[env-trinity] Redding.com: Interior Department recommends removing Klamath River dams

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Fri Apr 5 07:52:54 PDT 2013


http://www.redding.com/news/2013/apr/04/interior-department-recommends-removing-klamath/
Interior Department recommends removing Klamath River dams
By Damon Arthur
Posted April 4, 2013 at 10 p.m.
AP PHOTO/JEFF BARNARD

This Aug. 21, 2009, file photo shows Iron Gate Dam spanning the Klamath River near Hornbrook. The U.S. Department of Interior on Thursday issued a final environmental impact statement recommending removal of this and three other dams from the Klamath River to help struggling wild salmon runs.


AP PHOTO/JEFF BARNARD, FILE

This Aug. 21, 2009, file photo shows the Copco 2 Dam on the Klamath River outside Hornbrook. The U.S. Department of Interior on Thursday issued a final environmental impact statement recommending removal of this and three other dams from the Klamath River to help struggling wild salmon runs.

AP PHOTO/JEFF BARNARD

This Aug. 21, 2009, file photo shows the J.C. Boyle Dam diverting water from the Klamath River to a powerhouse downstream near Keno, Ore. The U.S. Department of Interior on Thursday issued a final environmental impact statement recommending this and three other dams be removed from the Klamath River to help struggling wild salmon runs.
U.S. Department of Interior officials on Thursday took another step toward removing four dams on the Klamath River, kicking up more controversy in the longstanding battle over water in the region.

The department issued its final environmental impact report, which looked into removing four hydroelectric dams on the river and concluded full removal would be the best option to restore salmon fisheries and protect local communities and tribes.

“The preferred alternative finds that removal of the four facilities and implementation of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement are important components of a durable, long-term solution for local communities and tribes to advance the water and native fishery resources of the Klamath Basin,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a news release.

But some members of the local community were not happy to hear of the department’s decision.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Michael Kobseff said removing the dams would harm the environment by releasing toxic sediment from behind the dams. The project also would hurt the economies of local communities near the river.

“It makes absolutely no sense. It’s an equation they’ve done backwards,” Kobseff said. “It’s going to be, at least in my view, a disaster.”

He said the county has proposed alternatives that would help coho salmon, such as fish passages and trapping the fish and trucking them to locations above dams. The coho are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Grace Bennett said interior officials seemed to pick and choose facts to fit the result they wanted. She said removing the dams also would take water from farms and ranches upstream.

“They just don’t seem to care what happens to the people after they do this,” Bennett said.

Department officials said they need congressional approval before going further in the dam removal process.

U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, said he did not support removing the dams.

“This plan’s preferred option would deprive California of inexpensive renewable electricity at a time when the state is requiring ever-higher ratios,” LaMalfa said.

“I do not support this plan and the entire process seems slanted toward a predetermined outcome of dam removal,” he said.

While Congress still hasn’t authorized the Klamath Basin agreement three years after it was approved, Craig Tucker, Klamath coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, said he was optimistic the dams eventually would be removed, even in the “hyper-partisan environment” in Congress.

“I think there are a lot of naysayers out there, but people have been naysaying since day one,” Tucker said.

Disputes over water in the Klamath Basin are not new. Battles over how to share scarce water between farms and protected fish reached a head in 2001, when drought forced the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to shut off water to a federal irrigation project straddling the Oregon-California border to provide water for endangered sucker fish in the project’s main reservoir.

The next year, the Bush administration restored irrigation, but 10s of thousands of adult salmon died when they returned to a river with low and warm water levels.

In 2010, Indian tribes, farmers, salmon fishermen and conservation groups signed historic agreements calling for sharing water in dry years and the removal of four dams to open up hundreds of miles of salmon habitat shut off for a century. PacifiCorp, which owns the dams that produce power for 70,000 customers, agreed to the removal rather than pay millions of dollars for fish ladders and other improvements.

Siskiyou County did not sign either the Klamath Basin agreement or dam removal agreement. Supervisors in Klamath County recently voted to withdraw from the agreements.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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