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County withdraws from KBRA

Commissioners voice concerns over impact on Klamath’s economy

by SAMANTHA TIPLER, Herald and News 2/27/13

Klamath County Commissioners plan to remove themselves and the county from the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

At their regular meeting Tuesday morning, all three commissioners voted to draft an order for Klamath County to withdraw from the KBRA. County Counsel Dave Groff will write up the order and the commissioners will review and sign it next week.

Commissioner Tom Mallams, who campaigned against the KBRA before being elected, said he thinks there is a better way to address the water needs of the Klamath Basin.

“The KBRA was a noble effort to get parties together,” Mallams said. “It was a noble effort but it does not do what we need it to do.”

But Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Basin Water Users Association, said the county cannot withdraw from the KBRA because the county is a signatory to the contract, regardless of how individual commissioners may feel on the issue.

The commissioners’ decision came after a hearing Feb. 12 where more than 70 people spoke on either side of the KBRA divide, and after the commissioners received and reviewed hundreds of emails and letters on the subject.

The KBRA and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement seek to establish reliable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, restore fish habitat, help the Klamath Tribes acquire the 92,000-acre Mazama Tree Farm and remove four dams on the Klamath River.

In November, former county commissioners Cheryl Hukill and Al Switzer carried the vote to support a two-year extension to the agreement. Commission Chairman Dennis Linthicum, the only one to stay on the board, voted against it.

Because of that action, and Klamath County already being a party to the KBRA, the commissioners can’t take the action they decided on Tuesday, Addington said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

“They can’t withdraw,” Addington said. “I’m curious to see what kind of documentation they come up with.”

In drafting the KBRA, the contract was made to bind entities, not people, Addington said. As an example, Addington said some parties worried that if the Klamath Tribal Council was replaced with new members, the tribe may try to withdraw.

“It’s ironic that it’s the county that’s trying to pull out,” he said. “We made it a binding contract for those very reasons.”

If the county succeeds in withdrawing, it would set a dangerous precedent not only for the KBRA, but for water settlements in general, he added.

During the meeting Commissioner Jim Bellet argued actions of a past board of commissioners cannot bind “legislative action” by the new board. He said that gives the new board the ability to withdraw.

stipler@heraldandnews.com   @TiplerHN


Irrigation power rates will be at full tariff

Increasing costs for power cited in PacifiCorp’s support for dam removal


H&N Staff Reporter

Power rates for area irrigators will be at full tariff by March after Klamath Project farmers enjoyed 50 years of greatly discounted charges. The price has been gradually rising from its 1917 cost, said PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely.

“Dams once equaled cheap power,” Gravely said, “but currently dams do not equal cheap power. The reason we signed onto the KHSA is that it’s the best outcome for customers.”

Gravely, and PacifiCorp’s senior project manager for hydrologic resources Tim Hemstreet, said these costs exemplify why the power company supports two controversial agreements that advocate the removal of four dams on the Klamath River.

Customers are less exposed to risk under the KHSA, Hemstreet said.

“We’re not dam removal zealots,” he said. “But we’re committed to providing stable power and rates for our customers.”

Hemstreet added a whole community in the Klamath Basin developed around the dams and the cheap water and power they provided.

“People have associated these dams with the benefit of the community — but under the KHSA your rates will be more stable.”

PacifiCorp will have to compensate for power lost from the grid if the dams are removed. The Klamath Project provides enough power for 70,000 homes, according to company data.

Gravely said this number represents only a small piece of PacifiCorp’s portfolio. PacifiCorp’s operations span Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.

Department of the Interior estimates the cost of dam removal would be around $291 million, explained Craig Tucker, Klamath coordinator for the Karuk Tribe. The agreements stipulate PacifiCorp will pay $200 million through customer surcharges and the state of California will pay the rest.

To raise those funds by 2020, the proposed year for removal, Pacifi-Corp began an Oregon customer surcharge in March 2010. A similar surcharge began recently in California.

So far, $46 million has been added to the trust account managed by the Oregon and California public utility commissions.

Gravely said irrigation power rates may be raised due to external factors such as the price of coal. “You can’t pin everything that happens in the future to the fate of one hydro project,” he said.

“Every decision we make is examined by regulators, based on being able to make the case that our decision is better for customers.”

State Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Dist. 28, argues the peaking capacity provided by hydroelectric power will be lost under dam removal. If the grid is maxed out and more power is needed, he said, hydroelectric power can be turned on immediately whereas other types of generation require as much as 24 hours to come online.

Whitsett argues rates could be indirectly affected because another plant with similar peakproducing capabilities would have to be built by PacifiCorp, and ratepayers could shoulder these costs.

dschwartz@heraldandnews   com








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