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Report pushes for dam removal

By STEVE KADEL, Herald and News 3/28/07

The California Energy Commission on Tuesday issued a report saying removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River would save more money than previously thought.

The agency said a new analysis of data shows removing the dams would be $114 million less costly than relicensing the PacifiCorp facilities and installing fish ladders to aid fish passage. That's an additional savings of $13 million from earlier projections, according to the commission.

PacifiCorp response

But PacifiCorp fired back by calling the report “deeply flawed.” Utility spokesman Dave Kvamme said the commission failed to factor in the expense of removing sediment behind the dams when they are taken out.

“Just managing that sediment could cost $1.5 billion to $4.5 billion, depending on what's in those sediments,” Kvamme said. He added the study doesn't consider potential environmental damage downstream that attempting to remove the sediment might cause.

PacifiCorp is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to relicense the hydroelectric dams for up to 50 years. The dams are Iron Gate, Copco 1 and Copco 2 in California and the J.C. Boyle Dam in Oregon.

They block return of salmon along nearly 300 miles of habitat in the Upper Klamath Basin.

Fish ladders

PacifiCorp originally proposed trucking salmon around dams. It recently agreed to install fish ladders. The California Energy Commission believes that would cause needless expense for PacifiCorp's customers.

“PacifiCorp must choose the alternative that makes the most economic sense for its ratepayers,” California Energy Commission commissioner John Geesman said. “Using PacifiCorp's own numbers the new analysis clearly indicates that it is best for the ratepayers that these four dams be removed.”

Building fish ladders would be “complex and expensive,” Geesman said.

However, Kvamme noted the four dams provide energy for 70,000 homes annually. If PacifiCorp had to buy replacement energy, he said, the source might not be as environmentally friendly as the dams.

“We're the ones trying to manage our customers' risks,” he said. “We don't think this study does anything to advance the dialogue.”
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