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PacifiCorp won't buy activists' studies favoring dam removal


Published July 21, 2004


Studies commissioned by environmental organizations indicate removal of dams on the Klamath River would be cost effective and environmentally friendly, the groups announced Tuesday.

"The Klamath dams are pretty old and these studies suggest that they may not produce enough juice to pay off the investment that will be necessary to secure a new license," said Steve Rothert of American Rivers in a press release.

PacifiCorp officials say removing the dams wouldn't save the company money, and it might not benefit fish.

In the application for a 50-year renewal of its license to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, filed in February, PacifiCorp didn't address dam removal, but it did evaluate what it would take for salmon and other fish to get around the dams, using chutes, ladders and trucks.

The company found that putting in fish passage would cost about $100 million and it would be unknown if it would have any benefits, said Toby Freeman, PacifiCorp hydro relicensing manager.

"It's not about whether you can design a ladder to physically go over the dams. It's about the habitat and biology," he said.

He said removing the dams would give the fish access to habitat that might not be able to support them.

The company operates five dams on the Klamath River, producing up to 151 megawatts of power.

American Rivers, a nationwide non-profit conservation group, along with California Trout, Trout Unlimited and the World Wildlife Fund, issued three reports about the possibilities of removing some or all of the Klamath River dams. The cost of removing all the dams was pegged at $40 million.

The groups plan to submit the reports to FERC to review as part of the relicensing process.

"Our goal is the recovery of native fish populations in the Klamath River Basin," said Brian Barr of World Wildlife Fund in a press release.

"One cornerstone for reaching this goal is the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead to the 350 miles of habitat blocked by PacifiCorp's dams."

Freeman said FERC is probably going to ask PacifiCorp to look into dam removal as a possibility, and the company will probably do a study.

Last fall, a National Research Council committee reporting on the status of endangered fish in the Klamath Basin recommended that dam removal be studied.

The conservation groups aren't the only ones interested in the effect of the dams on salmon.

In May, the Klamath Tribes filed a $1 billion claim for lost salmon against PacifiCorp in federal court.

"We are taking this lawsuit very seriously," Freeman said.

Currently, a contingent of representatives from the Tribes, along with representatives from three downstream tribes, a conservation group and a commercial fisherman group, are in Scotland to attend the annual stockholders' meeting for Scottish Power, PacifiCorp's parent company.

Although the groups are free to do what they want and talk to whom they want, the people they need to be talking with are the ones from PacifiCorp involved with the relicensing and the FERC officials, said Jon Coney, PacifiCorp spokesman.

"The substantive, productive negotiations are over here," he said.

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