“This is a win-lose agreement. And we’re the losers!” said Armstrong, who was one of the speakers expressing strong feelings about the dangers of removing four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
Others, although in the minority at the workshop held at Dorris City Hall, spoke in favor of the proposed dam removals.
The event was held with a goal of discussing “mutual areas of concern” about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s consideration of relicensing Pacific Power’s Klamath River hydroelectric dams.
Siskiyou County board chair Bill Overman said that to his knowledge a joint meeting of this nature was not only historic but, perhaps, unprecedented. No decisions were made at the informational workshop, although complete minutes were taken to be used in an advisory capacity, according to the agenda.
The meeting consisted of audience members making three-minute statements and some of the supervisors and commissioners presenting their viewpoints.
The controversial dam removal possibility is part of the Proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement that was released in January by the Klamath Settlement Group, a coalition of 26 diverse entities with interests in Klamath Basin fisheries, agriculture, tribal culture, conservation and watershed issues.
Anthony Intiso, a candidate for the Siskiyou County District 4 supervisor position in the upcoming November general election, pointed out that the Klamath River Basin Compact, passed into law in 1957, has served the area well and he saw no reason to replace that document with the new proposed agreement.
Klamath Basin farmer Bob Keene said that removing the dams “will take us back 75 years.” Referring to low water levels in Copco Lake, he said, “They’re lying and doing everything they can to put us out of business.”
Dani Watson, who works for a self-described “diversified group” from the Upper Basin, said, “There are lots of issues in the agreement. Think of it as a map, maybe there needs to be modifications. It’s a poker game right now.” She went on to say that she doesn’t want to see “ ag go out of business” but that the tribes and water users need to work together. “Right now, we’re hammering it out,” she concluded.
Becky Hyde, the wife of an off-project rancher from Sprague River Valley, said her husband’s family has been on the land for 100 years. She voiced concern for the homeowners around Copco Lake. “There’s many issues that come together,” she said, “we need to stress patience. Maybe we should decide to put Prozac in the Upper Klamath Basin.”
Klamath Tribal Council member Jeff Mitchell spoke in favor of the Proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. “This agreement creates a road map for the next 50 to 100 years,” he said. “We think the KBRA will help us deal with the issues, environmental and others and will help provide some common ground. It’s time to move forward.”
Tom Malin has been an off-project irrigator for 20 years. “The decision should be made by the taxpayers,” he said. He mentioned a meeting of about 100 people he recent attended and said, “almost all were against it (the proposed agreement).” As for working together to further develop the agreement, he said, “The tribes and the project irrigators just will not negotiate.”
“I personally support the agreement,” said Horsley Farms owner and president of the Klamath Water Users Association, Luther Horsley.
Supervisors Michael Kobseff and Jim Cook, along with Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown, reported on their recent trip to Washington, D.C.
“We found that we were offering new information that had not been heard before,” said Kobseff, “We put on the table a new premise: We can have water, fish, power – all of it. Power is more critical than ever before.”
Cook reported that having elected representatives from both California and Oregon helped them to receive more attention in the nation’s capital.
Brown thanked the Siskiyou County supervisors for inviting him on the trip to Washington. “Everybody wants a water settlement,” he said. “It’s the type of settlement that’s important. Basically, we need to make this settlement a comprehensive one. When this agreement came out in January, we were advised not to vote on it. That was draft number 11. We were waiting for draft number 12, it never came.”
Brown went on to explain that the Klamath County counsel told the commissioners to “not sign the agreement if you don’t support dam removal” and that the agreement does not guarantee water and is probably not legally enforceable.
Commissioner Al Switzer said that when he looked at the agreement, it became apparent that people were going to be divided on many points. “Dam removal, families being ripped apart – I’m just not sure that this agreement gets us to where we need to go,” he said. “It does not guarantee water. We need to keep agriculture vital. I’m not sure if it makes that much difference (voting for or against dam removal); they’re not our dams, they belong to PacifiCorp. One thing we have going for us is a Congress that doesn’t seem to be able to get anything done. Actually, we should join together and create our own state.”
Supervisor Marcia Armstrong noted that she has 110 miles of Klamath River in her district. She said that water issues were not all that important to her constituents, but that they were more worried about property issues, including property values.
“This agreement took rights away from these people,” she said. In regard to dam removal, Armstrong said, “We don’t know what would happen. This would be the largest project of this type in U.S. history. There’s possibly dioxin in the sediment. The sediment studies were done by those in favor of dam removal. Twenty million cubic yards of sediment – where’s it going to go? We haven’t looked at all the options. There’s issues of social justice; we had no representation from these low-income people. Somebody has to pay for all of this. Probably the ratepayers. Costs were skewed toward dam removal. We have liability issues. Who’s going to take care of the roads? Who’s going to compensate people for property losses? We’ll lose our white-water rafting businesses.
Commissioner John Elliot also participated in the meeting.