Aanestad responds to Klamath dam questions
by David Smith Siskiyou Daily News December 10, 2009
Yreka, Calif. - Tuesday’s public forum with Senator Sam Aanestad
turned from the budget reform process to talk of the four dams
along the Klamath River that are slated for possible removal,
pending a decision by the Secretary of the Interior in 2012.
The discussion began with talk of a resolution put forth by the
Siskiyou County Republican Central Committee opposing dam removal
and Aanestad’s refusal earlier in the year to back the resolution.
Responding to a question from the audience regarding the
resolution, Aanestad stated that he felt it was “a bad resolution”
for its lack of specificity in defining the dams the group was
opposed to removing. He stated that he first heard the resolution
over the phone on his way to the convention where it was being
presented and he understood it to say that the group was opposed
to all dam removal projects in the entire state.
“Can you say that there are no dams that should come out?”
Aanestad asked, with some in the crowd saying they did not want
any dams removed.
Aanestad continued by stating that he believes there are currently
100 dams in the state that should be removed, although he told the
crowd that he is not in favor of removing the four dams on the
Klamath. He went on to state that he would have listened to a
resolution specific to the four dams, but said that he felt the
original resolution was a “blanketed, uneducated resolution.”
Aanestad did say that he supported an amendment to the resolution
made at the meeting in question regarding support for inclusion of
hydroelectric generation in the state’s green energy policy.
The topic of the resolution appeared throughout the rest of the
meeting, with disagreement over whether or not Aanestad should
have seen the resolution beforehand and what his official position
was on the issue.
Another issue brought up at the meeting was the upcoming vote on
the “Water Bond” for the state, which has been presented as a
solution to water problems facing the southern portion of
Aanestad told the crowd “there had to be a water deal,” but that
he does not feel the current water bond is sufficient. While he
repeated often that he was not telling the crowd whether or not to
support the bond, he did say that he was going to vote no for a
number of reasons, including the potential loss of water rights
for north state landowners and what he feels is an inadequate
amount to be allocated for creation of new water storage
According to Aanestad, however, if the bond passes, Siskiyou
County will receive $20 million regardless of whether or not the
Klamath dams are to be removed.
As the meeting moved forward, many in the audience spoke about
things with which they disagree in both the Klamath Hydroelectric
Settlement Agreement and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
Aanestad eventually stated that he does back PacifiCorp’s decision
to agree to put the dams up for removal, providing background and
his rationale for doing so.
Aanestad said that beginning under former President George Bush
and continuing under President Barack Obama, the cost for
complying with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission guidelines for
relicensing the dams would have potentially reached $300 million,
without any assurance that the dams would be relicensed.
Ultimately, Aanestad said, he supports a private business’
decision to do what it will with its property, saying, “A private
property owner has a duty to do what is right for shareholders.”
He also stated that he believes that the two agreements are
already a “done deal,” stating that the groups involved “are not
required to get input from you.”
Other issues, which have been brought up in past forums on the
issue of the dams, were brought up as well. Of those, Dr. Richard
Gierak presented the idea that individuals may be able to bring an
inverse condemnation suit against those seeking dam removal as a
possible avenue for stopping the process. He also provided
Aanestad with a number of informational packets he had prepared,
each detailing a different aspect of his argument against dam
removal, as well as the process by which the agreements were
Aanestad closed the meeting by stating that he believes he has not
communicated with Siskiyou County very well, stating that he has
had various agribusiness groups in his office supporting dam
removal, not knowing until the meeting that there were
agribusiness interests opposed to removal.
Ultimately, according to Aanestad, he learned that there has been
miscommunication on the issue between himself and his
constituents, giving those left in attendance his personal phone
number so that individuals can voice their concerns.