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Dam removal across the West a growing concern

Herald and News by Stephen Floyd 12/4/16

Tom Mallams

Local commissioners are drafting a letter in opposition to the potential removal of dams within the Columbia River Basin following their own frustrations with Klamath River dam removal.

During a liaison meeting Tuesday, Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams proposed sending a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration in general opposition to dam removal.

The letter’s intended recipients have been gathering public input since Sept. 30 for an environmental impact study affecting 14 dams and related facilities in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Mallams said he predicted the removal of these larger dams when discussions began years ago to remove four dams along the Klamath River, which he said at the time was dismissed by his critics as unlikely.

12/4/16: Commissioner Mallams sent this CORRECTION to Herald and News and KBC News: "I did not predict that the actual removal of the Columbia and Snake River Dams would ever go forward. I only acknowledged that within the KBRA closed door meetings, the dam removal conversations did not focus only on the 4 lower dams on the Klamath River. The conversations widened periodically  to include the need for the Keno Dam to be removed. And then expand dam removal even farther to include the Columbia and Snake River Dams. My prediction was that all these other dams, including the Keno dam, Columbia and Snake River dams,  would be the next targets if the Klamath Dam removal effort actually started moving ahead."

“I was called — blatantly called — a liar,” he said, “...I don’t get any satisfaction in saying I told you so.”

Talks to remove the local dams became part of settlement negotiations after the 2001 Klamath Basin water crisis and details of dam removal were eventually included in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA).

Efforts to re-evaluate the Columbia River dams began following a federal court ruling in May in favor of environmentalists, the State of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe mandating revisions to federal fish-protection plans by March of 2018, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Mallams said those opposed to dam removal after 2001 were excluded from negotiating the KBRA and KHSA agreements and said he is concerned similar closed-door meetings will determine the fate of dams up north.

He said critics of dam removal saw the Klamath River as a “stepping stone” to the removal of larger dams and current talks are evidence of this.

“This is where it’s been heading for years,” he said. “The environmentalists are very passionate about this and they’re very comfortable doing it in slow steps.”

Mallams said he plans to attend a meeting about Columbia River dam removal Tuesday in The Dalles and asked fellow commissioners to approve a letter in general opposition to the proposal that he may present to those taking public comment.

Commissioner Jim Bellet said he would be in favor of signing the letter and acknowledged there are multiple facets to the arguments surrounding dam removal.

“It’s something that has been discussed for a long period of time,” he said.

Bellet said it is “just unbelievable” to think about dams being removed in the Columbia River given how significantly they impact power and irrigation throughout the Northwest.

Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris said she would like more time to research the issue as she had not been aware of the new potential dam removals before their meeting. She said she is also unsure if Klamath County should take a position on an issue that may not directly impact the local area.

“I know we sometimes jump into issues in other counties but I just don’t know how excited I am about jumping into another county’s issue,” she said.

Minty Morris added she intended to speak with commissioners in Wasco County, which contains one of the dams in the environmental study.

Mallams said the local impact would be strong if dams were removed on the Columbia and Snake rivers. He said most of the electric power in Klamath County comes from such dams and their removal would have a “huge, huge impact” on the area.

“How do you replace that much power?” he said. “You can’t do that with solar and wind and (Oregon) won’t let you do coal.”

Public comment on the matter is being accepted through Jan. 17, 2017, and can be submitted to comment@crso.info or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn: RSCO EIS, PO Box 2870, Portland, OR 97208. Two webinars are also planned for Dec. 13 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 3 to 4:30 p.m. through www.crso.info.


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