Klamath dams targeted
Herald and News 1/18/07
GRANTS PASS (AP) — Conservationists are increasing pressure on PacifiCorp to remove hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River to help struggling salmon runs, warning they will sue to stop pollution from a fish hatchery the utility owns.
Klamath Riverkeeper, an affiliate of the Waterkeeper Alliance headed by Robert Kennedy Jr., has sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue under the Clean Water Act to PacifiCorp and the California Department of Fish & Game. The utility owns the hatchery at Iron Gate Dam in Holbrook, Calif., and the department operates it. Both would be defendants.
The aim of a suit would be to make PacifiCorp pay to upgrade the hatchery, taking on the environmental and social costs of the pollution, rather than imposing them on the salmon and people downstream, said attorney Daniel Cooper, who represents Klamath Riverkeeper. Any increase in the cost of operating the dams makes it more attractive for PacifiCorp to agree to take them out, Cooper said.
‘‘This is a first salvo to try to make the hatchery reflect the real costs,’’ said Cooper. ‘‘We will also be petitioning the regional and state boards that issue state pollution permits to the dams, because the dams are discharging pollutants into river. The permits have minimum requirements which the dams will be very hard pressed to meet.’’
Klamath Riverkeeper Regina Chichizola said the hatchery regularly discharges fish parts and excrement that exceed Clean Water Act limits, and regularly fails to report the discharges.
No comment from PacifiCorp
Spokesmen for the company and the department said the notice hadn’t been received, and had no comment.
PacifiCorp is based in Portland and serves 1.6 million customers in six western states. It is seeking a new operating license for the Iron Gate, J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1 and Copco No. 2 dams, which produce about 150 megawatts of power, enough to serve 70,000 customers.
The first of the dams went in nearly a century ago, and they now block about 250 miles of salmon spawning habitat. A coalition of conservation groups, Indian tribes and commercial salmon fishermen is trying to convince PacifiCorp to remove the dams rather than seek a new license.
After a collapse of wild salmon returns to the Klamath triggered drastic cutbacks in commercial salmon fishing off Oregon and California last summer, the governors of the two states called a summit to consider removing the dams. It was originally scheduled for December, but has been delayed over efforts to work out agreements among the various parties.
Cooper said the Clean Water Act provides for fines of up to $32,500 a day, but Klamath Riverkeeper would rather settle and see any money go into Klamath River restoration rather than the federal treasury.