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Water roundtable
Discussions focus on dam removal, power rates


By STEVE KADEL, Herald and News 2/28/08

   For Todd Kepple, issues involved in the Klamath water settlement came alive Tuesday during a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Herald and News. 

   “It did give me a different perspective on things to hear people directly involved talk about how it affects their goals and interests,” said Kepple, director of Klamath County Museums. “When you sit down across the table from someone who can tell you in a personal way how important issues are to them, it makes things more real.” 


   Kepple was among those at the table for the discussions at Oregon Institute of Technology. The main presenters were Edward Bartell, representing Upper Klamath irrigators; Bud Ullman, representing the Klamath Tribes; Paul Simmons, representing the Klamath Water Users Association; and Toby Freeman, representing Pacific Power. 

   Those at the table questioned the presenters throughout the two-hour session. A full report will be published next month in a Herald and News’ special section on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. 

   The agreement, released Jan. 15, allocates water in the Klamath River watershed among irrigators, fisheries, tribes and conservationists. It also advocates removal of four hydro - electric dams. 

   Dams interesting 

   Kepple said he was particularly interested in discussions of four dams PacifiCorp owns and operates on the Klamath River — and whether those dams will be removed, as proposed in the settlement . He understands there could be an environmental risk to releasing sediment behind the dams. 

   “But what do you do? ” he asked. “Wait another 50 years until another layer of sediment builds up? ” 

   Ultimately, he said, it comes down to a question of choosing between clean hydroelectric power and trying to build a healthy run of salmon. 

   “Most of us who are on lookers to this like giving the salmon a chance to reach Klamath Falls,” he said. “On the other hand, most of us like clean, non-emitting power. That’s a wrenching decision.” 

   Power rates 
   At the roundtable, Bartell emphasized the off-Project irrigators want protections from water claims by the Tribes, and they want guaranteed power rates. 

   Bartell said he doesn’t believe a 3-cents per kilowatt - hour rate, a goal of the settlement agreement, can be realized. The document once called for $250 million to develop alternative power sources but the current draft includes only $33 million for that purpose for Oregon irrigators, he said. 

   Bartell said off-Project irrigators also are unhappy with the settlement because they are asked to voluntarily idle 30,000 acre-feet of water without receiving compensation for doing so. 

   Toby Freeman, Pacific Power spokesman, called the roundtable a good chance to gauge concerns of the public. 

   “I’m always glad to get out into the community,” he said. 

   “I know folks are very interested in Pacific Power’s perspective on this agreement and the dam removal.”

Continued discussions 

   He noted the Portland-based utility is continuing to discuss dam removal issues with a sub -group of the 2  stakeholders who hammered out the proposed water settlement. 

   “We continue to be willing to talk about that,” Freeman said, adding he was not surprised to hear questions Tuesday about benefits and risks of dam removal. 

   Kate Marquez, an educational video producer, said the roundtable was a chance to learn that PacifiCorp’s application to re-license its hydroelectric project had been a catalyst for initial settlement talks. However, she came away from the evening uncertain about the off-Project irrigators’ concerns. 

   “There are differences of opinions on what the facts are, and there are strong and hard feelings,” Marquez said. 

   She also wondered whether it’s possible to implement some of the settlement proposals even if the full document isn’t adopted. “You want to make it as good as possible for as many people possible,” she said. 

   Joe Spendolini, a member of Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, said the discussions were valuable although he didn’t change his opinions on any issues. 

   ‘Enormous hurdles’ 

   He said there are “two enormous hurdles ”to implementing the settlement. Those are whether the dams will come out, and whether Congress will allocate funding to pay for projects contained in the settlement. 

   “ We’re talking about Congress giving nearly a billion dollars to a small community,” Spendolini said. 

   Ullman, of the Klamath Tribes, could not be reached for comment Wednesday by the Herald and News. 

 He said Tuesday the Tribes support the settlement rather than continuing with status quo. Simmons said the Klamath Water Users Association takes the same stance.



              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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