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Linthicum drafts bill to defund dam removal

by STEPHEN FLOYD Herald and News Feb 14, 2018

SALEM — Sen. Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls) is hoping to stop Klamath River dam removal by pulling funding from the project in a bill being introduced to the state legislature Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1552, titled the Ratepayer Protection Act, would require PacificCorp to stop charging customers dam removal fees and to return money collected through these fees if dam removal does not begin by Jan. 1, 2019.

Dam removal is still awaiting federal regulatory approval. If all deadlines are met, removal would not begin until at least 2020.

In a public statement Tuesday, Linthicum said preserving Oregon’s hydroelectric infrastructure is paramount as it serves both the environmental and economic needs of the state.

“Wisdom demands that we get back to using real-world economics, science and common-sense to steer Oregon’s natural resource policies in the right direction,” he said.

History of opposition

PacificCorp is trying to remove the J.C. Boyle Dam in Oregon and the Copco I, Copco II and Iron Gate dams in California after choosing not to renew its licenses to operate the facilities. The Klamath River Renewal Corporation has been established to take ownership of the dams and facilitate their removal, pending approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Linthicum has been an outspoken opponent of dam removal, including during his time as a Klamath County commissioner from 2011 to 2015. While running for senate in 2016, Linthicum said dam removal forces the public to bear the cost for private enterprise, diverts usable water from a water-starved region, and would pollute the Klamath River with sediment built up behind the dams.

He said Tuesday the cost for dam removal could amount to $950 million, with no specific plan yet in place to fully fund the project. He also said sediment could total 20 million cubic yards and releasing it downstream would impact long-term fish habitats.

Reining in utilities

In addition to defunding dam removal, SB 1552 would prevent public utilities from exceeding a 4.5 percent rate of return. Linthicum said public utilities need to be kept in check because they operate apart from open market forces that help determine appropriate rates between suppliers and customers.

“In actuality, people set prices not companies,” he said. “People willingly part with their own money based on their own understanding of value.”

SB 1552 will be assigned to a committee after being presented to the Senate Wednesday. The committee will consider revisions before deciding whether or not to send it back to the Senate floor for a vote.




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