Owner of Klamath River dams attacks study
PacifiCorp disputes claims
that it would be cheaper to remove the
barriers blocking the migration of
endangered salmon than to keep them.
SACRAMENTO — The power company that owns
four Klamath River dams blocking the
migration of imperiled salmon launched a
counterattack Monday against a recent
government study that declared it cheaper to
remove the structures than to keep them.
Officials at Portland-based PacifiCorp said
the study released by the California Energy
Commission failed to account for certain
unavoidable costs that could dramatically
increase the price of demolition.
Bill Fehrman, president of PacifiCorp
Energy, said the true costs of purchasing
electricity to replace what would be lost if
the dams were removed could cause the price
of decommissioning the dams to skyrocket.
The commission study relied on a financial
model that was "riddled with errors," making
it unreliable, Fehrman said.
"We want good science, and we want good
economic analysis," he said, adding that the
study "is lacking on both counts."
The Klamath, which emerges from the Cascade
Range in Oregon and empties into the Pacific
Ocean north of Eureka, once was the nation's
third-most productive salmon river, with up
to 1.2 million salmon and steelhead trout
joining an epic annual migration to spawn.
Today, the river's coho salmon are on the
endangered species list, and its chinook
salmon have suffered such a steep decline
that the 2006 commercial season was
virtually shut down on the West Coast.
Activists favor decommissioning four
towering hydroelectric dams on the Klamath,
a move that would reopen more than 300 miles
of river that have been blocked to migrating
salmon for more than half a century.
Their position was buoyed by the energy
commission's study, released in December,
which found that decommissioning the dams
could cost $100 million less than operating
them for another generation.
That study concluded that the cost of
demolishing the dams and buying market-rate
electricity to offset the lost hydropower
over the next three decades would be far
less than installing the vast infrastructure
and making the improvements needed for the
dams to win license renewal.
But PacifiCorp executives say that finding
was based on faulty assumptions used to
evaluate future energy costs.
Citing a study by Christensen Associates
Energy Consulting LLC, the company said the
commission's review was marred by errors and
inconsistencies in the pricing of
replacement power, failure to include future
carbon emission taxes as part of
replacement-energy costs and an
inappropriate discount rate for financing.
"Removal of a project the size of Klamath
would be unprecedented in North America and,
to our knowledge, in the world," Fehrman
said. "This is complex. It's not a simple
matter of removing some concrete slabs."
Susanne Garfield, a spokeswoman for the
California Energy Commission, said officials
at that agency had just begun reviewing
"I'm sure this won't be the end of it,"
Garfield said, given that negotiations over
the fate of the dams are continuing with
Indian tribes, fishermen and