Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

marcia8.jpg.jpg (10768 bytes) Ridin' Point

- a weekly column published in the Pioneer Press


BUDGETS:  Many thanks to constituents who called to express their opinion on fee increases – particularly residential burn permits. To date, the Board has passed increases on weights and measures and building permit fees. Tuesday November 18, at its regular meeting, the Board will consider increases in personal health fees, planning permit fees and burn permits and fees. We will also hear a proposal for special senior citizen rates at the landfill transfer station.

On Friday, November 21 at 9 a.m. in the County Courthouse in Yreka, the Board of Supervisors will reopen the County budget and hear from Department Heads on plans to cut budgets once again. This will include discussions on likely service reductions and program cuts, new hours of operation, new ways of doing things and potential staff reductions. The cuts will largely be made in the General Fund departments, which include discretionary programs such as the libraries, and large departments such as the sheriff and the D.A. The public is invited and welcome to provide input into this difficult decision-making process. Depending upon further proposed budget cuts by the state, additional future cuts might also be necessary. (As an illustration, the proposed loss of state Williamson Act tax replacement funding is the rough equivalent of 10 Sheriff’s deputies.) This will be a seriously difficult time for the County.

DAM REMOVAL: The United States Government, the State of California and Oregon and PacifiCorp appear to have come to an “agreement in principle” on the potential removal of Iron Gate, Copco 1 and 2 and J.C. Boyle dams on the Klamath River. The agreement proposes a potential date for dam removal of 2020, when ownership of the dam would shift over to some non-government entity. (In this manner no fifth Amendment property “takings” could be filed by Copco and other affected landowners.) By agreement, PacifiCorp would then also be absolved from any liability for damage to people, fish/wildlife and property from any repercussions of removal such as the transport downstream of toxic or hazardous materials, the redistribution of sediment currently behind the dams and any affects on the geomorphology of the river – such as a higher river bed in the canyon below Iron Gate.

The decision as to whether to remove the dams would be made by the Secretary of the Interior. Before April 2012, the United States would do independent studies to determine whether the potential benefits for fisheries, water and other resources from dam removal outweighs the potential alternatives, risks, costs, liabilities and other adverse consequences of removal. (I believe this will be done per facility.)  The agreement says studies “may” address the economic impact of facilities removal on Siskiyou County, the disposition of the Fall Creek hydropower facility and protection of the City of Yreka’s water supply.

The federal government will also determine whether the cost of facilities removal will be in excess of $450 million. If it is determined that the liabilities outweigh the benefits, then PacifiCorp will return to the FERC relicensing process. If it determined the benefits of dam removal prevail, then the facilities will be transferred to the decommissioning entity. Any disposition of lands that PacifiCorp owns will be at fair market value to an entity not exempt from payment of property taxes or one that pays in lieu of taxes, (such as the BLM.) At this point, FERC would not have jurisdiction over the decommissioning. That means that public’s NEPA and due process opportunities through FERC will be affected.

The Pacific Power customers of California and Oregon will be responsible for contributing $200 million from rate increases toward decommissioning. The People of the State of California will be asked to pass a General Obligation Bond in the amount of $250 million to fund the rest. There will also be federal and state legislation to implement provisions of the agreement. If decommissioning costs more, then the rate payers, the federal government and the States will not be responsible with coming up with the money. Until the decision is made whether to decommission, PacificCorp will be required to do several things for fish and water quality, such as add additional gravel below Iron Gate. The costs of this will also be passed along to the rate payers.   

Alternative energy projects will be supported on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project. Rate offsets will be given accordingly to the Klamath Project irrigators. 

The agreement also accepts the Klamath Basin Settlement Agreement, (with its governance structure that includes no representation for agriculture in the Scott and Shasta Valleys, timber or mining,) as part of a “unified approach” to handling Klamath Basin issues. This will also require passage of legislation.

SCOTT VALLEY INCIDENTAL TAKE PERMIT: The Department of Fish and Game will hold a public meeting on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the  proposed Coho programmatic Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for the Siskiyou R.C.D. as applies to agriculture in Scott Valley on November 18 at the Community Center in Fort Jones from 7 -10 p.m. Public comments are due by December 9.  The hearing for the Shasta Valley ITP version will be held on November 19 from 7 - 10 p.m. at the Siskiyou County Superior Court at the Courthouse in Yreka.   

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

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