Seeking quick action for aging dams
Removing dams 'preferred path'
PacifiCorp seeking to modify KHSA
PacifiCorp is now trying to reach a quick deal with federal
and state regulators to remove four aged dams on the Klamath
aggressive action by the big western utility follows the
failure of Congress over the last four years to pass
sweeping legislation aimed at ending the water wars in the
Klamath Basin that straddles the states of Oregon and
Supporters of restoring free flows on one of the West
Coast’s biggest salmon rivers are cheered by the prospect of
finally seeing the dams demolished. But Klamath Basin
farmers say they’re worried they will be left behind without
any of the water guarantees included in the federal
legislation collapsed last month in large part because of
Republican opposition to language that would have helped
speed removal of the four PacifiCorp dams, three in
California and one in Oregon.
Impact of failed legislation
ironically, it may be that a move toward dam removal is the
first major result to come out the failure of of the
Gravely, a PacifiCorp spokesman, said removing the dams is
“still our preferred path.”
utility is talking with officials from Oregon, California
and the federal government on modifications to one of the
key pacts — the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement —
aimed at ending the pitched fights over the river’s future.
Gravely said the utility wants to quickly reach a deal to
access some $250 million from a California water bond
approved by voters that could help pay for dam removal. The
utility is also facing pressure from California’s decision
to restart action on a new water quality permit for the
dams, something that PacifiCorp could be hard-pressed to
we’re going to move forward” with a new version of the
hydropower settlement agreement, Gravely said, “we think it
has to happen quickly … I think months.”
Jared Huffman, D-Calif., whose coastal district includes the
mouth of the Klamath River, said he’s optimistic that the
congressional failure of the agreement puts new pressure on
PacifiCorp to move toward removing the dams.
“Frankly, I’m more encouraged than I’ve been in a while,”
Huffman said in an interview with OPB. “I see more
possibilities for dam removal and restoration, without this
paralysis that, frankly, this agreement had brought us to.
Everything was hanging on a congressional action that wasn’t
going to happen.”
Richard Whitman, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s natural resources
adviser, said the states and U.S.Department of Interior
officials are close to reaching an agreement with PacifiCorp
on how to move forward with dam removal. Ultimately, it
could take the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission four
years to issue an order allowing the demolition of the dams.
PacifiCorps has been particularly concerned with ensuring
that it receives liability protection against lawsuits
stemming from damage caused by dam removal, such as problems
caused by sediment that has built up behind the dams.
Dam removal, water quality
Gravely, the PacifiCorps spokesman, said that if the utility
can’t get agreement on a plan for dam removal, it will seek
a new license allowing it to continue operating the dams.
Critics of the dams, however, say they doubt the utility can
meet new environmental standards — including improved fish
passage — that have been put in place since the dams last
received a license in 1956.
Schlosser, a Seattle attorney representing the Hoopa Valley
Tribe in in legal action aimed at speeding dam removal, said
he thought the utility was fine with the long congressional
inaction over ratifying the Klamath Basin agreements because
it could continue to operate the dams under the old license.
said Schlosser, there’s an opportunity to get moving on the
removal is really key” to restoring the river, he said, “and
we’re finally close to it.”
'Frankly, I’m more encouraged than I’ve been in a while.
I see more possibilities for dam removal and
restoration, without this paralysis that, frankly, this
agreement had brought us to. Everything was hanging on a
congressional action that wasn’t going to happen.'
— Rep. Jared Huffman,
assurances for irrigators and tribes
Officials in Oregon and
California are determined to make sure irrigators and tribes
are not left behind, said Richard Whitman, Oregon Gov. Kate
Brown's natural resources adviser.
“Gov. Brown is very concerned about the
stability of the communities in the Basin, both irrigated
agriculture and the Native American tribes,” he said, adding
that they want to ensure that a hydropower agreement also
include some assurances for the tribes and farmers.
Whitman said he is talking to Rep. Greg
Walden, R-Ore., and other members of the state’s
congressional delegation about moving forward with a bill
that would deal with some of those issues. Among other
things, the irrigators have been seeking reliable access to
water while the Klamath tribes are seeking a large grant
that would help restore their historic lands.
Greg Addington, a consultant for the Klamath
Water Users Association (KWUA), said he learned just in the
last week about PacifiCorp’s determination to move ahead in
cutting a deal on dam removal.
“It’s sort of our worst fear,” he said.
“We’re all worried about getting left behind.”
Addington said the KWUA has received
assurances that they won’t be forgotten. But he said he
thought they were unlikely to get an agreement as good as
the one promised in the legislation that Congress failed to
The KWUA has asked the other parties involved
in the Klamath water pacts to meet in Sacramento on Feb. 3
to talk about plans to modify the hydropower settlement act.
meetings on dam removal
Three public meetings
in California next week will give the public a chance to
voice their opinions about potential relicensing of three
Klamath River dams.
Arcata: 5 to 7
p.m. Monday at the D Street Neighborhood Center, 1301 D St.
a.m. to noon Tuesday at the Karuk Tribe Community Room,
39051 Highway 96.
to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Best Western Miner’s Inn Convention
Center, 122 E. Miner Street.
Submit public comments: Public
comments are due before 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29.
Written comments: California State Water Resources
Control Board, Division of Water Rights, Water Quality
Certification Program. Attention: Parker Thaler, P.O.
Box 2000, Sacramento, CA, 95812-2000.
- Comment by phone:
- Comment by fax:
- Comment by email:
- Information about the
Klamath Hydroelectric Project certification process is
posted at: http://bit.ly/1VbvKgb
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