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Ridin' Point - a weekly column  January 20, 2010 by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisor

marcia8.jpg.jpg (10768 bytes)KLAMATH BASIN SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS: Public review drafts of the proposed “Hydro” and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreements (KBRA) have been posted on Siskiyou County’s website http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/bos/kbra.htm The primary parties, (PacifiCorp, Federal Government and State Governments,) are expected to sign the document no sooner than February 11. There is no formal public comment period by these governments and they do not believe the decision to sign requires a  NEPA/CEQA environmental impact analysis. Some other groups may also sign at this time. Then there will be a 60 day period after the “effective date” of the agreement, (triggered by the main parties’ signatures,) for the County to consider whether it also wishes to sign. County deliberations will be done in an open forum with the opportunity for public comment. Siskiyou County’s signature is NOT required for the agreements to go forward.

If the primary parties sign the agreement as expected, self-executing provisions of the KBRA will be in effect. Next steps will be for any federal implementing legislation to be considered by Congress. The California PUC will also be petitioned for a rate increase for Pacific Power customers to cover a portion of dam removal costs. This is in addition to the current overall rate increase request of 9.6%, (12.9% increase for residential services,) and future rate increases to replace lost hydropower.. There is also the water bond bill before the California voters that will need to pass.

Scientific studies are already underway and sediment sampling has been done. (Siskiyou County’s scientific consultant has been involved.) The agreement sets forth that, after a review of all the studies, a determination will be made by the Secretary of the Interior in 2012 whether or not to remove the four dams on the Klamath River If the Secretary decides in favor of removal, that process will occur in 2020.    

NEW COUNTY COURTHOUSE: The current County Courthouse is an historic structure and portions of it date back to the 1850s.  It is co-owned by the County of Siskiyou and the State of California, (which owns the court facilities.) Shared use with the County has made for crowded conditions. The floor plan and current multiple use of the building makes it difficult to operate the courts according to established modern court security standards and required access for the disabled. (Case in point, in 2000, Edward Landsdale smuggled a gun into the current courthouse and fired several shots, wounding two persons before turning the gun on himself. )

The State of California has officially set aside $75-$96 million dollars out of SB 1407 monies to build a new six courtroom facility in Yreka. Local courts are working with the City of Yreka and the County of Siskiyou to propose that the facility be built on land they own behind the Yreka Post Office, with the potential purchase of additional property. As the County land is currently used for employee parking, a multi-level garage would be constructed across Butte Street and behind the current courthouse for employee and court parking. The old facility that used to house the Planning Dept. and the Public Defender’s office would be razed in the process.       

The land could be exchanged for the costs that the County would owe the State to buy-out its share of the courthouse. The County could then relocate to the courthouse some of the departments currently using rented facilities.

Locating the new courthouse downtown is desirable for local businesses, staff, agencies, attorneys and those in the court system. It would remain close to the jail, Yreka P.D. and the Sheriff’s office, (now in the old Public Works building on Butte Street. It would reduce the need for extensive environmental impact review and installation of new water and sewer infrastructure. This would facilitate the start of construction, which would help the local economy.

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