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Supervisors ask Obama to investigate dam issues

by Dale Andreasen Mount Shasta Area Newspapers March 11, 2009

Yreka, Calif. - The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors approved a strongly worded letter to President Barack Obama during their regular meeting Tuesday of last week, asking for an investigation into the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies involved in activities to remove dams on the Klamath River.

The letter, prepared by county counsel Thomas Guarino, was signed by all five supervisors. It voices their concern that dam removal efforts circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act and “remove any liability or responsibility with respect to the removal of these facilities.”

“Such an approach to this issue is likely to be harmful to the citizens of Siskiyou County, California,” the letter states.

The letter relates the Agreement in Principle that was reached among the Department of Interior, the governors of Oregon and California and with Pacific Power to “remove those facilities without the consent of the people of Siskiyou County.”

“In fact,” the letter continues, “no reliable economic analyses have been conducted regarding the impacts on the local economy. There is a likelihood of dioxin behind the dams and the result of the removal of these facilities will cause serious deleterious effects on aquatic habitat and species.”

The supervisors ask for urgent and immediate attention, asserting that dam removal will require “expenditures of billions of dollars” and cause serious economic dislocation to the county without compensation and “result in the federal government unilaterally usurping the authority of the local elected body to effectively carry out the will of the citizens…”

The letter alleges that “the principle parties have publicly indicated that the removal of the dams is imminent, even before any environmental review is conducted.”

“It is particularly discouraging that your administration is apparently aiding these parties in obtaining legislation that would remove the process from effective environmental review, avoid NEPA … threaten the water supply of the City of Yreka, and place sole decision-making authority in the hands of the Secretary of the Interior over one of the most significant natural resources in the United States,” the letter continues.

The letter says it is “disturbing” that the Obama administration is supporting the removal of clean, hydroelectric power for 70,000 homes with replacement energy from the use of coal-fired power plants.

“Perhaps someone in your administration can provide guidance and insight as to how this type of activity is consistent with your administration’s reported goal of encouraging clean power,” the letter reads.

The supervisors note that they have previously tried to contact Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, but have received no response. The letter also outlines the county’s attempted contact with the General Services Administration’s Committee Management Secretariat in regard to the many secretive meetings that have been held, noting possible violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

The letter points out that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been contacted, but has not provided any “meaningful response” to the board’s inquiries.

“At the last FERC meeting in Yreka … ,” the letter continues, “the representative of the United States stated that he neither represented the current nor the former administrations.

It certainly would be helpful to know who represents your administration in these activities.”

“We would respectfully request that you direct someone in your administration to meaningfully respond to the concerns of the County of Siskiyou before it is too late,” the letter concludes.

Copies of the letter were sent to senators and U..S. representatives from Oregon and California and to the Klamath County board of commissioners and the Humboldt County board of supervisors.

A separate letter was approved to be sent to Congressman Wally Herger asking for his help with the dam removal situation.

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