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Klamath River dam removal goes public
Opposition runs high at California hearing

by Lacey Jarrell, Herald and News 3/17/16

SACRAMENTO The public spoke out against removing four Klamath River dams at a Wednesday meeting in Sacramento.

Tribal trust, state and federal responsibility and community obligations were the topic of a four-hour meeting, where more than 50 Klamath Basin water stakeholders discussed an amended draft of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA).

The parties met at the California Environmental Protection Agency building to review proposed amendments to the KHSA and to provide comments on a draft that was sent to stakeholders last week.

The KHSA outlines provisions for removing four dams J.C. Boyle, Iron Gate and Copco 1 and 2 from the Klamath River. The dams are owned by PacifiCorp.

Siskiyou County landowner Jerry Bacigalupi said he is "astounded" that tribes and other stakeholders don't see the benefit of the dams.

"Let's look at the positive aspect of keeping the dams," he said. "Dams have nothing to do with all the water wars in the upper Basin."

Another Siskiyou County resident said his family have lived on the Klamath for four generations.

"I have witnessed the benefits of the dams," he said.

Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace said his county supports removing the Klamath River dams. He explained that the county does not broadly support dam removal. In this instance, however, the county supports the KHSA because the county believes it benefits Northern California counties by creating jobs, recreational and commercial fishing opportunities and provides cultural benefits to the tribes.

Lovelace, who represents a county signatory to the agreement, said he believes dam removal is the most economic option for ratepayers and PacifiCorp.

Line-by-line review

During the meeting, stakeholders reviewed the KHSA draft line by line, making simple edits, such as punctuation, and clarifying the draft's language. One sticking point was reference in the draft to a related agreement that is not defined in the draft.

According to John Bezdek, senior adviser to the Department of Interior deputy secretary, the agreement the draft addresses hasn't been created yet. He said that agreement will be separate from the KHSA, and it is intended to mitigate issues and provide benefits to irrigators in the Klamath Project and the upper Basin.

Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry said the Klamath Tribes support dam removal, but for the Tribes to become a signatory party to the amended KHSA, the tribal membership must vote in favor of that first. Gentry said tribal members must vote on and approve agreements the Tribes enter into in the future.

According to pact documents, the dams must be upgraded to meet new environmental regulations or decommissioned. Removing the dams will open more than 300 miles of spawning habitat in the upper reaches of the Klamath watershed.


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