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Pacific Power official: Liability of Klamath dam removal unknown
By STEVE KADEL, Herald and News 4/18/08
Pat Reiten, president of Pacific Power, said it’s unknown what amount of liability the utility might assume if the dams were taken out.
Estimates range from $200,000 to $4 billion, he said. “A lot must be done to narrow those figures,” Reiten said.
   Dams are being discussed because a proposed agreement that allocates water in the Klamath River watershed hinges on their removal.
   A Pacific Power official reiterated during a Thursday visit to Klamath Falls the utility’s hesitancy to remove four dams on the Klamath River.
   Stakeholders who negotiated the 256-page Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement are in talks with PacifiCorp about that issue.
   Besides potential liability, Reiten said, the utility would have to find a replacement for the lost power if dams were removed. The four Klamath dams generate enough power for 70,000 residences, or about 192,000 people, according to PacifiCorp.
   The president of the Portland-based power company was in Klamath Falls Wednesday for a tour of the Klamath Reclamation Project. He was scheduled to talk to the Klamath County Rotary Club Thursday afternoon.
   Reiten said the dams produce enough emission free energy to offset the emissions of 102,000 cars or burning 1.2 million barrels of oil a year.
   Before dam removal should happen, he added, better science is needed about the effects on the river. For example, it’s unknown how release of sediment deposits behind the dams would impact the river’s health, and for how long.
   PacifiCorp is negotiating with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for continued hydroelectric production. That process could take several more years.
   Re - licensing also requires acquisition of state water quality permits from Oregon and California.
   FERC has estimated the cost of equipping all dams with fish ladders at about $ 300 million, although Reiten said “the liability piece could dwarf that.”
   “If the states want dams removed, then we need to have a serious discussion about maintaining our customers’ interests,” Reiten said.
   Much of the problem with predicting costs and environmental effects of dam removal stems from the fact that a removal project this big has never occurred, although Reiten said lesser dams have been taken out elsewhere.
   “There is not a model for a project this big,” he said.
   Art Sasse, strategic consultant for PacifiCorp, said mail received by the utility is running 15-1 against dam removal. Most of those who are opposed mention the loss of clean power as the reason.


   H&N photo by Andrew Mariman
Pat Reiten, president of Por tl and - bas e d Pacific Power, said the company would have to find a way to replace lost power if dams on the Klamath River were removed.
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