Del Norte County will not join two agreements to remove
four dams on the Klamath River and use a basin-wide approach
After months of considering whether to become a party to
the agreements — which have already been signed by several
stakeholder groups in California and Oregon, including
tribes, irrigators, fisherman and government agencies — the
Del Norte County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday opted not
to join the collaborative effort in exchange for a chance to
change the scope of what’s included in the dam removal
“This is about positioning for how we can best affect
what’s missing or erroneous in the agreements,” said
Supervisor David Finigan, whose district includes Klamath.
“It’s called political leverage.”
There seemed to be some lingering frustration over Del
Norte County being left out of the initial negotiations to
decommission the four PacifiCorp-owned dams and develop the
$1 billion plan for environmental improvements in the basin.
And while many of the supervisors said they supported dam
removal and restoration to improve suffering salmon stocks,
they said the agreements fell short in that the plans seemed
to pander to “special interest groups” and didn’t include
provisions to protect water flows in the Klamath’s main
tributary — the Trinity River.
“This is certainly not a stand against the health of the
river,” Chairman Gerry Hemmingsen said about not becoming a
party to the agreements. “We are certainly for a strong,
healthy Klamath River, and I’ll be the first to sign on to
anything that states that clearly.”
Members of the Yurok Tribe, and some of its government
officials were at Tuesday’s meeting to urge the Board of
Supervisors to sign onto the agreements, saying it was one
of the best opportunities for the county to get involved
with dam removal and the Klamath River’s recovery.
There’s still a lot of work that needs to be completed
before the hydroelectric structures can actually be removed
in 2020, including approval of funding, passage of key
legislation and a federal determination that shows the
benefits of dam removal outweigh the potential negative
impacts to people and the environment.
“It would be better if the county participated than if
not,” Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney John Corbett said. “The
best voice for Del Norte County is Del Norte County.”
District 2 Supervisor Martha McClure was the only member
of the board to support signing the dam removal and
restoration agreements. She pleaded with her colleagues to
join her, saying the best opportunity to enact change is as
a member group that is directly involved as the agreements
move through the various stages of study and approval.
“If we’re not at the table when that’s morphing then our
voice will not be heard,” McClure said.