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FERC dam relicensing on the Klamath,

by Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong 11/24/06

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held two hearings in Yreka last week to gather comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on re-licensing of the operation of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. Three of these dams Iron Gate, Copco I and Copco II are located in Siskiyou County. J.C. Boyle lies above Copco 1 in Southern Oregon

My comments were made at the hearing held in the morning. Most were in response to the proposal advanced by Indian tribes, environmentalists, fishermen and some Upper Klamath Basin farmers in favor of dam removal:  

Because of the dams, the public benefits from the production of 151 megawatts (mw) of clean electricity, especially the production from operations that provide energy during periods of peak load demand.  The project also does supply some flood control benefits that can be critical to residents downstream of Iron Gate Dam.

There are proposed license conditions to mitigate (compensate) for the effects of the hydro-project that will increase fish spawning and rearing habitat, enhance wildlife habitat, support recreational opportunities, and protect the quality of the environment. The Staff Alternative proposal allows for the public benefit that derives from power generation, while complying with requirements of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect and enhance the Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs) associated with the designated river segment below the JC Boyle powerhouse in Oregon and the eligible segment continuing from the California border down to Copco Reservoir. This area is known for its Class IV+ whitewater boating and trout fly-fishing.

There are many negative impacts of dam removal. Among them are:

More than 20 million cu. yds. of fine sediment exist above the dams that would be mobilized down river to cement-in spawning beds, destroy populations of invertebrates and smother salmon eggs. This would likely have significant, irreversible, and irretrievable effects on fish, prey species, invertebrates, and other elements of the river ecosystem immediately upon dam breaching and for decades following.

Approximately 1,500 privately owned parcels could suffer depreciation in value due to: loss of shorefront property; loss of water access; loss of lake views; loss of recreational opportunity; impacts of the deconstruction process; and impacts of muck and mire until the area is rehabed and revegetated. There would also be a substantial loss of tax revenue to Siskiyou County and California for the facilities and any diminishment of property values.

Siskiyou County also sent letters to the Governors of California and Oregon and our legislators. The County continues to oppose dam removal, although it does not oppose activities that seek to introduce anadromous fish (salmon and steelhead) above the dams.  In fact, the Board of Supervisors supports fish ladders as a win/win solution. The County believes that all reasonable options to reintroduce fish, (short of dam removal,) should be fully explored before the option of dam removal is pursued. However, if FERC considers dam removal, funds should be made available to finance a robust dam removal impact assessment study prior to any decisions being made. Any decision to remove or decommission dams should ensure that all the impacts to the interests of the County and its constituents, not just the interests of the proponents of dam removal are identified and fully funded and satisfied prior to removal.

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