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Both sides represented at Klamath Dams removal meeting

Siskiyou Daily News by Danielle Jester / djester@siskiyoudaily.com  Feb 7, 2019 

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoorWhile most public meetings held in Siskiyou County regarding the Klamath dams garner comments that are overwhelmingly against dam removal, the opinions expressed at a dams meeting on Tuesday evening were considerably more balanced on either side of the scale.

While most public meetings held in Siskiyou County regarding the Klamath dams garner comments that are overwhelmingly against dam removal, the opinions expressed at a dams meeting on Tuesday evening were considerably more balanced on either side of the scale. The meeting, held by the California State Water Resources Control Board, provided a brief overview of the agency’s recently-released Draft Environmental Impact Report on the dams, but the majority of the three-hour long gathering was devoted to oral comments from the public on the Draft EIR.

Brandon Criss, chair of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, was the first to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. Speaking on behalf of the board, Criss took issue with some of the methods used in the Draft EIR. He claimed that the document relies on “future surveys, which hinder accurate impact determinations.” He further alleged that much of the data used to support the DEIR’s conclusions “is decades old.”

District 4 Supervisor Lisa Nixon followed Criss and stated that she was speaking as a private citizen and an individual member of the board of supervisors. She alluded to the “recommended mitigation measures” set forth in the Draft EIR to combat the effects of dam removal. ”‘Recommended’ is not good enough for me,” she told the water board staff, adding, “We need certainty, and we need [mitigation] measures to be enforceable.”

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, shoes and outdoorMultiple politicians from outside the area made an appearance to provide comments, including Bruce Ross, district director for Assemblyman Brian Dahle. Ross called the Draft EIR an “unfinished document” and criticized the water board’s process for compiling the document.

California State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley – who represents the sixth district and is also seeking election to Senate District 1 – elicited a loud round of applause from the audience when he pledged, “I’ll be fighting to be sure the fate of the [Lower Klamath] Project is left up to the citizens of Siskiyou County.” Kiley also accused the water board of using the public comment period as a “statutory box to check” rather than a time to listen and learn from citizens.

Numerous residents of Orleans, California – which lies further south on the Klamath River from Siskiyou County – came to voice their support for dam removal. Nearly all of the Orleans residents who spoke were tribal members.

The importance of a robust fish population and a healthy Klamath River to Native American culture was emphasized repeatedly, with many commenters alleging that removal of the dams will lead to greatly increased numbers of fish.

Thomas Joseph, an Orleans resident who identified himself as a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, said that he had observed Yreka citizens cultivating a “hostile environment” surrounding the dams, with little tolerance for people supporting dam removal.

He called out some of the meeting’s previous commenters who had exceeded their three-minute time limit, saying that their intention was to leave less time for dam removal supporters to share their thoughts. Joseph also charged, “Yreka citizens don’t give a rat’s ass about people downriver.”

While dam removal supporters came out in particularly high numbers for a Siskiyou County meeting, there were still plenty of citizens who spoke firmly in favor of keeping the dams intact. Siskiyou County Water Users Association President Richard Marshall, Don and Sheila Meamber, James Corcoran, Chrissie Reynolds, Ryck Kramer, and Rex Cozzalio were just some of the locals who touted the benefits of the dams.

Weed resident Donald Macintosh, who noted his former decades-long career in power generation, stated, “This is a sick thing, to take out these dams,” adding that to remove the facilities would be “electrically wrong.” He told the water board representatives that “electrical damage” caused by removing the dams should be included in the Draft EIR.

Siskiyou County Treasurer-Tax Collector Wayne Hammar framed the dams issue from a financial standpoint. He informed the water board and audience that PacifiCorp – the Pacific Power parent company that currently holds the license for the dams ­– is the “largest single taxpayer in Siskiyou County,” responsible for $2 million in tax revenues coming into the county each year. The majority of that amount is used to fund public schools, Hammar said. “What are the estimates on those property tax losses?” he asked.

Further public hearings will be held in Orleans and Sacramento on Feb. 7 and 15, respectively. Comments can be submitted on the Draft EIR through Feb. 26 at noon. The water board will review all comments received and then prepare a final report, which is expected to be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this summer.



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