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Restoration Projects For Klamath Watershed Announced

Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Bulletin 7/24/09

State and federal officials Monday announced the selection of four restoration projects designed to enhance coho salmon habitat in the Klamath River watershed.

The projects will be funded through the new "Coho Enhancement Fund" established by PacifiCorp as part of the settlement discussions concerning the relicensing of the power company's Klamath River Hydroelectric Project. Those discussions include consideration of removal of project dams that block fish passage.

The projects, which include installing fish screens and increasing stream flows, will significantly benefit endangered fish populations, according to company officials.

Specific projects include:

-- Scott River Diversion improvements,
-- Denny Ditch fish screen in the Scott River,
-- Seiad Creek channel reconstruction --phase I and
-- Seiad Creek off-channel pond habitat construction.

"The funded projects demonstrate PacifiCorp's commitment to taking action with these significant measures to protect and enhance environmental resources of the Klamath basin," said Diane Barr, PacifiCorp's environmental analyst. "We'll continue to use a balanced and pragmatic approach while the public policy decisions run their course."

The Coho Enhancement Fund will provide approximately $500,000 annually for projects that benefit coho salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act. The fund was established by PacifiCorp as part of its Interim Conservation Plan for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project.

PacifiCorp developed the plan in conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fishery biologists during negotiations regarding the potential removal of four Klamath River main stem dams. The Secretary of the Interior will make the final determination in 2012 whether to proceed with dam removal, pending completion of scientific studies and environmental review necessary to assess whether the potential benefits of dam removal outweigh the potential liabilities and risks. The dam removals could occur as early as 2020.

"The projects empowered this year by the Coho Enhancement Fund withstood scientific review and illustrated a pressing conservation need," said Gary Stacey, California Department of Fish and Game's Northern Regional manager. "Every project will trigger additional environmental benefits that go beyond improving conditions for coho salmon. We eagerly look forward to their completion."

"We're extremely pleased to be working with both PacifiCorp and our agency partners on this important program," said Jeff Trandahl of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which will administer the fund. "It's a natural complement to our existing work in the Klamath watershed and we're excited to join in such a results-oriented effort to restore critical coho habitat and improve the river flows on which they depend."

"The Coho Enhancement Fund represents an important partnership for NOAA Fisheries, along with our co-manager, DFG and the hydropower dams owner, PacifiCorp," said Rodney McInnis, NOAA Fisheries Service Southwest Regional administrator. "We're optimistic that restoration actions enabled by the fund will afford interim protections for coho by benefiting wild populations in the Klamath Basin."

A final Klamath River Hydroelectric Project settlement agreement is scheduled for completion in September 2009. Regardless of that outcome, the Interim Conservation Plan provides benefits for coho salmon and listed suckers prior to potential dam removal or until a new project operating license is obtained.

PacifiCorp's 169-megawatt Klamath River Hydroelectric Project is located in a predominantly rural area in southwestern Oregon (Klamath County) and northern California (Siskiyou, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties).

Originating from Upper Klamath Lake in southern Oregon, the Klamath River flows 240 miles from Oregon into northern California before emptying into the Pacific Ocean near Klamath, Calif.

Built between 1908 and 1962, the Klamath project consists of seven hydroelectric developments and one nongenerating dam. The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation owns Link River Dam which PacifiCorp operates in coordination with the company's projects. The Link River Dam, located upstream of PacifiCorp's projects, forms Upper Klamath Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Oregon.

The federal government, states of California and Oregon and PacifiCorp in November announced an "agreement in principle" that takes first critical step toward consideration of dam removal.

The AIP provides a flexible framework for the presumed transfer of four dams from PacifiCorp to a government designated dam removal entity, which would then undertake the removal of the J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Copco 2, and Iron Gate hydropower facilities. The dams block passage for salmon, steelhead and lamprey to more than 300 of miles of spawning and rearing habitat.

Under the AIP, final authority for dam removal must be granted by the Secretary of the Interior following an assessment to confirm the current view of the federal and state governments that dam removal is in the public interest. The AIP also requires congressional authorization for dam removal.

The agreement in principle contains a complex framework for dam removal that balances the timing of removal of each of the four dams with operating conditions and the costs of replacement power for PacifiCorp customers.

The CDFG in June 2004 approved a recovery strategy for California coho salmon was approved. Projects such as those funded by the Coho Enhancement Fund are part of the state agency's efforts to protect and recover coho salmon.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 charity established by Congress in 1984. It aims to sustain, restore and enhance the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats.

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