[env-trinity] Times-Standard- Lines are drawn over Klamath dam deals

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu Feb 11 09:38:15 PST 2010

Lines are drawn over Klamath dam deals

Eureka Times-Standard-2/11/10

By John Driscoll


The Hoopa Valley Tribe's unanimous vote Tuesday not to sign two agreements that look to remove four dams on the Klamath River and restore its fisheries adds to a number of environmental groups' decisions not to back the deals. 


In a statement, the tribe said it was unable to resolve its concerns over the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement during talks with the U.S. Department of the Interior, and so could not support the final deals. 


"The settlements undermine tribal water rights, do not assure dam removal, and rely on unfunded and unspecific fishery restoration goals," Hoopa Tribal Chairman Leonard Masten said. "We cannot stand behind deals that require the subordination of our rights, and that may never result in dam removal." 


The two agreements set a course for dam removal -- expected to begin in 2020 -- and look to improve conditions for salmon in the river while reducing but securing irrigation deliveries to Upper Klamath Basin farms. Portland, Ore.-based Pacificorp owns the dams and had applied for a new 30- to 50-year license to continue operating them when it agreed to consider a settlement. 


The agreements are expected to be signed at a ceremony on Feb. 18, though those plans are not final. Members of the 28-party group that helped draft the deals but chose not to support them can change their minds and sign on within 60 days. The agreements also must be backed by federal legislation. 


The Yurok, Karuk and Klamath tribes have all voted to back the agreements, as have a number of commercial and sport fishing groups, environmental organizations, farming representatives, and Humboldt County. The governors of California and Oregon and the Obama administration are supporting the agreements. Environmental groups Friends of the River, the Northcoast Environmental Center, Oregon Waterwatch and Oregon Wild have chosen not to sign the deals. 


Friends of the River has claimed the agreements are not likely to stand up, are vulnerable to lawsuits and depend for funding on passage of an $11 billion California water bond for water projects. 


"Millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and liberal liability protection for Pacificorp is simply too much to pay for just the possibility that the dams will be removed," said Friends Conservation Director Steve Evans. "The settlement partners need to develop an agreement that fairly apportions costs and liability to all partners, including Pacificorp, and that guarantees dam removal by 2020." 


Supporting group American Rivers, an environmental organization with years of experience in dam decommissioning efforts, said the deals may not be perfect, but they are a strong means of reviving the river and improving the economies of the basin's agricultural, fishing and tribal communities. He said the deals represent years of hard work by a variety of interests, and that it is always easy to find fault with a collaborative effort. 


"I am sure some of these folks had lots of advice for quarterback Drew Brees during the Super Bowl last Sunday," said American Rivers California Director Steve Rothert. "We choose not to criticize from the sidelines, but rather to do the hard work building agreement among dozens of formerly warring parties."# 



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