Dam removal draws concern
It’s too early to consider removing four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River as a way to rectify water allocations issues along the troubled watershed, PacifiCorp officials say.
Removal of the four dams is a likely recommendation from a stakeholders group that has met for three years over ways to distribute water equitably. No one in the group conf irmed or denied dam removal, but a final report is expected soon.
Toby Freeman of Pacifi-Corp said Tuesday that more scientific study is needed before the environmental effects and cost of dam removal are known.
However, Karuk Tribe of California spokesman Craig Tucker said such scientific study would be required by the National Environmental Policy Act prior to dam removal, should the stakeholders group recommend that route. The tribe supports dam removal to re-establish salmon runs.
Tucker said he believes PacifiCorp is describing “an environmental catastrophe scenario” to stall for time and preserve the status quo.
Jon Hicks of the Bureau of Reclamation and Greg Addington of the Klamath Water Users Association, both members of the water settlement group, were unavailable for comment Tuesday.
The Herald and News will follow up with them and/or other members of the settlement group in coming days.
“Dam removal is being characterized as a silver bullet,” Freeman said, but he warned that removing dams without supporting scientific research would be dangerous.
For example, Freeman said, the effects on fish and habitat of releasing massive amounts of sediment from behind the dams is unknown. That sediment — estimated at 20,000 cubic yards — is equal to 2 million 18-wheel dump trucks filled with mud, he said.
Replacing lost power
Freeman also emphasized the need to replace lost electrical power should the dams be dismantled. PacifiCorp’s customers should not have to pay that price, he said.
Tucker said, however, that the true environmental damage occurs from toxic blue-green algae that collects behind the dams — a situation that would be alleviated by removal.
Tucker also said the dams wouldn’t be taken out until at least 2015. In the meantime, he said, the scientific studies that Freeman and others want would proceed under federal requirements.
“We would have to do a full environmental review,” Tucker said. “There will be a lot of science that goes into that.”
He added that the California Coastal Commission has taken core samples of the sediment and found no toxic substances. Also, Tucker said, greater amounts of sediment sliced off mountainsides and into the Klamath River during a 1990s mudslide with no adverse effects.
“The river f lushed it out,” he said. “The river deals with these kinds of sediment loads.”