[env-trinity] Times Standard- Salazar on Klamath dams removal

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Sep 21 07:37:19 PDT 2011

Salazar: Klamath dam

removal cheaper than

forecast; Interior

secretary's remarks spark

optimism among



Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard


Posted: 09/20/2011 02:40:18 AM PDT


Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made his first public

comments on an agreement to remove Klamath River

dams Monday, and the result was music to

stakeholders' ears.


Addressing the Commonwealth Club in San

Francisco just days before the removal project's

critical Draft Environmental Statement was due to be

released, Salazar offered a brief preview of the

document, saying studies indicate removal of the

dams will benefit the environment, bolster fish

populations, create jobs and be a lot cheaper than

initially thought. It's the last part that perked a lot of



”One of the fears that I've had and others have had

is if we would come in below the cap and, according

to Salazar, indeed we will,” said Craig Tucker,

spokesman for the Karuk Tribe, referring to the

$450 million cost cap outlined in the removal

agreement that he and two dozen other groups

drafted and signed in February 2010.


PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said Salazar's

estimated $290 million cost to remove the dams is

good news for the company, whose 550,000

Oregon customers are paying an extra 2 percent per

month on their electric bills to cover $200 million

of the removal costs.


Under the removal agreement -- which necessitated

compromise from dam owner PacifiCorp, fishermen,

farmers, environmentalists and tribes, many of

which had spent years in conflict -- the parties were

tasked with providing a comprehensive

environmental and economic analysis of the impacts

of removing


the four Klamath River dams. A Draft Environmental

Statement -- a key component of that process -- is

due out Thursday, and Salazar's speech Monday was

widely viewed by stakeholders as being a preview of

that statement.


Salazar said there are positives and negatives

associated with dam removal, but the bulk of his

remarks focused squarely on the positive.


”We today have real hope for a healthier basin and

stronger economy on the Klamath,” he said.


While the removals could result in a decrease in

property values for some landowners and the loss

of some recreational opportunities, Salazar said the

environmental statement will show that dam removal

would reclaim 68 miles of historical coho salmon

habitat and 420 miles of steelhead habitat and could

increase commercially harvested chinook salmon

production by more than 80 percent.


Glen Spain, spokesman for the Pacific Coast

Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said that's

great news.


”That is a lot of jobs and a lot of families with

incomes that we haven't seen in a long time,” he



Salazar also spent much of his comments Monday

focusing on the economic impacts of removing the

dams. While the removals would result in 50 dam

management jobs being lost, Salazar said, the proposed “watershedwide” restoration program

could add more than 4,600 jobs to the area over 15

years, including 1,400 during the physical dam



Further, Salazar said, studies indicate that increased

reliability in water supplies could also boost farm

income, adding between 70 and 695 jobs annually

to the agricultural economy.


Becky Hyde, a rancher in the upper Klamath basin

and board member of the Upper Klamath Water Users

Association, said she thinks those estimates are



”Up in our neck of the woods, agriculture

contributes about $600 million to the region's

economy,” she said. “These agreements stabilize

that economy.”


Spain said Salazar's comments didn't come as a

surprise to those familiar with the issues on the



”All in all, I think what we see is confirmation of

what many of us have been saying for years, which

is, 'it's time for those dams to go,'” he said. “And it

not only makes sense for salmon, but it make sense

for the regional economy.”


Salazar is slated to make a final decision on whether

the dam removal plan is in the public's best interest

in March 2012. In the meantime -- watching the

environmental statement process unfold --

stakeholders are hoping to get federal legislation in

place paving the way for the dams' removal.


Hyde said she and other stakeholders have been

working with Sen. Jeff Merkeley, D-Ore., on draft

legislation to be introduced at some point in the

future. Salazar's comments underscoring the

economic benefit of the dams' removal may help

grease legislative wheels in Washington during a

politically contentious time, stakeholders said.


”We think we're politically agnostic on the Klamath,”

said Tucker. “We're about solving problems, and it's

not about Democrats and Republicans. It's about

farmers and fishermen and tribes.”


Tucker said he's watched the cantankerous climate

on the Klamath change over the years from one in

which people were at each others' throats to the

present climate, where farmers bring potatoes and

horseradish to stakeholder meetings and head home

with salmon.


”I think they're becoming neighbors, and I think

people are realizing we're one basin with a shared

destiny,” he said. “If we work together, that destiny

will be positive.”


Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or  

tgreenson at times-standard.com.
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