YREKA - The
U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife is working with
a number of governmental and private agencies to
determine what will be required of Pacificorp to
relicense their power plants on the Klamath River.
Pacificorp operates power generation facilities at
Irongate, Copco I, Copco II and John Boyle, all
dams constructed on the Klamath River between
Interstate-5 and Klamath Falls, Ore.
Pacificorp's 50-year contract issued by the
Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC)
expired in March of this year. Pacificorp has
spent the last five years negotiating with FERC
and other governmental agencies concerned with
water quality and natural resources to come up
with a proposal that meets everyone's needs.
One of the proposals Fish & Wildlife is
considering is requiring the construction of fish
ladders to allow salmon access past Irongate Dam
to the headwaters of the Klamath River at Klamath
Lake, some 60 miles away. Salmon have not traveled
past Copco Dam since its construction in 1918.
Phil Detrich of Fish & Wildlife says historical
photos show that salmon were in Klamath Lake at
one time before Copco Dam blocked their passage.
Fish & Wildlife believes that some of the salmon
that come to Irongate Hatchery in the fall will
keep pushing up river towards Klamath Lake.
Detrich says the presence of red band trout in
Klamath Lake confirms his belief that water
quality during the 30-day fall salmon run is
sufficient for salmon "to use these two lakes
(Iron Gate and Copco) for migratory pathways."
"There is a tremendous amount of controversy with
natural resource issues relating to the Klamath
River right now," said Dave Kvamme, a spokesperson
for Pacificorp in Portland, Ore.
"In our license application, we did not call for
fish passage above our dams because water quality
in the river and above our projects is very poor,"
Kvamme said. Salmon need cold, clear water and the
water in the lakes created above Copco and
Irongate dams is not cold or clear and contains
large amounts of algae that is not beneficial for
salmon, according to Kvamme.
"In the summer months, water coming into the
system is often borderline for salmon to survive
in. The watershed is not in good shape and we do
not think it makes much sense to build fish
ladders and screens at a high cost to pass fish
into an eco system like this," Kvamme said.
"This whole thing is still preliminary," Detrich
said. "This is a really big step in a long
process. There will be an appeals hearing process
over the next six months. If any party appeals, we
will be examining the checks and alternatives and
at the end of the process, FERC will come out with
an order with the new terms and conditions for the
license," Detrich said.
Kvamme agrees that the re-licensing process is
going to be a long one and not expected to be
completed until sometime well within 2007, if all
Estimates for the construction of fish ladders to
provide passage for salmon for the 60 miles
between Irongate and Klamath Lake has been
estimated at more than $200,000 million. The task
to bypass Irongate Dam alone would be monumental
requiring the construction of a two-mile long fish
ladder necessary to scale the 173-foot height of
"It is not that we have a problem investing in
natural resources," Kvamme said. "We have done
that on several other drainages," Kvamme added,
but Pacificorp does not favor constructing fish
passage into a body of water that they contend
will not sustain significant numbers of salmon.
"What we are looking for is an outcome that
protects our customers and shareholders. After
all, this is a project that generates a
significant amount of electricity at a low cost,"
Kvamme said. Electricity generated at all four
facilities produces enough electricity to power
70,000 residential customers.
Some native American interests have proposed
removing the dams altogether. Pacificorp has
maintained that it would cost more to remove the
dams than to install fish passage and would result
in a loss of long term revenue which is not being
favored by Pacificorp at this time. Kvamme says
the cost of the construction of fish passages or
whatever demands FERC makes as a condition of
Pacificorp's license renewal would typically be
passed on to consumers in the way of rate