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Siskiyou supervisors continue dam removal funding fight


The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to continue its opposition to a proposal related to funding for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River.

The removal of the dams is the core component of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, a multi-party agreement that sets forth a path toward the removal of J.C. Boyle, Iron Gate, Copco 1, and Copco 2 dams.

As part of the agreement, PacifiCorp — which owns the dams — requested the California Public Utilities Commission approve a surcharge on its customers’ bills to provide funding in the event the dams are removed.

Specifically, PacifiCorp’s customers are expected to pay a total of $13.76 million over a nine-year period that started in 2011, which is the year the PUC approved PacifiCorp’s request. The company’s Oregon ratepayers are responsible for the remainder of the $200 million contribution to the dam removal funds to which PacifiCorp committed itself.

In August of last year, the company submitted a petition to modify its previous petition, asking the PUC to make certain changes related to the language of the original request and to change how the funds will be disbursed. Two administrative law judges — Sophia Park and Sasha Goldberg — were tasked with reviewing the new petition and submitting a proposed decision to be approved by the PUC.

One set of changes reflects amendments to the KHSA itself. The agreement originally called for congressional approvals as part of the dam removal process, but after such legislation failed to pass, the KHSA was amended to instead rely on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s dam license transfer and decommissioning process.

The petition references congressional approvals, so PacifiCorp requested that the language be altered to reflect the new process. The judges’ proposed decision calls for approval of that request.

The second part of the request was to allow the PUC’s executive director to enter into a contract with the Klamath River Renewal Corporation — the nonprofit entity expected to take ownership of the dams during their removal — in order to distribute funds collected through the ratepayer surcharge.

The judges deny that request in their order, instead suggesting that the PUC itself be in charge of approving any such contract in order to provide more oversight.

The proposed order references opposition arguments submitted by Siskiyou County and the Siskiyou County Water Users Association. The county has argued that the removal of the dams – which has not yet been approved by FERC – is still speculative, and that there is uncertainty about whether or not the funds raised will be sufficient for the whole project. SCWUA argued that the modifications would not provide the same level of oversight provided in the original KHSA.

The proposed decision notes that the judges do not agree with Siskiyou County’s assertion, stating, “none of the modifications we adopt today eliminate the need for PacifiCorp or KRRC as the dam-removal entity to obtain the necessary permits and approvals,” and goes on to note that KRRC must provide proof of permits and approvals in order to receive funds from the surcharge trust funds.

The judges’ proposed decision does not take effect unless approved by the PUC, and the county is planning to continue submitting arguments in opposition, according to interim County Counsel Natalie Reed.

District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff, calling the decision “a form of tyranny,” expressed frustration with the administrative hearing process – which he said took over a year and did not allow for public comment.

After a brief discussion from the board, a unanimous vote was taken to have the board chair and vice chair meet with Reed to craft another opposition letter to be sent to the PUC. The The deadline to submit the letter was Monday, according to agenda documents.



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