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Klamath Dam removal: A model for the future?
by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 11/20/09
AP photo - The J.C. Boyle dam is one of four that would
be removed under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement
James Honey of Sustainable Northwest says the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement isn’t a model for a dam removal, but a model for dealing with complex problems.projects.
Tom Mallams, an irrigator off the Klamath Reclamation Project disagrees, calling it a precedent-setting event that will create more problems.
Others say that while a Klamath River dam removal is not meant to be a model for dam removal, people are likely to apply elements of it to other places where groups may be pushing to remove dams.
Really? Other parts of the country aren’t looking at the Klamath River dam removal agreement as a system for removing dams?
Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, and Kirk Miller, deputy secretary and general counsel for California Natural Resources Agency, said they wouldn’t be surprised if some groups see Klamath River dam removal as the beginning of a trend.
At the same time, though, they point out the unique circumstances surrounding dam removal in the Basin and the unique circumstances facing other hydroelectric projects.
“I can’t say this is a cookie cutter model,” Miller said.
Addington said he expects comparisons to be drawn with dams in the Snake River along the Idaho-Oregon border, but he says the scenarios aren’t the same.
The Snake River dams are bigger, produce more power, aid irrigation, provide navigation for barges and are owned by the federal government. Those differences don’t always matter to people, though.
“I’m going to argue with anybody who wants to do (dam removal) somewhere else,” he said. “I’m going to say it’s apples and oranges, but I’m not going to be able to stop them.”
Mallams said dam removal was a precedent some stakeholders pushed for, and any statement that it is only a means of solving complex problems is spin.
James Honey said the dams were a centerpiece of natural resource issues facing the Basin and were a large reason why their removal was called for. It’s not an approach he expects to be easily applied anywhere else.
Dean Brockbank, vice president and general counsel for PacifiCorp Energy, agreed.
“PacifiCorp continues to invest in its hydroelectric facilities and just last year received a new 50-year license for its 510-megawatt Lewis River Hydroelectric Project in Washington state,” Brockbank said in an e-mail.
U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said it’s “insanity” to get rid of the cheapest power available when Californians are already paying some of the highest energy prices in the country.
Kirk Miller, deputy secretary and general counsel for California Natural Resources Agency, said the state seriously considered the impact the loss of carbon-free power from the dams would have on people and the energy industry.
At the same time, the state also had to consider the negative impacts the dams were having on the Klamath River and its ecosystem, and the ability to replace the lost power in the coming decade.
“We believe it’s worth the exchange for the river and the salmon fishery,” Miller said.
Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said dam removal was a tough choice but the unique circumstances in the Basin made it a feasible move.
Siskiyou County Supervisor Jim Cook disagrees with dam removal, especially because it would result in the loss of clean power.
“I think that’s terrible public policy,” he said.
McClintock discounted statements that the negatives of dam removal are outweighed by the benefits.
“That is ideological claptrap from the lunatic fringe of the environmental left,” he said.
There are other measures possible to improve fisheries, such as building and funding hatcheries, the congressman said.
Page Updated: Saturday November 21, 2009 01:34 AM Pacific
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