[env-trinity] LA Times 9 30 09 Klamath Dam Removal

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Sep 30 09:31:08 PDT 2009


Utility agrees to removal of 4 Klamath River dams

 

It won't happen until after 2020, but is seen as vital to restoring
California's dwindling salmon stocks. The decommissioning would be the
nation's largest and most complex dam removal project.

 


Klamath River dam

The Copco No. 1 dam near Hornbrook, Calif., and three others on the Klamath
River could be removed. (Jeff Barnard / Associated Press)

.         Related 

.
<http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-093009-me-klamath-g,0,2700693.graphic>
Map
<http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-093009-me-klamath-g,0,2700693.graphic>
Map 

By Bettina Boxall 

September 30, 2009 | 6:06 a.m.

 

In a major boost for California's dwindling salmon stocks, a utility company
has agreed to the removal of four hydroelectric dams that for decades have
blocked fish migrations on one of the West Coast's most important salmon
rivers.

The dam decommissioning is vital to restoring the Klamath River, which for
years has been the subject of bitter feuding among farmers, fishermen and
tribal interests.

It would open historic salmon spawning and rearing grounds on the upper
reaches of the river, which winds from southern Oregon through the Cascades
and Coast Ranges to California's Pacific Coast.

"We can't restore the river solely by removing the dams, but we can't
restore the Klamath without removing the dams," said Steve Rothert of the
environmental group American Rivers, one of 29 parties negotiating the dam
settlement.

Backers say the decommissioning -- which still must be approved by the
federal government -- would be the nation's largest and most complex dam
removal project.

"We're about to make changes to the Klamath Basin that will be observable
from space," said Craig Tucker of the Karuk tribe, which traditionally
fished for salmon.

For PacifiCorp, the Portland, Ore., utility that owns the dams, consenting
to the end of the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1 and 2 and Iron Gate dams
ultimately was a business decision.

The utility, a subsidiary of billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway
empire, faced litigation and expensive relicensing requirements for the
dams, the oldest of which dates to 1918.

"As a utility, we don't typically take dams out," said Dean Brockbank,
PacifiCorp's lead negotiator. "We have achieved an agreement that is in the
best interest of our customers -- the lowest cost and risk compared to the
alternative."

Under the draft settlement, which the parties hope to sign by the end of the
year, PacifiCorp would continue to operate the dams until 2020. Then they
would transfer the hydropower facilities to another entity, likely the
federal government, for dismantling.

The Interior Department has to make a determination that the dams' removal
will be in the public interest, a sign-off that Brockbank said is not
guaranteed but that the company expects to get.

"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," Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

The settlement terms call for PacifiCorp ratepayers in Oregon and California
to pay a surcharge to finance a company contribution of up to $200 million
for dam removal and river restoration. California also would provide as much
as $250 million in bond money.

"We're hopeful this will result in dam removal, but a number of things have
to occur before that can happen," said Kirk Miller, deputy secretary of the
California Natural Resources Agency. "It is a complicated matter."

The dams, which range in height from 33 feet to 173 feet and are spread
across 65 miles of the Klamath, haven't just kept chinook and coho salmon
out of the upper river and its tributaries. They also have hurt water
quality.

In the summer, stagnant pools of warm water behind the dams become a
breeding ground for toxic algae.

The Klamath Basin made national headlines early this decade when federal
water managers cut irrigation deliveries to preserve fish flows, sparking
protests from irate farmers. The following year, when more water was
released to agriculture, tens of thousands of salmon died, floating in the
river's shallow waters and washing up on its banks.

"We are redefining what restoration and collaboration means in a place that
has historically been the West's most notorious watershed for lawsuits,
civil strife, guns in public," said Chuck Bonham of Trout Unlimited, an
environmental group that works to preserve fish habitat.

Along with the Columbia and the Sacramento rivers, the Klamath has
traditionally been one of the country's most productive salmon rivers. But
the West Coast salmon stocks have been in such poor shape that for the last
three years, California has canceled its commercial salmon fishing season.

The Klamath has "been dammed and polluted nearly to death," said Glen Spain,
northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Assns.

The dam settlement follows an earlier restoration agreement that also is due
to be signed by the end of the year.

The restoration proposal has come under fire from some environmental groups
that complain it preserves irrigation deliveries for Klamath Basin farms at
the expense of fish and also allows continued farming in wildlife refuges
with critical wetlands.

"Dam removal is still tied to this albatross," said Steve Pedery of Oregon
Wild.

Jeffrey Mount, founding director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed
Sciences and a member of the American Rivers board, warned that tearing down
the dams would not solve all of the Klamath's water quality problems.

"There is this assumption that a miracle will occur when the dams come
down," he said. "Removal of the dams does not address the broader problems
of the basin."

He described Upper Klamath Lake, which feeds the river, as a "big, warm,
green pile of goo" that could make things worse for the fish once the dams
are gone.

Still, he added, "This is incredibly exciting."

 

 

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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