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Dam removal topic of open house

The Klamath River Renewal Corportation (KRRC), a non-profit tasked with the removal of four dams from the Klamath River, is planning to establish a presence in Klamath Falls as early as January 2018, according to Mark Bransom, executive director of the group.

Bransom was on hand to answer questions about the project Tuesday evening during an open house at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, an event that drew interest from about 80 attendees.

The crowd was a mix of those expressing proposition, opposition and/or simply an interest in learning more about the decommissioning and removal of Pacificorps’ Iron Gate Dam Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and J.C. Boyle Dam, according to Bransom.

Also in attendance at the meeting was KRRC board member and former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

The removal of the dams is slated for 2020, according to Bob Gravely, spokesperson for PacifiCorp, the current owners of the facilities.

The open house, one of three regional KRRC meetings planned this month, gave attendees the opportunity to ask questions, make comments, and share perspectives on the dam-removal process.

“This meeting and the other meetings coming up this week are really part of the KRRC’s ongoing community and public outreach efforts, and our hope is that these formats and these formats and these forums provide an opportunity for people with an interest in the project to come out and ask questions, learn more about the KRRC and learn more about what our mission is, and learn more about the project and the timeline and what they can expect to take place and when,” Bransom said.

“We are the dam removal entity that was formed as the result of the amended KHSA — the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement (KHSA) — to take responsibility for taking possession of the facilities. Then ultimately, with all of the regulatory approval, removing the dams and the hydropower facilities. And so that really is our sole mission.

“We’re very focused exclusively on taking possession of the dams and removing them and doing restoration efforts that will be required as part of the mitigation and potentially some enhanced mitigation work that we might do.”

Bransom acknowledged that removal of the four dams could mean “short-term” impacts,” but sees the long-term benefits worthy of following through on the project.

“We’re working closely with the regulatory agencies, including fish biologists and others who are helping us to shape the plans for how we will actually draw the reservoirs down and then physically remove the facilities to minimize the impacts to the environment, in hopes that those impacts can be restricted to a very narrow window in time,” Bransom said.

“And that we will see as they have in other dam removal projects, a relatively rapid rebound of the ecosystems and return of species to the new environments.”

Bransom also addressed concerns of impacts to Klamath Basin agriculture, saying: “There is nothing that we are doing with dam removal that will have any direct impact on agriculture.

“We don’t have any agricultural diversions on any of the four dams, so the removal of the four lower Klamath dams will not have any direct impact on irrigators or other water users,” Bransom added.

“We know that the local Klamath County irrigators were concerned when the amended KHSA went forward, but the KBRA did not. The KRRC is very supportive of dialogue and ongoing discussions for the purposes of trying to get to a broader, more comprehensive agreement. That’s not part of our scope or our mission.”

The KRRC collected comment cards at the open house, with many attendees taking them home with plans to return them to the non-profit.

“We’ve hosted a series of public meetings where people have had the opportunity to provide comments but this is a little bit different format,” Bransom said.

“We anticipate we’ll be back in the Klamath Falls area for another public meeting, and we’ll be open to taking public comment. We might do something more like a presentation to update people on the status of the various activities, where we are on our timeline, and how we see things unfolding.”





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