Supervisors reiterate opposition to dam removal
By ANDY MARTIN March 27, 2008 Siskiyou Daily News
YREKA - Siskiyou County supervisors announced on Tuesday they will
vote on a resolution next week to oppose dam removal on the
Klamath River and may pull out of the settlement agreement that
divides water between fish and farmers. The agreement hinges on
the condition that Pacific Power remove Iron Gate and the Copco
’Siskiyou County opposes dam removal,’ said Bill Overman, chairman
of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors.
The supervisors held a three-hour hearing Tuesday night at Miner’s
Inn Convention Center to speak with state and federal agencies who
were involved in the settlement agreement released in January.
More than 200 people crammed the meeting area, with many standing
because the room was full.
The agreement provides water for farmers in the Klamath Basin and
fish in the Klamath River, but also calls for the removal of four
Klamath River dams. Three of the dams are in Siskiyou County. The
proposed settlement was reached by tribes, irrigators,
environmental groups, state and federal agencies, and counties.
When questioned how the settlement agreement negotiators were
selected, representatives from the Fish and Wildlife Service and
California Fish and Game said Siskiyou County was not initially
invited, but was able to get a seat at the table. Pacific Power
was not included in the negotiations, although the proposed
agreement calls for the company to tear down its dams.
The settlement agreement group was formed while Pacific Power had
its application for dam re-licensing under consideration by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). As part of the
re-licensing process, the Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the
U.S. Department of Interior, used its authority to require fish
passage as a condition of a new license. Fish passage would
include fish ladders to allow salmon to access the water above the
dams into their historic range.
Fish passage is needed to help Klamath River salmon recover to
historic levels, the agency said.
The cost of fish passage will likely be more than removing the
dams, so the Fish and Wildlife Service is in negotiations with
Pacific Power to discuss removing the dams. The negotiations are
confidential, but Pacific Power and the Fish and Wildlife Service
verified that they are under way.
Any decision by Pacific Power will be based on providing the
lowest cost to its customers, its officials said Tuesday. When
questioned about rates by supervisors, Pacific Power said costs to
install fish ladders would be spread over the life of the license,
or 50 years, while the cost to remove the dams would be passed on
to customers at once.
Pacific Power opposes dam removal and fish passage, saying Iron
Gate Hatchery, which is funded 80 percent by the power company,
mitigates the loss of habitat above the dams.
Residents of Copco Lake were questioned during the hearing. They
cited a report by the county assessor and Karuk Tribe that
indicated property values would fall 50 percent here if the dams
The county also questioned an expert on sediment stacked behind
the dams, who said the river bed below Iron Gate would rise as the
material washed downstream. With much of the Klamath in canyon
setting, this could cause some flooding.
Representatives from the Karuk and Yurok tribes said salmon are an
important part of their heritage and culture, and dam removal is
the best option for improving the fish runs. Troy Fletcher of the
Yurok Tribe complained about comments from some audience members
about Indian fishing practices.
Supervisors asked state and federal officials about Shasta and
Scott river water use under the agreement, and funding to Siskiyou
County to compensate for dam removal, but no clear answers were
The Department of Fish and Game would request money from the
legislature, an official said.
Tulelake irrigators defended the agreement, saying there were
things they really disliked about it, but with constant lawsuits
over water in the basin were seeking some kind of stability in
irrigation for their crops and affordable power rates. Klamath
Project irrigators have a lower power rate because they have to
pump water up to seven times as water makes it way through a
series of canals and locks.
During questions from the public, Copco residents were asked about
recreation at the reservoir and the trophy rainbow trout fishing
above it. The lake has a world-class perch fishery and bass
tournaments, property owners said. The fire chief in Copco was
asked about water from the lake used to fight fires, but the Karuk
representative said helicopters are able to take water from the
river as well, as they do near Happy Camp.
Costs to remove the dams could range from $80 million to $4
billion, supervisors were told. The unexpected costs to Siskiyou
County were unclear.
When talking about removing themselves from the settlement
agreement because of the dam removal stipulation and possibly
losing a seat with the new agency that would be created to manage
the Klamath water use, Overman said he found it outrageous the
local government responsible for the largest area of the Klamath -
64 percent - could be excluded. The supervisors are responsible
for the safety, health and welfare of the residents of the county
and the settlement agreement would exclude parties who don’t agree
with it, Overman said.
The supervisors will meet Tuesday to discuss the resolution being
drafted this week by the county counsel regarding the dams and