Clock ticking on Klamath dam deal signing
by John Driscoll, The Times-Standard December 15, 2009
The deadline to sign the agreements to tear out the Klamath
River's four main dams is only a month away. A few groups are
still holding out and one has announced outright opposition.
The two draft agreements were released in September, the result of
months of negotiations by 28 parties over the fate of the four
dams owned by Portland, Ore-based Pacificorp. Since then, a number
of the parties, including Humboldt County and three of four
Klamath River tribes, have voted to endorse the agreement, along
with a parallel $1 billion deal to restore habitat for fish and
shore up water for farms.
Both the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Northcoast Environmental
Center have voiced concerns about the agreement, and on Monday the
NEC announced it was bailing out.
The hydropower deal has too many preconditions and opportunities
for parties to pull out, the NEC said in a statement.
”Nothing in the deal places a limit on the number of annual
license renewals Pacificorp can obtain without obtaining clean
water certification,” said NEC Klamath Campaign Coordinator Jay
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is considering reissuing
a 30- to 50-year license for the dams.
The NEC said it is working to push a legislative package with a
number of other environmental groups that it believes would lead
to dam removal prior to the 2020 timeline in the Klamath River
A number of other major conservation and fishing groups --
including American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and the Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen's Associations -- have opted to support
The dam removal agreement would require that the U.S. Interior
Department determine by 2012 whether the project will restore
salmon runs and be in the public interest. Iron Gate, Copco 1,
Copco 2, and J.C. Boyle dams would begin to come out in 2020, paid
for with up to $450 million from dam owner Pacificorp's ratepayers
and a California water bond. A 2010 bond is set to come before
Californians, but the $11.1 billion measure is seen by many as far
too expensive in the fiscally plagued state and some are concerned
provisions in it could threaten the Trinity River.
The dam removal deal would be signed along with the Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement, a $1 billion effort to restore fish and
wildlife habitat, provide more water for fish and more certain
water deliveries for irrigators in the Upper Klamath Basin.
The Yurok, Karuk and Klamath tribes have been championing the
agreements, saying they represent the most sure-fire means of
removing the dams and shifting management of water on the river in
favor of salmon and other fisheries.
Karuk Tribe Klamath Coordinator Craig Tucker said that the NEC's
decision to oppose the deals drains energy from supporters'
efforts to get dam removal skeptics like Siskiyou County to shift
their positions in favor of the river's restoration. But he said
that the NEC's opposition is unlikely to pose a problem moving
forward with the deals.
”I do not think they will stand in the way of progress,” Tucker
John Driscoll covers natural resources/industry. He can be reached
at 441-0504 or