[env-trinity] SF Chronicle 9 30 09 Klamath Dam Removal

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Sep 30 08:24:59 PDT 2009

Deal to raze 4 Klamath dams

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer <mailto:pfimrite at sfchronicle.com> 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In what is being touted as the world's biggest dam-removal project, an
agreement was reached Tuesday to remove four dams on the Klamath River and
restore a 300-mile migratory route for California's beleaguered salmon.


TL&o=0> Thomas Willson, a Yurok Tribe member, fishes in the Klama...
TL&o=2> Copco 1 is one of four dams on the Klamath River that wou...
TL&o=> http://imgs.sfgate.com/graphics/utils/plus-green.gifView Larger


Commission proposes dramatic state tax overhaul 09.29.09

The tentative agreement was reached after a decade of negotiations among 28
parties, including American Indian tribes, farmers, fishermen and the
hydroelectric company that operates the dams and distributes the water. The
plan would set in motion one of the most ambitious efforts in U.S. history
to restore the habitat of a federally protected species if it receives final
approval by the parties in December, as expected. 

The dams - Iron Gate, Copco 1, Copco 2 and J.C. Boyle - have blocked salmon
migration for a century along the California-Oregon border and have been
blamed for much of the historic decline of chinook and coho salmon and
steelhead trout in the Klamath. Under the plan, the dams operated by the
utility, PacificCorp, would be dismantled beginning in 2020.

The ultimate goal of the so-called Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement
Agreement is to restore what has historically been the third-largest source
of salmon in the lower 48 states, behind the Columbia and Sacramento rivers.
Chinook once swam all the way up to Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon, providing
crucial sustenance to American Indians, including the Yurok, Karuk, Klamath
and Hoopa Valley tribes.

"This is the deal that we have all been working on for 10 years," said Steve
Rothert, the California director of American Rivers, a national nonprofit
river conservation group. "There were a lot of people who didn't think we
could do this, and some groups that worked actively to prevent it. It's
fantastic that we've reached this spot."

The groups involved in the negotiations agreed Tuesday to take the proposal
to their various boards and commissions for approval and then have everybody
sign the final document in December.

The project, which would cost an estimated $450 million, is then expected to
go through nearly three years of study and cost analysis before it lands on
the desk of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012. "This agreement marks
the beginning of a new chapter for the Klamath River and for the communities
whose health and way of life depend on it," Salazar said Tuesday in a
written statement. "This agreement would establish an open, scientifically
grounded process that will help me make a fully informed decision about
whether dam removal is in the public interest." 

Serious talk of removing the dams began in 2002 after a federally ordered
change in water flow led to the death of 33,000 salmon in the river.

The effort picked up momentum over the past few years after devastating
declines in the number of spawning salmon in both the Klamath and Sacramento
river basins. The paltry number of fish forced regulators to ban virtually
all ocean fishing of chinook salmon in California and Oregon over the past
two years.

The four midsize dams were built along the Klamath's main stem starting in
1909, blocking off about 300 miles of salmon-spawning habitat. The dams
warmed the river water, allowing destructive parasites and blooms of toxic,
blue-green algae to contaminate the water. Water diversions to cities and
for agriculture exacerbated the problem, according to fishery biologists.

The various tribes with rights to the river have been battling for years to
get the dams removed. Fishermen and environmentalists rallied to their side,
but PacifiCorp and farmers along the Upper Klamath Basin fought the effort
and even sought to extend the hydropower lease.

Some agricultural groups still oppose the plan out of fear that it would
limit irrigation and raise the cost of energy, and a few claim it is little
more than a giveaway to environmental interests, but most of the
stakeholders now at least support moving forward. 

"I cannot adequately say how impressed I am by everyone's ability to put
aside their differences," said Craig Tucker, spokesman for the Karuk Tribe.
"There is a long history of not getting along, of fighting over water
rights. Now we are optimistic."

PacifiCorp has pledged to raise $200 million of the cost of removing the
dams by implementing a surcharge on its customers in California and Oregon,
but the bulk of the money would come from Oregon. 

Tearing down the dams is expected to cost less than making the improvements
necessary to comply with the federal Clean Water Act and Fish and Wildlife
Agency regulations, which would require, among other things, the
construction of fish ladders and screens. The utility would have to get
certification from both states under the Clean Water Act to continue
operating the dams, a potentially difficult proposition given the algae

"We've really looked at this as a business deal, and we believe it is in the
best interests of our customers," said Dean Brockbank, vice president and
general counsel for PacifiCorp. "The agreement we have now is a
collaborative effort, and we believe it beats all of the alternatives."

California would raise another $250 million from voter-approved general
obligation bonds. 

Coming thursday: Decades after decimating salmon and spurring numerous
lawsuits, Friant Dam will begin releasing more water into the San Joaquin
River - California's second largest. 

Read more:



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

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




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