Honey, Program Director for Sustainable Northwest. "This legislation and the companion Restoration Agreement is the most promising option to end the Klamath crisis." Dam removal is a key feature of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement released early last year. However, the Agreement also settles many long standing water disputes between Tribes and farmers, increases flows for fish, invests in rural economic development to support tribal and agricultural communities, and provides a coordinated approach to fisheries restoration, from the Klamath's headwaters to the sea.

The Klamath Water Users Association, which represents farmers and ranchers who lost access to irrigation water in 2001, supports the bill. Executive Director Greg Addington explains, "We see the legislation as one component of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which can bring stability to a region known mostly for its instability. The package of measures provides increased water security for farmers, helps us with energy issues, and provides landowners with tools to ensure that reintroduction of salmon to the Upper Basin doesn't make it even harder to earn a living in agriculture."

Oregon fishermen also support the bill: "Oregon's commercial salmon fishery is worth more than the small amount of power these particular dams produce," says Mike Becker, a commercial salmon fisherman from Newport. "We can replace the relatively small number of megawatts from the hydro project. But we can't replace the salmon runs on the Klamath River. When the fish suffer, so do our coastal communities."

While not a part of the coalition of groups working in the Basin, the Citizen's Utility Board (CUB), a ratepayer advocacy group, also supports the Governor's legislation.#


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