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Copco Lake residents don’t want dams gone
Concern over declining property values raised at meeting Thursday
by JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 12/12/10
MONTAGUE, Calif. — Mike Adams didn’t mince words about his feelings on the removal of four dams on the Klamath River.
“If this continues we may be compelled to go beyond civil disobedience,” said Adams, a Siskiyou County resident, referring to the proposed plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River as part of two water settlement agreements. “I don’t want to make threats … but I feel like this is an attack on my livelihood.”
More than 50 people, most who live on or near Copco Lake, packed into the Copco Community Center for a meeting with state and federal officials Thursday, yards from where the Klamath River flows into the Northern California reservoir. Copco 1 and three other dams along the river would be removed under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, a plan created in conjunction with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
Almost all in attendance were opposed to the KHSA and KBRA, and few hesitated to voice their frustrations over dam removal during the four-hour meeting with representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Fish and Game.
“We hear different things in different parts of the Basin and it’s important for us to listen to all of those concerns,” said Mark Stopher, Environment Program Manager with the Department of Fish and Game.
Clarence Waltner, who has lived on the bank of Copco Lake for 10 years, was outraged that the dams — which are privately owned by PacifiCorp — would be removed and costs would be passed on to ratepayers’ electricity bills.
“That’s like sending in a bulldozer, bulldozing our homes, then sending us a bill for the bulldozer,” he said.
With the possible removal of the dams and the subsequent drainage of Copco Lake, many residents voiced concerns about sinking property values, the possible drop in ground water levels and need to deepen wells, changes in the flood plain around the river and absence of a lake where fire-fighting aircraft can pick up water. Some simply said they do not want to lose the lakes they use and enjoy.
“Why would anyone in their right mind want to spend millions of dollars to destroy three or four places of beauty in this country?” said Copco Lake resident Sue Brown.
Siskiyou County residents have been predominately opposed to the KBRA and KHSA. In a November advisory election, nearly 80 percent of county voters said they did not want Klamath River dams removed. Hanging above the panel of environmental agency employees during the meeting was a large poster that read, “For the good of the people that live and work in Siskiyou County, vote ‘No’ on dam removal.”
Dennis Lynch, Program Manager with the U.S. Geological Survey, said the meeting was meant to inform locals about studies on the impacts of dam removal conducted for the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Lynch said the studies are meant to answer three questions: Can dam removal advance fisheries? Is it in the best interest of the public? Can it be done for $450 million, the amount allocated in the KHSA?
“We’ve not made definite plans,” Lynch said about dam removal. “We’re trying to get information to the Secretary so he can say yes or no — do or don’t go ahead with dam removal.”
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is expected to rule on the water agreements in March 2012, Lynch said. The dam removal process will begin in 2020 if the KHSA and KBRA are implemented.
Property values are residents’ biggest concern
Copco Lake residents have many concerns about a proposed dam removal plan that would drain the reservoir. Foremost is the decline of property values.
Dozens of homes dot the banks of the Northern California reservoir. If the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement are implemented, the Copco 1 dam would be removed, the reservoir will be drained and the homes will border an empty lake bed.
Siskiyou County Assessor Mike Mallory said property values around the lake have been declining for years, as speculation that the dam will be removed has increased.
Copco Lake resident Clarence Waltner said some of his neighbors have sold their homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars less than they paid. The 83-year-old said he will likely not sell even if the lake is drained.
“I don’t know that it makes a any difference to me if the dams come out, but I would like to leave something for my children,” he said.
There are currently no plans to reimburse property owners near Copco Lake, or two other lakes on the Klamath River that would be drained if dams are removed, but that compensation could be included in the funding for dam removal later on, said Dennis Lynch, Program Manager with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Part of the studies analyzing the effects of dam removal currently being conducted by a group of state and federal agencies focuses on the decline of property values. That study compares property values around the lake now to 2008.
Copco Lake residents say the study is invalid because property values were falling well before 2008.
Glenda Southard moved from Sacramento and bought a home above Copco Lake in 2005, when she said suspicion that dam removal was in the works had already driven down prices. Property values continued to fall in 2006, she said, when stories corroborating the plan to remove the dam were published.
Southard repeatedly voiced her frustrations about declining property values with the panel of agency employees Thursday at a meeting about possible dam removal.
“You listen to us, but you don’t really do anything,” she said.
Page Updated: Friday December 17, 2010 03:03 AM Pacific
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