PacifiCorp: Dams could go
AP photo/The Oregonian, Steven Nehl
Jamila Baldwin, front left, Jose Marquez, 3,
center, and Rebbecca Kirk, all from Portland,
march during a rally Wednesday in Portland,
calling for the removal of PacifiCorp's Klamath
River dams to help restore salmon runs.
August 3, 2006
GRANTS PASS (AP) - The new president of
PacifiCorp's power generating division says the
utility could agree to removing five dams from the
Klamath River to help restore salmon if customers
don't have to pay more for electricity. ‘‘We have
heard the tribes' concerns,'' PacifiCorp Energy
President Bill Fehrman said in a statement posted
Wednesday on the utility's Web site. ‘‘We are not
opposed to dam removal or other settlement
opportunities as long as our customers are not
harmed and our property rights are respected.''
The company said the statement reflected its
position all along in talks over a new 50-year
license to operate the dams, but Indian tribes
characterized it as an encouraging move toward
restoring salmon to 350 miles of rivers blocked by
the dams for nearly 100 years. ‘‘The company is
behaving differently under the new management,''
Craig Tucker, coordinator of the dam removal
campaign for the Karuk Tribe, said from Portland.
‘‘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 (their)
PacifiCorp posted the statement at the request of
the Yurok, Karuk, Klamath and other tribes, in
conjunction with the rally they were holding in
Portland to bring attention to their campaign to
remove the dams.
‘‘By working with us on this visionary restoration
effort, PacifiCorp could become a model for
corporate responsibility,'' Allen Foreman, chairman
of the Klamath Tribes, said. The tribes will be
looking to the states of Oregon and California to
develop a package of grants and tax incentives to
help PacifiCorp remove the dams, Tucker said.
The cost of that package will become more clear as
the relicensing process continues and PacifiCorp
sees what it will have to spend to continue
operating the dams, he added.
PacifiCorp created PacifiCorp Energy and hired
Fehrman from a Nebraska power cooperative as part of
a reorganization after being taken over this year by
MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., based in Des
Moines, Iowa, and controlled by billionaire Warren
Fehrman has taken an active role in settlement
talks, and spoken with tribal leaders, since
becoming president, said company spokesman Dave
‘‘We would far prefer reaching a settlement
agreeable to all parties than to work through the
standard licensing process to its conclusion because
we think there's more room for a creative outcome
through settlement than there is through standard
licensing process,'' Kvamme said.
Once the third-largest producer of salmon on the
West Coast, the Klamath River has produced only a
fraction of its historic runs since the five dams -
the Keno, J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and 2, and Iron Gate -
were built between 1917 and 1962.
Spring chinook are a remnant of former runs. Fall
chinook are struggling. And coho salmon are listed
as a threatened species. To protect the Klamath's
struggling fall runs of wild chinook, federal
fisheries managers this year cut off most of the
commercial salmon fishing along 700 miles of the
California and Oregon coastline. The Bush
administration is considering an economic disaster
declaration to make possible millions of dollars in
aid for salmon fishermen.
The dams produce about 150 megawatts, enough to
power about 75,000 homes in California. The power
represents 1.7 percent of PacifiCorp's total output
for 1.6 million customers in six Western states.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected
to issue an environmental impact statement later
this year on PacifiCorp's application for a new
license to operate the dams. As part of the
licensing process, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service has said it wants to see fish ladders built
over all the dams and fish screens installed on the
turbines so salmon can return to the upper Klamath
Basin. In the past that would have been mandatory,
but changes this year to federal energy law give
PacifiCorp a chance to challenge it. An
administrative law judge will hear the case starting
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