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Supervisors head to Washington to protest Klamath dams removal

Copco Dam By File Photo
Copco Dam is one of the four dams on the Klamath river applying to FERC for license renewal.
By Dale Andreasen, Siskiyou Daily News 7/25/08
County Supervisors Jim Cook and Michael Kobseff are packing their bags and heading for Washington, D.C. Sunday morning. And they’re upset.

Klamath County, Oregon Commissioner Bill Brown will accompany the duo as they make the rounds Monday through Wednesday to speak with U.S. Senators, members of the House of Representatives and their staffs about a reported deal to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.

“It’s more than a rumor,” Cook said concerning a story being e-mailed around the county about a possible agreement “only days away” between Pacific Power and the federal government to remove the dams. “And it’s clearly coming from the President’s office,” he lamented.

The controversy surrounding the four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath has been brewing for several years while PacifiCorp, parent company of Pacific Power, is applying for license renewal through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The first of the dams was built in 1918.

Pressure to remove the dams has come from Indian tribes, environmentalists, some commercial and sports fishermen, as well as certain Klamath Basin farmers. Efforts to restore the salmon runs have been largely unsuccessful. Studies into the causes of salmon run declines have been inconclusive, according to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

If the dams were to be removed, it would be the largest project of its type in world history, said the Washington Post in a Jan. 31, 2007 news story.

The Board of Supervisors has been firm in its opposition to dam removal. Some of the problems cited by the supervisors and others are downstream sedimentation, loss of irrigation for agriculture, flooding risks, loss of private property and loss of electrical power generating capacity.

“I’m not willing to see our entire economy crippled like with the spotted owl,” Kobseff said, “I’m not willing to do that with the dams. We need to explore other corrective measures in regard to fisheries restoration.”

Cook, Kobseff and Brown will meet with the staffs of Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California and Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Also on the agenda are staff meetings with Congressmen Greg Walden of Oregon and Mike Thompson, Wally Herger and, possibly, John Doolittle of California.

The two supervisors will be making their case for not removing the Klamath River dams.

“I think it’s a bad idea to remove the dams and the people of Siskiyou County mostly agree,” said Cook. “In informal surveys, between 85 and 90 percent of the people in this county answer that they are opposed to dam removal,” he pointed out. “It’s a little less in southern Oregon, but not much.”

County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales said he didn’t know if a deal is pending. However, he voiced dismay over the prospect of losing the dams saying, “It’s clean renewable energy. Pacific Power has to decide what to do. The effects are huge, and they need to be involving the county in the process.”

The four dams produce electricity for about 70,000 customers. The power is worth more than $30 million per year, according to the California Energy Commission.

Throughout the controversy, agricultural irrigators in California and Oregon have voiced major concerns about not getting enough water for their crops, according to Costales.

Costs associated with dam removal have been estimated to be as low as $100 million to as high as $1 billion by various groups.

“I can’t imagine how they could expedite a project of this magnitude,” said Costales. “It could take as long as 20 years to get the job done.”

Cook and Kobseff have scheduled a return flight to Medford on Wednesday evening.
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              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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