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Klamath dam removal hearing at Yreka draws upset crowd

by DANIELLE JESTER Siskiyou Daily News  Jan 27, 2017 

A public hearing seeking comments on removal of four Klamath River dams drew more than 100 people in Yreka Thursday evening.

YREKA — More than 100 people attended the last in a series of three meetings Thursday in Yreka seeking public comment on the planned removal of four dams along the Klamath River.

The overwhelming feeling expressed by Siskiyou residents was that of outrage. Many claim the majority of the county had spoken in favor of leaving the dams in place and believe government entities involved in the decision were not listening to them.

Some threatened lawsuits if the dam removal process moves forward without consideration for the concerns expressed by Siskiyou County residents.

Public officials who commented included: Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors members; County Assessor Mike Mallory; and Erin Ryan, a staff member for Congressman Doug LaMalfa.

All essentially spoke in favor of leaving the dams in place, with Ryan stating that LaMalfa had sent her with a message for Siskiyou citizens: “Zinke told me, ‘We don’t pull down dams, we put ‘em up,’” in reference to President Trump’s Interior Secretary pick, Ryan Zinke. The remark was met with cheers from the crowd.

The hearings are being conducted by the California State Water Resources Control Board.

In September 2016, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation jointly filed with PacifiCorp — the dam owners — for a license transfer ownership of the dams, then have them decommissioned. It would include the J.C. Boyle dam, Copco 1 and 2 dams and Iron Gate dam. The application is pending before Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Both states of Oregon and California have endorsed dam removal.

Others who commented also spoke in favor of keeping the dams in place, fearing their removal would cause the Klamath to become muddy and give off a strong odor during the summer, during low water flows. In that same vein, concern that the river would flood in colder months was also mentioned several times.

Many farmers and ranchers spoke in favor of the dams, tying them to the livelihood they have enjoyed in the agricultural industry.

Sami Jo Difuntorum spoke on behalf of the Shasta Nation, posing the hypothetical situation that the tribe’s ancestors who are buried along the river would be washed away by potential flooding if dam removal occurred.

Several Copco Lake residents expressed concern for their safety, views and property values if the dams come out.

Those who voiced support for dam removal included members of the Yurok tribe, which hopes removing the dams will restore the Klamath’s salmon population.

Konrad Fisher, executive director of Klamath Riverkeeper, an organization in favor of dam removal, said he believed people on both sides of the dam argument wanted the same things, but disagreed about the way to obtain them.

Written comments regarding dam removal are due by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Comments may be sent to: State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights, Water Quality Certification program, Attention: Mr. Parker Thaler, P.O. Box 2000, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000; emailed to parker.thaler@waterboards.ca.gov; or faxed to 916-341-5400. For more information call 916-341-5321.




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