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PacifiCorp offers alternative salmon plan Klamath River - The utility proposes caution and trucking until runs are re-established
April 29, 2006 JEFF BARNARD

    PacifiCorp proposed Friday that it use a less expensive system of trucks and traps to haul salmon around dams on the Klamath River rather than spend $200 million to build fish ladders and screen turbines -- at least until it sees whether the fish can survive in waters they haven't inhabited in nearly a century.
   
The filing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., was in response to the suggestion last month from federal agencies that the Portland-based utility build miles of fish ladders and install turbine screens to restore salmon to 300 miles of spawning habitat blocked by the dams since 1918.

AP photo: PacifiCorp told the federal government Friday April 28, 2006, it would rather use a less expensive system of trucks and traps to haul salmon around dams on the Klamath River, including this J.C. Boyle dam in Klamath Falls, than spend $200 million to build fish ladders and turbine screens.

PacifiCorp, which serves 1.6 million customers in Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, is seeking a new federal license to operate a series of dams on the Klamath River in Oregon and California.

Failing returns of wild fall chinook on the Klamath have led to the near-shutdown of 700 miles of California and Oregon coastline to commercial salmon fishing.

"PacifiCorp is concerned about native fish populations in the Klamath River Basin," Bill Fehrman, PacifiCorp Energy president, said in a statement from Portland. "However, the company also is a regulated utility whose business is to safely and reliably generate and deliver electric power to its customers at a reasonable cost."

PacifiCorp, owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings of Des Moines, Iowa, offered no estimate of the cost of a trap-and-haul system. It said it wanted to use a "science-based" approach and work with interest groups that include Indian tribes, farmers, salmon fishermen and conservation groups to work out details.

"Our proposal doesn't envision fish ladders and screens at our dams," PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme said. "However, through the settlement process, we are open to a range of outcomes. As fish ladders and screens make sense, we would support their construction."

Changes to federal energy law last year gave utilities such as PacifiCorp the power to appeal the agencies' prescriptions for fish and propose cheaper alternatives.

"PacifiCorps Klamath dams are poor producers of electricity, provide little flood control and do not divert water for agriculture or drinking," said Leaf Hillman, vice chairman of the Karuk tribe in Orleans, Calif. "All they do well is kill fish and breed toxic blue-green algae. They must be removed."

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