Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


'Granddaddy of fish projects'
John Driscoll The Times-Standard 6/30/06
Coastal conservancy sees big role in possible Klamath dam effort

ARCATA -- Members of the California Coastal Conservancy envision the agency playing a key role in decommissioning and removing dams on the Klamath River, an effort whose time they said has come.

”This is the granddaddy of all fisheries restoration projects,” said conservancy Chairman Doug Bosco at a meeting here.

Bosco also voiced hope that dam owner PacifiCorp -- now owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings -- would agree to an arrangement that would make whole its customers and others that see some benefit from the four dams in question. Bosco said that if Buffet can give 85 percent of his estate to charity, as he's recently done, the renowned investor should be willing to play a part in restoring the river's struggling salmon runs.

The conservancy also heard an update on studies now under way to study sediment trapped behind Iron Gate and Copco I dams. Conservancy project manager Michael Bowen passed around a container of muck from Iron Gate Reservoir, material that's being tested for toxins like mercury and cyanide to determine if it's safe to remove the dams.

”I can't vouch for its contents,” Bowen said about the fine, gooey mud. “I hope it's clean.”

There may be as much as 4.8 million cubic yards of sediment trapped behind Iron Gate Dam, and more than 10.3 million cubic yards behind Copco I, the first dam built on the river in 1917. Bowen said there does not seem to have been much historic mining activity in the vicinity of the dams, which could mean that lab tests only find contaminants from upstream agricultural practices.

The dams block salmon at Iron Gate Dam -- 109 miles up the river -- from reaching some 300 miles of spawning grounds. Today, many of those areas would need to be restored to be of value to salmon, but experts estimate that under restored conditions, fish populations could average 149,000 to 438,000. This year, fewer than 30,000 salmon are expected to run upstream, a number too low to allow commercial fishing along 700 miles of the West Coast this year, and which limits tribal and sport fishing.

The PacifiCorp project produces only about 150 megawatts of electricity, and as part of applying for a new 50-year license, may have to provide passage above the dams for salmon. That may cost up to $200 million under demands by the U.S. Interior Department. The company is appealing those demands, proposing instead to trap fish and truck them over the dams.

Settlement negotiations are also ongoing, parallel to the relicensing project.

Conservancy Executive Officer Sam Schuchat said he doesn't believe the dams themselves have a high value, though their removal could be expensive. Estimates have reached about $150 million for such a project.




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

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2005, All Rights Reserved