Dam removal advisory vote remains on ballot
Compromise reached prior to hearing
voters will get to voice their opinion on removal of four
hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River under a compromise
Commissioner Tom Mallams remains opposed to the final
language, he was out-voted by Commissioners Jim Bellet and
Kelley Minty Morris who agreed to the compromise.
At issue is an
advisory vote the commission wants on the Nov. 8 ballot
regarding dam removal. Mallams pushed for a simple up or
down advisory vote on whether the four dams should be torn
down. (Commissioner Minty Morris opposes the ballot measure
altogether, but agreed to let the issue go forward).
to the language of the ballot issue, local farmers Tracey
Liskey and three others, took the issue to court. A hearing
before Circuit Court Judge Lane Simpson of Lake County was
set, but was not held as both sides worked out a compromise
over the wording of the ballot issue.
before voters will now read, “Are you in favor of removing
four hydroelectric dams under the terms of the Klamath
Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement?” A yes vote advises the
Klamath County commissioners to support removal of the dams;
a no vote advises them to oppose removal. Either result is
came within three days of the deadline ballot language has
to be sent to a printer. The deadline is Friday.
“At least the
voters get to have their say,” Mallams said Wednesday. He
said he was unwilling to compromise on including the KHSA in
the question, but was out-voted.
Under the KHSA,
dam owner PacifiCorp (and subsidiary Pacific Power) will
transfer its license to operate the Klamath River dams to a
private company known as the Klamath River Renewal
Corporation. This company will oversee the dam removal in
2020. PacifiCorp will continue to operate the dams until
they are decommissioned. Once transferred, the utility is
absolved of all liability when they are removed.
Pacific Power’s vice president for external affairs, also
attended the court session Wednesday. The utility supported
the challenge to the original wording. In a statement issued
Wednesday, the company said:
“We continue to
believe that an advisory vote on a binding legal settlement
regarding private property is unproductive and will only
further divide the community. However, we are pleased that
an agreement was reached to more accurately portray the
decision that’s being put before voters in November.
decision isn’t simply to support or not support dam removal,
but whether dam removal under the terms of a settlement
agreement and under this particular set of circumstances is
a better, less risky outcome for our customers than
ballot question better conveys this choice than as
originally drafted by the commissioners.”
Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is to hold relicensing
hearings in the near future on the KHSA. Mallams said the
commission may intervene in the hearings because the county
stands to lose tax revenue once the J.C. Boyle dam in
Klamath County is removed.
The amount of
that loss is in dispute; Mallams said county records show
PacifiCorp pays about $445,000 in property taxes on J.C.
Boyle. The utility said the tax liability is about $118,000
for the dam alone. The rest of the tax bill is on other
infrastructure and property (such as powerlines,
substations) which may remain in place.
believes that once the dams are removed, the remaining
infrastructure will be removed as well, since it will be
useless without power from the dams.
that PacifiCorp is making a case that if the dams come out,
there is going to be most of the taxable assets still in
place. They say this will be the transmission lines that
will continue to serve their customers,” Mallams wrote in an
“Keno has no
hydroelectric structure so there’s no distribution structure
there. J C Boyle will have some minimal structure but will
not be connected to anything since the dam and generators
will be gone. PacifiCorp will not own any of the land
either. If they are trying to say some power lines are worth
three times as much as both dams, the turbines and the miles
of flume, I see no validity there at all, but nice try.”
utility pays about $1.6 million annually in county taxes, a
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