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Reaction to Klamath agreement

By TY BEAVER and LEE JUILLERAT Herald and News November 16, 2008

Federal, state and PacifiCorp officials signed a nonbinding dam removal agreement Thursday. If a final agreement is signed, four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River could be pulled starting in 2020 at a cost of up to $450 million.

Klamath River Basin stakeholders commented on the implications and the future of the dam removal agreement.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Jim Cook

Cook, whose district includes the Tulelake Basin and Butte Valley, said he is disgusted with the Bush administration for pushing an agreement to remove Klamath River dams. Cook, a Republican, said Bush officials purposely delayed approving the dam removal agreement until after the presidential election.

“It’s not a coincidence that this agreement existed in the same exact form since August and they waited until a week after the election,” he said. “Now he can walk away saying, ‘It’s your problem.’ ”

Cook also is critical because he believes the agreement provides PacifiCorp with everything the company wanted, will increase global warming and ignores solutions that would not require dam removal. He also discredited claims that the dams provide minimal electricity, saying they provide more than enough energy to supply Siskiyou, Del Norte and Modoc counties.

“Our county is going to be affected by this, unlike the other groups,” he said. “Most of those groups don’t care. They don’t live here.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Andrew Whelan, Walden’s spokesman, said the congressman was anticipating an agreement on dam removal, but believes there are many unknowns.

“There’s a lot of work still left to be done,” Whelan said.

There also will be a new presidential administration in place in two months as well as Congress heavily dominated by Democrats, putting the future of any legislation in their hands, he added.

Art Sasse, PacifiCorp spokesman

Sasse said dam removal offers the most certainty for the utility’s customers, and guarantees 12 more years of power generation from the four Klamath River dams.

Re-licensing and the associated costs of installing fish ladders, addressing water quality issues and the potential for litigation would have cost hundreds of millions dollars more, an expense that would have been passed to ratepayers.

The company could still pursue re-licensing at this point. Sasse said there are off ramps regarding dam removal should it be deemed unfeasible or the federal or state governments withdraw. “We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to hold onto a fair deal for our customers,” he said.

Klamath County Commissioner John Elliott

Elliott said the signing of a nonbinding agreement by federal, state and PacifiCorp officials will get the ball rolling, and eventually lead to a final Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

“These are the same entities that allowed the dams to be put in,” he said. Dam removal also appears to be the best option for the utility’s ratepayers, Elliott said, as the projected cost of continuing with dam relicensing and the conditions required to keep operating the dams would have been at least $100 million more.

Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association

Addington said the dam removal agreement moves things forward, but questions still need to be answered, including the environmental impact from removing the dams. There’s also the uncertainty of passing the necessary state and federal legislation. “There’s still a hundred things that can go wrong with this,” he said.


Craig Tucker, Karuk Tribe spokesman

Tucker called the agreement significant because it represents a change in the relationship between the three tribes supporting the agreement (the Klamaths, Yuroks and Karuks) and PacifiCorp. “It’s moved from an adversarial relationship to one of working together,” he said. He said concerns include passing necessary legislation in Oregon and nationally. “We’re hopeful, we’re optimistic. We can do this. We’re dedicated to it.”

Sandy Cooney, California Resources Department spokesman

“The grand significance is that it’s really the first public step that shows all these parties have come together and said we can remove the dams and restore the river,” Cooney said. “We have spent a lot of time with the folks from Siskiyou County and the supervisors.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, California’s First Congressional District

“This is a historic moment, and comes after years of earnest negotiation between farmers, fishermen and tribes,” Thompson said in a statement to the Herald and News.

“This draft agreement provides the framework for a historic settlement and when Congress returns in January, I will call for hearings to make sure that we do all that we can to help this process move forward.”

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              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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