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1/18/05 Tam Moore, Capital Press  
Federal grant aims to clean up Klamath

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investing in a cleaner Klamath River, and both the EPA and PacifiCorp, owner of hydroelectric dams on the upper Klamath, will study a long-standing algae problem.

In a grant to American Indian tribes in California announced earlier this month, the EPA will give the Yurok Tribe money to close a road up Terwer Creek near the river’s mouth. A separate grant goes to Trinity County as part of reshaping river banks in an area where experimental storm-like reservoir discharges began this year. There’s also money for closing about five miles of road on the South Fork of the Trinity.

The main stem of the Klamath is diverted in Oregon for irrigation of nearly 200,000 acres of Klamath Basin croplands on both sides of the California-Oregon border. The Trinity, the largest Klamath tributary, is diverted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for its Central Valley Project irrigating California farms. Both streams are the focus of two decades of restoration activities pointing toward fixing habitat for troubled runs of ocean-going salmon.

The EPA in a separate grant to five Klamath River tribes agreed to help pay for ongoing water quality studies dealing with blue green algae discharges from Iron Gate Dam, the lowest PacifiCorp reservoir, about five miles east of the I-5 freeway in Siskiyou County. Earlier this year the EPA and tribal water resource investigators issued an alert when the 2005 water quality monitoring program found traces of the potentially toxic algae in the main river over 100 miles downstream from Iron Gate.

The Associated Press reports that the Karuk Tribe, whose homeland is in the middle Klamath, got the California Public Utility Commission to order a $450,000 algae study as a condition of PacifiCorp’s proposed sale to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. The settlement agreement is said to be part of a PUC order still in progress. Six states, including California and Oregon, must sign off on the MidAmerican sale, which also requires changes to existing federal law.

“This is a forum for us to really make clear to MidAmerican what they are getting into,” said Craig Tucker, coordinator of the Karuk’s Klamath campaign. “The Klamath project is a very small part of PacifiCorp in terms of profits and power production. But it’s a huge part of liability and contention among the Klamath Basin stakeholders.”

The PacifiCorp hydroelectric license, now covering 151 megawatts of power generation at Iron Gate and upstream to Klamath Falls, Ore., expires next April. Settlement talks on the license’s renewal are being carried out separately behind closed doors. PacifiCorp has said it wants to present a package of agreements to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail address is tmoore@capitalpress.com.





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