Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Dam removal agreement
What you need to know about the KBRA
The buzz this week is about a dam removal agreement hashed out by Pacifi-Corp and stakeholders representing irrigated farming, conservation, local, state and federal government agencies, and tribes.
The buzz some 20 months ago was about the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, hashed out by most of the same stakeholders, minus PacifiCorp.
Q: What is the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement?
A: The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is a document that seeks to resolve issues concerning water rights and quality, power, fisheries, environmental regulations, tribal lands and other issues in the Klamath River Basin, extending from southern Oregon to the northern California coast.
Local, state and federal government officials, tribes and other organizations representing environmentalists, irrigators and commercial fishermen worked on the KBRA for more than two years in closed door meetings.
The latest draft of the KBRA was released in January 2008, though stakeholders have continued to modify it since that time.
Q: What would the KBRA do?
A: The KBRA provides for numerous provisions and conditions. Among some of the most important are determining reliable water supplies for irrigators and for fisheries using the river; settlement of water rights between tribes, irrigators and other parties; establishing affordable power for irrigators; removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric dams to improve fish passage; reintroduction of salmon to the upper reaches of the Klamath River; irrigator protections against environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act; and aid in helping the Klamath Tribes obtain the Mazama Tree Farm property in Klamath County.
Q: How does the KBRA relate to the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement (dam removal) Agreement?
A: The hydro agreement is a separate document that only deals with dam removal, one of the provisions of the KBRA.
Many of the same groups who worked on the KBRA also worked on the KHSA. Dams owner PacifiCorp also participated in negotiations, which started in November 2008.
Q: What would the dam removal agreement do?
A: The hydro agreement outlines the dam removal process, including what is to happen in the interim before the dams are removed, who and what will determine whether the dams are removed, how dam removal will be paid for and who will have liability when the dams are removed. It would also provide $20 million to Siskiyou County, Calif., to mitigate impacts to county revenues from removing the dams.
According to the document, a decision on whether to remove the dams is expected no later than March 31, 2012, and if determined appropriate, removal is to begin no later than 2020.
Q: Who is opposing the two agreements and why?
A: Some irrigators, especially those not on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Reclamation Project in the Upper Klamath Basin, have said the agreements do not guarantee them a reliable water supply, affordable power and regulatory protections.
Some in northern California oppose the agreements because of the loss of assessed tax values and potential loss of property values to those living along the reservoirs of the dams to be removed.
Environmental groups not involved in the agreements have said the agreements do not provide adequate flows and protections for fish and will not restore the Klamath River, and that the period of time between now and the earliest that dams could be removed is too long.
Some question the removal of the dams, a cheap renewable energy source, at a time when energy is great demand and expensive. Others criticize the agreement for using taxpayer dollars to help the Klamath Tribes obtain land.
Q: How much is this going to cost and who’s paying for it?
A: The KBRA would cost an estimated $1 billion over 10 years to implement. Stakeholders have said that more than half of that money would come from redirecting money already being spent in the Klamath Basin by governments and other organizations, but $400 million in new funding, created by federal legislation, would be necessary.
The KHSA provides a cost cap for dam removal of $450 million—$200 million would come from PacifiCorp’s Oregon and California customers by way of a surcharge. Another $250 million could come from California if voters approve the sale of bonds in a future election.
Q: What is the process from this point on?
A: Stakeholders will take the dam agreement back to their organizations, councils and boards to review it, and the public also will have the ability to comment on it, before it is signed. Stakeholders will also work to coordinate the KHSA with the language of the KBRA before signing both agreements. This process would take a minimum of 60 days according to stakeholders.
Both agreements would then go to Congress in order to receive the funding needed for implementation. Stakeholders said the intent is to have legislation pending before the end of the year.
Page Updated: Sunday November 22, 2009 03:13 AM Pacific
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