|| August 15, 2006, Commentary by Bill
Kennedy, Klamath Basin farmer. for The Herald and News
FOLLOWED BY: Seize the
moment to make progress on the Klamath
Herald and News editor Pat
Bushey has touched on several thoughts regarding
the intentional dismantling of the power
infrastructure on the Klamath River. Seize
the moment to make progress on the Klamath
(August 13, 2006).
The debate has been boiled down to a simple dams
or salmon. This sounds a lot like fish or farmers.
Some of the dams have been in the river for about
100 years, not a very long time.
Today the hydro portion from the Klamath dams seems
small at 150 Megawatts. The natural gas fired plant
the city of Klamath Falls is trying to operate is
almost five times this size. If the hydro portion of
Pacific Corp’s power portfolio is gone, it will be
replaced with natural gas fired plants. This would
quickly complement its large dependence on
While we are seeing an advocacy to dismantle four
big dams on the Klamath, we are looking ahead to
more gas-fired plants in Oregon. They cannot be
built in California because of environmental
Dismantling our power capacity on the Klamath River
is one symptom of a very serious problem we are
starting to recognize in this nation. We have
ignored the basic needs of maintaining our
infrastructures. We have dike failure in Louisiana,
California and Oregon. Our power production is
dependent on imported oil and gas. Our power grid
cannot feed hungry air conditioners in Sacramento.
As you read this opinion, the demand for water in
the western United States, including Klamath Lake,
I believe we can have modern hydropower with
effective fish passage and modern hatchery
management. We can have vibrant fisheries up and
down the Pacific coast. Renewable power can
A few people in our nation are willing to see our
roads, schools, reservoirs and our power production
crumble from lack of maintenance and lack of
planning for the future. In the case of the four big
dams on the Klamath River, we see advocacy to
deliberately dismantle our power production
At the fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City last
March one concern was that a majority of Africans
lack regular electricity, preventing them from
operating pumps to extract water from wells. Some at
the Forum pointed out that hydroelectricity could
"Investment in hydroelectric infrastructure is not a
choice anymore for Africa, it is a must," Jamal
Shagir, the World Bank's director of water and
energy, said in a report
While we are talking about removing hydroelectric
capacity that is directly linked to the development
of our irrigated crop production, the World Bank
recognizes the importance of hydroelectricity to
bring people out of poverty and away from dependence
on other nations.
While we continue to see our infrastructure of
irrigated agriculture ignored and dismantled, third
world nations in Africa, the Americas and Asia are
trying to build what we have had for over 100 years.
Are we willing to move towards an insecure poverty
or do we value the importance of hydroelectricy on
the Klamath River? Do we want to import our food
fiber and power or de we believe in the security of
domestic capacity and capability?
Somewhere, perhaps in Klamath County, we need to set
a floor on the loss of our irrigated acres. We need
to recognize the value of our irrigated acres for
its production of food, fiber, and energy. Our
economy and the wildlife we enjoy depend upon this
production. Our appealing open space and our social
values, quality of life, are threatened by the
continued loss of irrigated agriculture.
We must decide to maintain what we have. We must
plan for growth. We need to develop new water and
power supplies in our nation.
We cannot continue to be held hostage by unrealistic
demands disguised by nations that are part of our
community. The reality check is that our western
United States continues to grow. Without careful
planning that maintains our infrastructure and
develops for our future needs, we will be on a fast
track to poverty. This is the ultimate threat to our
environment and wildlife.
William D. Kennedy
Klamath Basin farmer
Seize the moment to make
progress on the Klamath
August 13, 2006
Climate looks right for
It's hard to say where discussions over the future
of the Klamath River dams go from here, but there is
much more of an open-mindedness on the subject than
has been present in the recent past.
Movement is welcome, especially if changes result
that improve the river's health, regardless of
whether those changes include dam removal.
The dams - Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, and Copco 1 and 2
- generate about 150 megawatts of power and
represent 1.7 percent of PacifiCorp's total output.
The utility, owned by MidAmerica Energy Holdings
Co., serves 1.6 million customers in six states.
They're located near the Oregon-California border
between Ashland and Yreka.
At issue is the license renewal for the dams as they
near the end of the original licenses' 50- year run,
though they can be extended on a year-to-year basis.
Indian tribes along the river have launched a
campaign to get the dams removed to re-establish
upper Klamath Basin spawning grounds for salmon, and
improve the river's health. Poor runs of Klamath
River salmon from the river led to closure of about
700 miles of Oregon and California coastal areas to
commercial fishing this year.
In addition, the Karuk Tribe on the California
stretch of the river reports that high levels of
toxins have developed in the reservoirs be-hind the
dams, leading the tribe to call for the reservoirs'
closure to the public.
“Now we know that these dams are not only hazardous
to fish, they're hazardous to people as well,”
according to Karuk Vice Chairman Leaf Hillman.
“These dams create horrific water quality problems.
We expect this will make it difficult for PacifiCorp
to get a clean water permit from the state of
A number of things have happened recently to change
the atmosphere around the dam-removal issue.
PacifiCorp was sold by ScottishPower to MidAmerica.
Tribes said the attitude switched when that
happened, though PacifiCorp Energy - the subsidiary
of PacifiCorp that is handling the relicensing
process - said it didn't.
PacifiCorp Energy's president, Bill Fehrman, said
this week, “We are not opposed to dam removal or
other settlement opportunities as long as our
customers are not harmed and our property rights
Craig Tucker, who is in charge of the Karuk Tribe's
dam removal efforts, said “Certainly when we first
started, they said there was no way they were going
to consider dam removal. This is the first time
they've released a media statement with us, saying,
‘Dam removal is OK by us.' They just don't want to
stick it to ratepayers.”
That doesn't mean it'll happen
Fehrman's statement undoubtedly is being parsed by
everyone who has an interest in the situation, and
many people do. Clearly, though, it's not the same
as saying the dams were going to get pulled out.
Something else has happened in the past few years
that may be smoothing the way toward solution of at
least some of the Klamath's problems.
Resource users at both ends of the river - farmers
and ranchers in the upper Basin, tribes along the
river's length, and ocean-going fishermen - have
managed to reduce the acrimony and finger-pointing.
They understand each other's problems better, and
they deserve credit for their efforts.
They are lots of interests to be considered.
PacifiCorp doesn't want to increase rates because of
dam removal. Presumably, the company's shareholders
also have to be considered.
Irrigators and others in the upper Basin want to
come out of the licensing process with dependable
and affordable power. They also need a reliable
water supply and not to have the Klamath Reclamation
Project become embroiled in another dispute over
water needs for salmon entering the upper Basin.
Tribes want adequate water for fish species all
through the river, and some of those species carry
the extra weight of being protected by the
Endangered Species Act.
But the climate seems right for major changes - far
more so than they were a few years ago. Those at the
bargaining table should seize the moment, and the
Oregon and California governors should lend an
Pat Bushey wrote today's editorial, which represents
the view of the Herald and News editorial board. Its
Publisher Heidi Wright.
Editor Steve Miller.
Day Editor Marcia McGonigle.
Opinion Editor Pat Bushey.