[env-trinity] Eureka Times-Standard 8-17-10
bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Aug 17 09:26:05 PDT 2010
Feds find Klamath reservoir muck nontoxic; determination key to efforts to
remove four Klamath River dams
By John Driscoll
Federal scientists have confirmed a California agency's findings that the
sediment trapped behind four Klamath River dams is largely uncontaminated, a
critical determination if the removal of those dams is to go forward.
The U.S. Interior Department's preliminary review of the muck behind the
dams found that there would be no human health risk due to contact with the
sediment if it were to be released downstream when the dams are razed. PCBs,
trace metals and dioxins were found only at low levels, according to data in
The findings confirm a 2006 California Coastal Conservancy study that found
the 11.5 to 15.3 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dams is mostly
very fine, organic material that had low levels of contamination.
"As far as I'm concerned it's good news for people, the environment and
everybody," said U.S. Geological Survey Program Manager Dennis Lynch, who is
heading up the effort to collect information that will inform the U.S.
interior secretary on whether removing the dams is in the public interest.
Had the sediment been found to be heavily contaminated, it almost certainly
would have doomed efforts to remove the dams. A project that would have
drained reservoirs and dredged out toxic mud for shipping to a certified
landfill is believed to be far too costly.
The federal study also looked at the composition of sediment in the Klamath
River estuary, and found that it is markedly different from that
in the reservoirs. Lynch said the downstream samples found sand and other
coarse material that suggests the river will quickly flush fine sediments
released during dam decommissioning.
The removal of the dams is expected to cost up to $450 million, paid for
through rate increases to dam owner Pacificorp's customers and a California
bond measure. California's share of the money was in a water bond set to
come before voters in November, but was delayed due to a lack of support in
the polls. It is expected to go back on the ballot in 2012, the year the
interior secretary is supposed to make a determination.
In the meantime, parties that signed agreements to tear out the dams and
embark on a $1 billion environmental restoration plan for the Klamath River
have not yet come to agreement on how the legislation to implement those
agreements should be crafted.
With only 10 years to begin the largest dam removal project in history, some
have voiced concern that the effort could become mired in bureaucracy.
California Coastal Conservancy Program Manager Michael Bowen said the
state's 2006 study was the result of some five years and $1 million. He said
that he's seen other dam removal efforts get bogged down in redundant
processes, and that coastal salmon populations don't have time to wait.
"I hope to see the Klamath dams removed in my lifetime and in time to save
our salmon," Bowen said. "The sooner the validation of basic facts and
engineering begins, the better."
Lynch said that while the state study was valuable, the federal effort to
study the sediment was launched both to back up those findings and to expand
on them. Such a critical issue was deserving of a closer and more extensive
look, Lynch said.
Karuk Tribe Klamath Campaign Coordinator Craig Tucker said that removal of
the dams is also likely to get rid of toxic algae that occurs in the
reservoirs each summer.
"Getting rid of these dams will actually solve toxin problems by alleviating
the massive blooms of toxic algae," Tucker said.
The study will be included along with others in an environmental impact
statement analyzing the potential effects of dam removal. That document is
scheduled to be out next year.
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax
415 519 4810 mobile
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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