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Tribes renew dam removal support at FERC meeting

Herald and News by Stephen Floyd 1/21/2018

Leaders of the Klamath Tribes reaffirmed their support for the removal of dams along the Klamath River during a meeting Thursday with federal regulators.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is in the process of transferring dam ownership to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), who will then craft a timeline and raise funds to remove the dams.

Slated for removal are the J.C. Boyle, Copco I, Copco II and Iron Gate dams. If all regulatory deadlines are met, the dams could come down as soon as 2020.

Though some residents oppose dam removal for economic, environmental and political reasons, tribal leaders told FERC restoring salmon flows is critical to regaining a lost way of life.

“Salmon was part of that, it’s part of our language, its in our histories,” said Tribal Chairman Don Gentry. A big part of who we are is lost if we don’t have the salmon.”

Perry Chocktoot, director of the Tribes’ Culture & Heritage Department, said fish ladders were promised when the dams were built, but were never installed. He said the building of the dams robbed his people of their god-given right to harvest salmon.

“They took from us a gift, a gift from God,” said Chocktoot.

Tribal leaders were hosting the meeting to be updated on FERC’s transfer of ownership to KRRC. Gentry said the Tribes want to play a role in determining how dam removal is performed is KRRC is given control.

Jim Root, a board member, secretary and treasurer for KRRC, said their goal is to remove all the dams at once to minimize the number of fish killed during the process. He said the group’s ultimate goal is to restore anadromous fish populations to the Klamath River “as much as the river and river conditions will allow.”

Root also said KRRC will have to hit every fundraising and planning deadline to have the dams removed by 2020 and, while this is possible, it may be a challenge. If not every benchmark is met, Root said dam removal may not occur until 2021.

“That timeline is a tight timeline,” he said. “We have to hit every mark to accomplish that.”

Elizabeth Malloy, tribal liaison for FERC, said transfer of dam ownership to KRRC will be up to a five-person committee appointed by President Trump. The committee has been asked to approve a transfer application to grant KRRC ownership, and a surrender application granting demolition of the dams.

If any parties are opposed to the committee’s eventual decision, Malloy said they will have an opportunity to ask for a rehearing, and then to take the matter to the appeals courts. Opponent’s of the committee’s decision must be prepared to argue a mistake was made in the process used by the committee to reach their decision.

Frank Winchell, archeologist for FERC, said the committee will used “an objective, independent analysis” to reach their decision and said he expects their choice will be “reliable and fair.”

Residents interested in staying on top of KRRC information and meetings may do so by visiting www.klamathrenewal.org.



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