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Klamath River Dam Removal  

10/30/09 - Column by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisor District 5

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings on Thursday, November 12 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Miners Inn convention center in Yreka on the issue of whether or not to become a co-signator to the Klamath Hydropwer Agreement. The Board will receive comment and direct questions to principal parties in the agreement – PacifiCorp, the U.S. Dept. of Interior, and the State of California. It will also receive comment from the public.
Among possible areas of concerns regarding the current document, the agreement does appear to:
1.      Commit to additional studies of sediment content and quantity;
2.      Bind the County to support the Settlement Agreement in state or local legislative and judicial proceedings, while providing sovereign immunity for the state, federal and tribal signatories. (A request to likewise exempt the County was rejected) ;
3.      Require that all public agencies comply with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act,) CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) and other environmental acts. (This includes “coordination” provisions);  
4.      Require signatory’s (with the exception of PacifiCorp) to support the companion Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the legislation to carry this out. (The current version of the KBRA is not available to the County Supervisors and the legislation is not yet written. The prior version was rejected by the Board of Supervisors in 2008);
5.      Waive any liability by PacifiCorp for any health, property or environmental damage for dam removal;
6.      Waive any liability for the United States for action of the designated “Dam Removal Entity” (DRE) if it is a federal entity or from actions of a non-federal DRE;
7.      Limit California State responsibility for costs of dam removal to the State Cost Cap of $250 million (This is subject to passage of a State water bond. If the water bond does not pass, parties will “meet and confer” on other funding);
8.      Require Siskiyou County to support requested surcharges on California ratepayers to pay for dam removal. (A minimum of $20 million or 8% of costs over the next ten years) ;
9.      Require signatories to support requests by PacifiCorp to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to recover the depreciated value of its facilities, the costs it has spent on the re-licensing and settlement processes and their costs for decommissioning of the facilities from the California ratepayers in the form of increased rates. (This would be in addition to the $20 million for dam removal.)
10.  Require signatories to support certain additional measures required of PacifiCorp to address environmental issues;
11.  Require signatories to support requests by PacifCorp to the California PUC for recovery of costs from ratepayers for ongoing operations in the interim (increased salmon and water quality mitigations) and replacement of the lost hydropower with alternative sources of energy;
12.  Require lands in California owned by PacifiCorp that are directly related associated with the Hydroelectric projects to be transferred to the State of California or a designated third party to be managed for the “public interest” (e.g. removed from local tax rolls.) Other lands owned by PacifiCorp may be exchanged with the federal or state government (tax revenue neutral.)
The Agreement does not appear to:
1.      Provide reimbursement to private landowners around the reservoirs and immediately downriver for any loss of value to their property and investments;
2.      Provide any reimbursement of costs for Siskiyou County’s participation in the scientific process, impact studies on Siskiyou County’s economy and environment, mitigation for damages to roads and other infrastructure in the removal process, loss of long term tax revenue from the facility and adjacent devalued private properties, active restoration of the reservoir sites, clean up of any toxic deposits, etc.;
3.      Provide adequate funding for liability for damages incurred to human health, property and the environment from the release of sediments and altered flow regimes caused from dam removal;  
4.      Provide adequate protections for California ratepayers. The state of California has capped its costs at the $250 million bond. Oregon legislation appears to have capped Oregon rate payer’s total liability for dam removal costs at $180 million. Another $20 million contribution is expected to come from the 40,000 (approximate) ratepayers in California. (This is a share of 8 percent which is proportionate with the amount expected from Oregon ratepayers.) However, there is currently no cap on the amount to be charged to California ratepayers, which is a huge concern if the total cost of dam removal, mitigation and restoration exceeds $450 million – which it most likely will. There are also numerous other costs that PacifiCorp will exact from California ratepayers for the value of its facilities, increased interim costs and replacement power. It should also be noted that the Klamath irrigators (KWAPA)  are seeking independent alternative energy sources which could largely remove them from the pool of ratepayers who bear the burden of the costs of dam removal;
5.      Require that priority be given to the impacts on the health, safety social and economic welfare of local communities in the weighing of costs and benefits to salmon to be made in 2012 by the Secretary of the Interior in his decision on whether dam removal will be warranted;
6.      Allow Siskiyou County to specifically comment in selection of any non-federal “Dame Removal Entity” (DRE);
7.      Allow the $450 million in total funding envisioned to be used to offset economic impacts to Siskiyou County. (By legislation, the Oregon rate payer funding may only be used for “facilities removal” – not mitigation or restoration);
8.      Provide specific requirements regarding performance bonding and security against liability for any non-federal or private DRE;
9.      Detail the how modifications will be made to the dam facilities or the order of those modifications in the required one year period between a Secretarial decision and the deadline of January 1 2020

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