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Siskiyou County to remain in water talks

Supervisors: County should stay involved to protect its interests

by LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 11/14/09

     YREKA — Siskiyou County leaders will remain involved in discussions about removing   four dams along the Klamath River.

   But county supervisors made it clear they agree with sentiments of county residents who, during two public   hearings Thursday, said they think removing four Klamath River dams is a bad idea.

   “This is an alternative to litigation,” said Thomas Guarino, Siskiyou County counsel, of the unanimous decision by supervisors to remain what he and   Supervisor Jim Cook described as “engaged”   in ongoing talks about the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.

   The agreement would study removal of four Klamath River dams now owned by PacifiCorp.  

   Guarino and Cook said they believe the county should remain involved to protect county interests. Of the four dams proposed for removal by the draft hydroelectric agreement, three are in Siskiyou County.


   County officials and residents fear dam removal would decrease property values, impact the city of Yreka’s water supply, cause seasonal cycles of flooding and drought, and adversely impact fish.


During public hearings on the issue Thursday, Guarino and the county supervisors pressed California and federal officials on certain demands, including $2.5 million to help the county participate in ongoing meetings and studies. The county also wants the ability to opt-out of the agreement.

   “ There’s the implied threat, both by the state of California and by the feds, that if we don’t sign (the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement) we get nothing, that the county gets run-over,” Cook said.  

   The restoration agreement, which advocates dam removal, deals with Klamath River Basin water rights among irrigators, tribes, fisheries and conservationists, among other issues.


Cook, whose district includes a portion of the Tulelake Basin and Butte Valley, said he might be able to support the hydroelectric agreement but remains strongly opposed to the KBRA.  

   During the hearings, supervisors grilled Mark Stopher, environmental program manager for the state of California; John Bezdek, assistant solicitor for the federal Department of the Interior; and Dean Brockbank, vice president and general counsel for PacifiCorp, on technical points of the hydroelectric agreement. Supervisors also complained they have not seen updates on the two agreements.

   Financial issues

   Brockbank said PacifiCorp reversed its original decision to not remove the dams because continued operation appears uneconomical. Although costs of installing fish ladders, meeting water requirements and litigation charges are not known, he said the result is “it is certain the customer will pay more.”

   Bezdek, the target of many questions, said approval of the K BRA would start a process to determine if the cost of dam removals is economically feasible, study ways   they could be removed and answer myriad other questions.

   “We disagree, but we do discuss the issues,” Guarino said of ongoing discussions involving the hydroelectric agreement and other issues.
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