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Opposition to dam removal voiced
Input given during meeting on Klamath River dams

Klamath dams

Nearly everyone who spoke at a Tuesday California Water Board meeting in Yreka said he or she is against removing four dams from the Klamath River.

The Yreka meeting was the last in a series of four meetings held by the board to provide a forum for the public to air their feelings about how the Klamath River is managed and whether or not the dams — owned PacifiCorp, the parent company of Pacific Power — should be certified by the Clean Water Act and allowed by federal regulation to continue operating for another 50 years.

The other scoping meetings were held in Sacramento, Arcata and Orleans.

More than 100 people attended the Yreka meeting.

According to Parker Thayler, a California Water Board environmental scientist, comments provided at the meeting, and during the current open public comment period, will be used to inform the State Water Board’s actions on the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. After the comment period closes, the board will review information submitted by the public and other sources to draft an environmental impact report. Once the draft is released, another public comment period will open.

According to Thayler, the state will then consider all comments received and issue a final environmental impact report and take an action on the project’s recertification.

Water assumptions

Siskiyou County Supervisor Grace Bennett kicked off the meeting, saying that many people mistakenly believe that if the Klamath River dams are removed, clean, clear, cold water will suddenly appear.

“This is not the case. The water that comes from Oregon to California is a problem. This water is a source of much pollution. Upper Klamath Lake is shallow, warm in the summer, and has many nutrients — phosphorous and organic matter — in it,” she said.

Rex Cozzalio said four generations of his family have lived directly below where Iron Gate Dam now sits. The dam is northeast of Yreka.

“I have personally seen the overwhelming benefits those facilities have provided to our river reach,” Cozzalio said.

Richard Gierak noted that the Klamath River is designated as a recreational river within the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. Gierak said he believes destruction of Iron Gate Dam, or any other Klamath dams, would change the river extensively, directly violating of the federal scenic rivers act.

Thomas Joseph said if the dams can’t comply with federal or state regulation, they need to be removed from the river.

“It’s simple and it’s easy. (The dams) are outdated, they need to be redone or they need to be taken down,” Joseph said.

Robert Davis after he moved to the Yreka area more than 30 years ago he asked longtime residents how Iron Gate Dam was built. 'Dropped to a trickle'  “When I asked how they built the pilings for the dam, they laughed because before the dams, the river dropped to a trickle you could step over,” Davis said.

John Livingston, of Redding, asked the board to set measurable goals for fish management.

“I would encourage the analysis to try to develop some mitigation measures or some parameters that are measurable, instead of everyone saying it worked or it didn’t work,” Livingston said.

Siskiyou County Supervisor Brandon Criss, noted that water from Copco Lake was used to save homes in 2001, when a fire broke out near the lake.

“Do not take this fire protection tool the dams provide,” he said.

$10 billion bond

Mark Baird, vice chair of Scott Valley Protect our Water, said his suggestion is for the parties responsible for dam removal is to establish a $10 billion bond “so the lives and property (ruined) with the removal of these dams can be paid for after the fact.”

“If you’re not going to pay for it, that’s not an experiment we want to come to the conclusion of,” Baird said.

Konrad Fisher, executive director of Klamath Riverkeeper, said he’ll argue that most of the opposition to dam removal is rooted in ideology, not science.

“I live on the Klamath River, and I can assure you that the Clean Water Act beneficial uses are not being protected right now, and have not been protected in recent years,” Fisher said.

Sarah Schaefer, of Yreka, said she supports removing all four dams.

“I don’t see anybody getting rich off these issues. I’ve never heard anybody say ‘I want the dams to come out because I want to get rich,’ ” Schaefer said.

Public comment

Comments must be submitted before 5 p.m., Jan. 29.

Submit written comments to:

California State Water Resources Control Board

Division of Water Rights

Water Quality Certification Program

Attention: Parker Thaler

P.O. Box 2000

Sacramento, CA, 95812-2000

Comment by phone: 916-341-5321

Comment by fax: 916-341-5400

Comment by email: parker.thaler@waterboards.ca.gov

Information about the Klamath Hydroelectric Project certification process is posted on the State Water Board’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project webpage:


Klamath Hydroelectric Project

The Klamath Hydroelectric Project starts in Klamath County and runs through Siskiyou County. According to California Water Board scoping documents, the California portion of the project includes three dams: Iron Gate, Copco 1 and Copco 2, and a small hydroelectric facility on Fall Creek, a tributary to the Klamath River. The Oregon portion includes the J.C. Boyle and Keno dams, and two power generation facilities on the Link River.

The project has a capacity of 169 megawatts, which is less than 2 percent of PacifiCorp’s total power output, documents said.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which issues licenses for construction of new hydropower projects and continued operation of existing projects, is the federal agency with jurisdiction over hydropower licensing. FERC licenses are issued for a term of 30 to 50 years. PacifiCorp’s Klamath license expired in 2006.

Since then, PacifiCorp has operated the Klamath Hydroelectric Project under annual licenses.To continue operating the project, PacifiCorp needs a new license from FERC, documents said.

The California State Water Board certification process is occurring because the Clean Water Act requires, as part of the FERC relicensing process, applicants to prove discharge from a project will be in compliance with state water quality standards.


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