Stakeholders ask for Klamath talk delay
Dams subject of closed-door talks
Klamath River settlement that might back
removal of hydroelectric dams is so close that
a planned December "Klamath Summit" has been
put off, at least until January.
The meeting, sponsored by Oregon Gov. Ted
Kulongoski and California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, was planned the week of Dec.
11 in Klamath Falls, Ore. When it will happen
apparently hinges on stakeholder talks - going
on without the dam's owner at the table - set
"A number of parties are getting down to brass
tacks on some crucial issues," said Suzanne
Knapp, a natural resource adviser to
Kulongoski. Knapp represents Oregon in the new
round of settlement talks that grew out of
PacifiCorp Energy's earlier attempt to resolve
terms for renewal of a Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission Klamath hydroelectric
She, like others in the current round of
negotiations, won't speak specifics. But her
boss, Mike Carrier, told the Associated Press
last week that parties hope the federal
government will pick up most of the cost.
Three dams in far Northern California plus the
J.C. Boyle Power Plant just north of the
stateline in Oregon are subject of the
closed-door talks. There's a regulating dam
above Boyle and two small powerplants near
Klamath Falls that PacifiCorp wants to drop
from a renewed license.
Carrier said U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk
Kempthorne asked that "solutions" be presented
at a summit so he might return to Washington,
D.C., with a package of items for federal
funding. American Indian tribes with treaty
rights to Klamath salmon lead stakeholders
that want dam removal rather than relicensing.
Klamath salmon runs have been blocked for 90
years by the complex of hydroelectric dams
about 180 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.
Fish numbers dropped dramatically over that
time, and Endangered Species Act protection
triggered conflict over diversion of
irrigation water to upper basin farmers.
FERC this week wrapped up a round of public
hearings on the draft environmental impact
statement for a new license. The commission
staff favors keeping the dams, but opening the
upper river to salmon by trucking them around
the lower dams.
"These are not the old settlement talks that
have been going on for 2 1/2 years," said Dave
Kvamme, a PacifiCorp spokesman. "All the
parties have been there, but not us; this is
among the stakeholders."
Kvamme said the talks that evolved this fall
are "a political process" that reach beyond
the portion of the Klamath used by the
"We welcome participation by political
leadership in this. It's no secret there are a
wide diversity of views in the basin," he
The power company opened the door this summer,
shortly after MidAmerica Energy Holdings Corp.
took over ownership of PacifiCorp from
Scottish Power. PacifiCorp's new president,
Bill Fehrman, responded to an August rally by
tribal members at the company headquarters in
Portland by saying, "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."
In another shift at the top, Fehrman took
personal charge of settling the Klamath
license. Toby Freeman, who managed all of
PacifiCorp's FERC relicensing, left the job
this fall to transfer to Klamath Falls, where
he became highly visible as the PacifiCorp
regional customer service representative.
Siskiyou County, where the three Northern
California dams are located, continues to
support relicensing. Marcia Armstrong,
chairman of the Siskiyou Board of Supervisors,
last week filed an official statement with
FERC supporting the staff alternative. County
officials note that several hundred thousand
dollars a year in property tax payments and
many local jobs come from the hydroplants and
a fish hatchery at Iron Gate Dam.
"This is not just fish, it impacts other
industries; we need to all get on the same
side of the rope and pull," said Armstrong in
a November speech at the annual Klamath
Glenn Briggs, who lives in Seiad Valley about
60 miles downstream from Iron Gate, said dam
removal is a last resort. He argues that
low-cost hydroelectric power, control of river
flows and other factors are significant, and
that fixing fish passage and getting cool
water downstream will go a long way toward
helping dwindling natural salmon runs. Briggs
is part of a Save Our Dams group formed
earlier this year. He has a major point of
agreement with direction emerging from the
latest settlement talks.
"The burden of doing all the investment should
not be dumped on the power company. They
should be contributed by the agencies
interested in (restoring) fish runs," Briggs
said last month.
The Associated Press contributed to this
report. Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore.
His e-mail address is email@example.com.