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Stimulus funds flow to Nor Cal rivers

John Driscoll The Times-Standard April 17, 2009

The Klamath and Trinity rivers will get some $8.5 million out of a $260 million federal package meant to help California deal with its water problems during a time of drought.

The funds come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, from which the U.S. Interior Department has pledged to invest $1 billion.

The money for the Trinity River, $4.5 million, will go toward ongoing restoration of the river. Restoration of the river channel can be accelerated with the funds, according to the Interior Department, and provide for a more efficient construction schedule.

The projects on the Trinity River for 2010 include re-contouring flood plains, developing side channels, placement of spawning gravel and planting riparian areas.

Restoration of the river was ordered in a 2001 interior secretary decision, as part of a need to restore salmon and steelhead harmed by a dam and diversion to the Sacramento River. The Trinity River Restoration Project has been working for the past several years toward completing a total of 47 sites slated for construction.

Restoration program Executive Director Mike Hamman said that the stimulus money would be in addition to the average $10.5 million the program receives each year. The $4.5 million will go solely to construction and must be spent by 2011.

That means the four sites targeted will get done much faster than they might have otherwise, Hamman said.

”It allows for additional construction beyond the normal level of funding,” Hamman said.

Another $4 million is going to study sediment behind the Klamath River's dams. The engineering analysis will help determine how much it will cost -- and what are the risks -- of removing the four dams on the Klamath.

An agreement in principle between the Interior Department, dam owner Pacificorp, and the governors of California and Oregon calls for an investigation into the benefits, liabilities, environmental risks and the effects on downstream resources from removing the dams, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

”From boosting water supplies and improving conservation to improving safety at our dams, these shovel-ready projects will make a real and immediate difference in the lives of farmers, businesses, Native American tribes and communities across California,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

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