Study: Dam removal would provide significant
boost to Siskiyou County Economy
Happy Camp, CA – Last week the Karuk Tribe filed a report with FERC that outlines the economic benefits of dam removal for Siskiyou County. The study was performed by Ecotrust, a Portland based NGO.
“Dam removal is about more than fish, it’s about jobs and the economy,” according to Karuk Vice chairman Leaf Hilllman. “This could be the biggest injection of capital this county has seen since the construction of Interstate 5.” Estimates of dam removal costs range from $100 to $200 million.
Hillman believes the funding will come from state, federal, and corporate coffers. “There’s a lot of pressure on elected officials to solve the Klamath Crisis. Dam removal is an investment that will pay big dividends by creating jobs, improving the fishery, and improving our water quality.”
Citing construction industry data, the study reveals that each dollar spent in the construction industry circulates through the local economy 2.35 times. “This means that if you spent $100 million on dam removal, you provide a $235 million boost to the local economy,” explains Hillman.
The study describes how dam removal grows jobs as well. The millions spent on dam removal would create over 2,000 temporary construction jobs, while creating sustainable long term jobs in ecotourism, fishing, and related businesses. “Jobs and fish are mutually inclusive,” says Hillman.
PacifiCorp currently employs 18 people to manage the dams.
Tribes and fishermen have been advocating for the removal of the lower four Klamath dams since the relicensing of PacifiCorp’s Klamath dams began in 2004. The dams were constructed between 1917 and 1964 for hydropower. Today, the dams are considered by many to be outdated. Explains Hillman, “These dams are relics of a bygone era. Its like trying to get your ’74 Pinto to pass a smog check. At some point its time to junk the Pinto and invest in a new car with modern emissions.”
Last month FERC, who oversees dam relicensings, issued a draft EIS. In it, FERC staff compared PacifiCorp’s ‘trap and haul’ proposal, installation of ladders as mandated by federal agencies, and the removal of two dams, Iron Gate and Copco 1. They concluded that dam removal would provide the most benefit for fish and water quality. They also found dam removal to be cheaper than installing ladders – saving PacifiCorp ratepayers $22 million a year.
Although FERC recommended trap and haul in the report, two days after it was filed a federal Judge ruled against PacifiCorp’s challenges to the feds’ mandate for fish ladders. Most relicensing experts agree that this ruling will likely lead FERC to include the mandate for ladders in the final EIS. Tribes hope that the cost of ladders will motivate PacifiCorp to surrender the dams instead of relicensing them.
“Dam removal is a winner for everyone,” said Hillman. “It would improve the fishery and along with it economies up and down the west coast as well as in the Basin. Secondly, dam removal will save PacifiCorp ratepayers money as we now know it’s the cheapest alternative that PacifiCorp can legally pursue. Finally, dam removal would create thousands of construction and restoration related jobs right here in Siskiyou County.”
Hillman concludes, “The time has come to restore of our most important resource, the Klamath River. We can’t afford to allow PacifiCorp or other dam huggers to stand in the way of economic growth in Siskiyou County,” concludes Hillman.
The Tribe hopes that County leaders will commit to helping develop a follow up study to evaluate impacts on individual property owners and develop mitigation strategies for anyone negatively impacted by dam removal.
Economic Benefits Identified by the Study
• Each fish caught by recreational fishermen is worth $200 to the local economy. If the number of fish caught by anglers were to double, this would be worth over $4.4 million annually to river communities.
• Each dollar spent in the construction industry in California cycles through local economies 2.35 times. This means that if $100 million was spent on dam removal it would provide a $235 million boost to the economy.
• For every $1 million spent in the construction industry in California, 21.5 jobs are created. This means that if $100 was spent on dam removal, 2,150 jobs would be created.
• Doubling the number of fish in the river would create 71 permanent jobs directly related to the fishery; 48 in recreational industry, 24 in commercial industry. Currently PacifiCorp employs only 18 people to operate the dams.
Future studies should address the following:
Impacts on private property owners – Although no thorough analysis has been performed to estimate how dam removal would affect private property owners around Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs, many studies exist that demonstrate a strong positive correlation between water quality and land values.
Mitigation strategies for affected parties – A better understanding of the costs and benefits to affected parties, such as private property owners and county governments is needed. This evaluation should develop potential mitigation strategies for individuals or counties that would experience a net negative economic impact upon dam removal.