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Dam removal and water issues debated

Upper Klamath Water Users sponsor meeting
 by TY BEAVER, Herald and News 11/18/09

     Off-Project irrigator Nathan Jackson wants to know how PacifiCorp is balancing the lowest costs to its customers with the needs of its stockholders in a Klamath River dam removal agreement.  

  From left, off-Project irrigators Garrett Roseberry and Tom Mallams listen during a public meeting on water issues at the Chiloquin Community Center Tuesday.

  Tom Mallams, president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users Association, wants to know how any settlement agreement can be enforced against the Klamath Tribes, given their sovereign status.

   Off-Project irrigator Linda Long wants to know if surface water   and groundwater will ever be linked and will impact the use of wells.

   More than 30 people, many of them irrigators off the Klamath Reclamation Project, attended a public meeting organized by the Upper Klamath Water Association at the Chiloquin Community Center Tuesday.

   The meeting was an opportunity for the organization and others working on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement to update people on the agreement and answer questions.

   Karl Scronce, UKWUA board member, said his organization is taking a proactive approach to any settlement on water, power affordability and environmental assurances.

   Speakers at the meeting included James Honey of Sustainable Northwest; Toby Freeman, regional community manager for PacifiCorp; Hollie Cannon, executive director of the Klamath Water and Power Agency, or KWAPA, and Greg Corbin, a Portland attorney working for Upper Klamath Water Users.  

   Each speaker detailed his relationship to working with those in off-Project areas. Honey said his organization came to the Basin originally to study the impacts of cattle grazing before returning to those contacts on water issues.


   Freeman talked about how PacifiCorp came to the decision to sign onto the dam removal agreement after hearing from federal and state officials that was the direction they wanted to go.

   Dam removal also was found to be the lowest cost option to customers, and the company is forgoing any ability to seek a return on investment for its stockholders regarding relicensing activities on the dams.  
  Hollie Cannon, executive director of Klamath Water and Power Agency, answers questions during a meeting in Chiloquin Tuesday.

  Cannon detailed how his agency would provide affordable power to both Project and off-Project power users for irrigation. Corbin said litigation can be appropriate in continuing to settle water rights, that doesn’t mean one can’t also be open to and discussing settlement with an opponent.

Attendees asked a variety of questions, from how much does Sustainable Northwest contribute to organizations and projects in the Klamath Basin (approximately $250,000 to $300,000 per year since 2005) to how off-Project power users could receive KWAPA’s affordable power (off-Project power users would be able to receive affordable power as members, but only organized groups of them could elect board members for the organization).

   Dam removal and reaching a settlement with the Tribes were the issues that garnered the most questions.  

   Dam removal

   Freeman said Pacifi-Corp never would have considered carrying out dam removal on its own because of the risk it entailed and its lack of precedent.

   “We don’t do experimental stuff,” he said.

   At the same time, Freeman said he was encouraged by conversations with government officials about the level of analysis and study that would go into examining the feasibility of dam removal, and that if it was found to be too expensive, the idea likely would be dropped.  


   Corbin said there has to be the ability to hold all the parties of the KBRA to its terms, including the Tribes. While the Tribes have sovereign status, he and others are meeting with them to ensure they will abide by it and that other parties can hold them to it.

   Not all those in attendance took solace in the answers. Mallams said he had little confidence in the scientific studies on dam removal.

   Others wondered whether there will be a future adjudication regarding groundwater in the Basin. Corbin said there were a few groundwater adjudications already done in the state, but very few.

   “I don’t know what kind of stomach Oregon Water Resources Department has for another adjudication,” he said.  

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