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Water for Life worried about dam removal costs

Group opposes removing four dams on the Klamath River

By TY BEAVER H&N Staff Writer June 4, 2009

A document cited by state Rep. Bill Garrard as contributing to his opposition of state legislation for dam removal on the Klamath River reasserts concerns about the bill and its connections to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

A representative of Water for Life, a group representing some Klamath Basin irrigators, expressed doubt that state legislation could cap the cost of removing the four hydroelectric dams while absolving all parties involved from liability.

“It seems doubtful that courts will leave injured parties wholly without remedy if, for example, the sediment released down stream contains harmful toxins or otherwise causes substantial injury to persons or property,” the document stated.

The organization also opposes dam removal because it is connected to the broader restoration agreement, which the document said would adversely impact some irrigators and complicate the Klamath Basin water adjudication process.

Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, said the document provides no new arguments. He doesn’t agree that on-Project irrigators’ settling water contests with the Klamath Tribes validates their water rights.

“There have been hundreds of contests settled over the past 20 years,” he said.

Richard Kosesan of Water for Life, provided the document to state Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, and a member of the House Committee on Environment and Water, after he was asked to provide comments on a dam removal bill known as Senate Bill 76.

Among the document’s points against the bill:

The cap on the cost of dam removal assumes the project will not require more than $200 million from Oregon ratepayers.

The cap on the cost of dam removal only applies to the direct costs of dam removal and not other costs PacifiCorp could charge.

The bill is inextricably linked to the restoration agreement, which Water for Life said would adversely affect irrigators off the Klamath Reclamation Project.

PacifiCorp officials and proponents of dam removal and the restoration agreement have said dam removal is the most cost-effective option for Oregon’s ratepayers, as relicensing the dams with federal authorities and making necessary improvements would raise power bills much more.

About the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and dam removal

Stakeholders met regularly for years in closed meetings and developed the restoration agreement to address water issues in the Basin. Among its conditions is helping the Klamath Tribes acquire the Mazama Tree Farm, and helping irrigators have stable water supply and affordable power rates.

The agreement also calls for removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River to restore fish passage. Government officials and representatives of PacifiCorp signed a tentative agreement in November to move toward dam removal and have until June 30 to craft a final version.

As part of the dam removal agreement, Gov. Ted Kulongoski promised he’d bring about legislation during the current session that would direct the state’s Public Utility Commission to raise PacifiCorp’s rates to help pay for dam removal.

The increase would generate $180 million over 10 years. PacifiCorp has said the increase would raise the average Oregon customer’s bill by about $1.50 a month. Agricultural power users would see about a 2 percent increase in their bill.

The bill was approved by the Senate and is expected to win approval in the House before being signed by Kulongoski.
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