[env-trinity] SF Chronicle July 14 2009

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Jul 15 10:46:54 PDT 2009


Kulongoski signs bill to pay for removal of dams

S.F. Chronicle-7/14/09

By Jeff Barnard    

 

The state of Oregon will finance most of the cost of removing four Klamath
River dams to help salmon under a bill signed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski
Tuesday.

 

Meanwhile, federal officials met in Klamath Falls with representatives of
Pacificorp and the states of California and Oregon. The parties must have a
binding agreement by September to restore 300 miles of spawning habitat on
what was once the third biggest salmon producer on the West Coast.

 

A preliminary agreement that serves as a framework for the negotiations both
guarantees and limits the amount of irrigation water that will be available
to farmers in the Klamath Basin, and offers hundreds of millions of dollars
for salmon restoration work and research.

 

In recent decades, the needs of farms and fish in the area have been pitted
against each other while declining salmon runs have triggered cutbacks in
commercial and recreational fishing.

 

"Signing this bill into law is a critical step in ensuring that all of the
Klamath's diverse rural communities have an economically viable future,"
Kulongoski said in a release. "Every farmer and fisherman whose livelihood
depends on a healthy river system will benefit from the restoration of the
Klamath Basin."

 

Long an opponent of dam removal, PacifiCorp shifted after it became clear
the idea had strong public support and the utility could end up paying far
more to continue trying to relicense the aged dams.

 

"We said all along if public policy dictates dam removal, we need to do
everything we can to provide our customers with legal and financial
protection," Pacificorp spokesman Art Sasse said.

 

Sasse, as well as representatives of Indian tribes, farmers, and salmon
fishermen, who have long battled over balancing scarce water in the Klamath
Basin between fish and farms, all praised the governor for his work to make
dam removal a reality.

 

Oregon Wild, however, continues to oppose the deal. The conservation group
argues that it gives too much to farmers and too little to fish and
wildlife.

 

Water wars have long simmered in the Klamath Basin, where the first of the
dams and a federal irrigation project built in the early 20th century turned
the natural water distribution upside down, draining marshes and lakes and
tapping rivers for electricity to put water on dry farmland that grows
potatoes, horseradish, grain, alfalfa and cattle.

 

A drought in 2001 forced a shut-off of irrigation water to sustain
threatened and endangered fish, and when the irrigation was restored the
next year, tens of thousands of salmon died trying to spawn in the Klamath
River, which was too low and too warm to sustain them.

 

Besides blocking salmon from the upper basin, the dams raise water
temperatures to levels unhealthy for fish. Their reservoirs produce toxic
algae. The fish are beset by parasites.

 

The law calls for building up a trust fund of $180 million over the next 10
years through a surcharge on PacifiCorp costumers in Oregon, which amounts
to about $1.50 a month for a residential customer. California pays $20
million. If dam removal falls through, the money goes back to ratepayers.

 

If a federal feasibility study shows the dams can be safely torn down, work
begins around 2020.#

 

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 

 

 

 

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