[env-trinity] Associated Press 9 30 09 Klamath Dam Removal
bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Sep 30 09:51:36 PDT 2009
Utility agrees to terms removing Klamath dams
By JEFF BARNARD AP Environmental Writer
Posted: 09/30/2009 04:08:17 AM PDT
Updated: 09/30/2009 06:19:18 AM PDT
MEDFORD, Ore.-The utility that owns four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath
River has agreed to terms for their removal, a key milestone in efforts to
restore what was once the third biggest salmon run on the West Coast and end
decades of battles over scarce water.
PacifiCorp, the states of California and Oregon, American Indian tribes,
federal agencies, irrigators and conservation groups announced the draft
agreement Wednesday. Signing is expected by the end of the year.
Actual removal is not scheduled to start until 2020, and depends on full
funding of the removal, a determination by the U.S. Secretary of Interior
that it will actually help salmon and is in the public interest, and
authorization from Congress.
"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. "Hats off to all the stakeholders
who have worked so hard to find common ground on one of the most challenging
water issues of our time."
PacifiCorp will not bear the estimated $450 million cost of removing the
dams. Oregon has approved $180 million in surcharges on state ratepayers.
Another $250 million depends on California approving general obligation
"If the federal government and the states of California and Oregon sign onto
this negotiated final settlement, then we will join with them and all the
other stakeholder groups that may choose to sign the agreement," PacifiCorp
Chairman and CEO Greg Abel said in a statement.
The utility serves 1.6 million customers in Oregon, California, Washington,
Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, and is owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a
unit of Warren Buffett's Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
"When the Klamath dams come down, it will be the biggest dam removal project
the world has ever seen," Steve Rothert, California director for the
conservation groups American Rivers, said in a statement. "We will be able
to watch on a grand scale as a river comes back to life."
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 shutoff of irrigation water to sustain threatened
and endangered fish. 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 four dams-Copco J.P. Doyle, Copco 1, Copco 2, and Iron Gate-together
produce enough electricity for 70,000 customers.
Pressure has been building since PacifiCorp applied for a new 50-year
federal operating license in 2004 and made no provision for fish passage,
which stops at Iron Gate near the Oregon-California border.
California and Oregon's governors pressed for dam removal after West Coast
commercial salmon fisheries collapsed in 2006 because of declines in Klamath
River returns, triggering a disaster declaration.
Federal biologists mandated that fish ladders and other improvements costing
$300 million be added to the dams before a federal operating license could
California water authorities have been taking a hard look at the dams' role
in toxic algae plaguing the river, and river advocates have sued PacifiCorp
to fix the algae problem.
Final approval of the dam removal agreement is key to authorization of a
separate agreement to spend $1 billion over the next decade on environmental
restoration in the Klamath Basin.
Some conservation groups were not happy that dam removal continues to be
linked to letting farming continue on the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake
national wildlife refuges, preventing restoration of wetlands that would
contribute to better water quality, and guaranteed irrigation levels for
farmers in the upper basin.
"It's fantastic that we have attention on the Klamath Basin and might get a
shot at dam removal," said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon
Wild in Portland. "But we really can't afford to allow dam removal be linked
to making other environmental problems in the basin worse."
Some details remain unresolved. It is not certain, for example, whether the
federal government or some other entity will take possession of the dams to
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
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