Progress in talks on Klamath Dams welcome news
Herald and News
|(KBC NOTE: Avoid "legal challenges"? An interesting concept! Last month Riverwatchers and Karuk tribe sued PacifiCorp. PCFFA, Yuroks and Hoopas along with the other environmental groups filed against irrigators in the power rate case, Yurok employee Felice Pace presently has lawsuits against Scott Valley and Klamath irrigators on water quality, PCFFA and Yuroks and other groups sued irrigators saying they did not have a right to water we stored for irrigation in 2001 which, on our deeds, says "water appurtenant to that land" and signed by the President of the United States, ....NOW that tribes and PCFFA and enviros succeeded in winning the power rate case against irrigators to downsize ag, now they say, ok, you get an affordable power rate if the dams come out. Was that a handy bargaining tool? And we can have some dependable water after they sued us so we would not get water? )|
Huge demands have been made on the Klamath River system over the years, most of them based on promises made by the federal government. They were often in conflict with each other, generating decades of conflict and litigation. They chewed up millions of dollars in legal fees.
An effort to resolve major issues has been going on in a relicensing process for dams on the Klamath River. It appears to have made significant process, and thatís good news.
PacifiCorp is trying to get a new license for four dams it has on the Klamath River. A once-every-50-year process such as relicensing requires a broad look at issues that are deeply felt as well as having a large impact on industry, cultures and emotions.
The issues involve American Indian tribes at both ends of the river, irrigators in two states, fishermen and PacifiCorp, and have been difficult. Part of the relicensing process includes an option to try a settlement procedure along with the traditional process. Twenty-eight groups are involved in the settlement talks.
Some of the key players in the settlement effort said that details of a proposed settlement among those involved would be announced in the next few weeks or months. The talks are confidential.
Whether such an agreement would be acceptable to PacifiCorp remains to be seen. PacifiCorp and its corporate ancestors such as the California Oregon Power Company, built the dams. Its 50-year license to run them ended last year.
The Klamath River officially starts at Lake Ewauna on the southeast fringe of Klamath Falls and flows about 250 miles to the Pacific Ocean at Klamath, Calif., 17 miles south of Crescent City.
Much of the water in the Klamath River is collected in Upper Klamath Lake, which serves as the main reservoir for the 240,000-acre Klamath Reclamation Project. Water is sent into the reclamation project through the A Canal near the mouth of the Link River. Water is also sent downstream through the Link River to Lake Ewauna and into the Klamath River system.
Remove them entirely?
Tribes on the river want the four Klamath River dams removed, citing damage done to salmon runs on the Klamath River that used to support robust fisheries on the river and in the ocean.
The issue of declining fish runs is complicated, including ocean conditions that change. Also, throughout its history, the lower Klamath River was fed by Californiaís Trinity River, a major source of the cold water thatís considered essential for salmon. Decades ago, much of the Trinity water was diverted south to Californiaís growing cities and agriculture and that change threw a disproportionately heavy burden on the Klamath Reclamation Project for dealing with Klamath River problems.
The situation led to repeated conflicts between tribes and irrigators, which was capped in the drought year of 2001 when most of the irrigation water normally provided to the projectís irrigators was cut off.
Since then, there have been significant efforts by the tribes, irrigators and fishermen to meet on friendlier terms.
The settlement process on the dams is in that vein and participants undoubtedly recognize that everyone will be better off if more lengthy legal challenges along with the costs and ill will can be avoided.
The key elements for the stakeholders include sustainable fish runs, affordable power rates for irrigators and dependable water supplies. Those are challenging goals, but the fact that progress appears to have been made is significant.
PacifiCorp wants to keep the dams operating, citing their value as a source of power, especially since they can run without producing greenhouse gases.
The settlement process is understandably slow-going. But in the groundwork being developed are the seeds that could lead to a more cooperative era on the Klamath River. Thatís much to be desired.