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County sends Klamath legislation amendments
By David Smith, Siskiyou Daily News Aug 12, 2010
Yreka, Calif. — Hoping to add protections for the county to Klamath dam legislation, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a draft of proposed amendments to be sent to numerous representatives.

The legislation, released from but not drafted by Representative Mike Thompson’s office, would ratify the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).

The KHSA details the process through which the secretary of the Interior will determine whether or not four dams and associted hydroelectric facilities on the Klamath River will be removed in an effort to open up river mileage for salmon spawning. Both agreements require legislation in order for the actions prescribed within to be carried out.

In a letter accompanying the county’s initial amendment requests, it is stated that supervisors feel the county’s concerns have not been addressed by the legislation and that there is a failure to ensure adherence to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  

“The legislation in its current form does not require that the proposals in the KHSA and KBRA receive a full NEPA and CEQA review prior to the Secretarial Determination,” the letter reads.

The draft legislation states, “The Secretary, in cooperation with the Secretary of Commerce and other entities, shall use existing information, conduct any further appropriate studies, prepare an environmental document under the National Environmental Policy Act ... and take such other actions as the Secretary determines to be appropriate to support the Secretarial determination.”

CEQA requirements are not discussed in the legislation, however, the KHSA states that the governors of California and Oregon, signatories to the agreement, will have to concur with the secretary’s decision after appropriate review, including CEQA review.

The county’s letter also references the environmental review and secretarial review being on “separate tracks,” with the secretarial determination track focused on two scenarios – dams removed or dams in place.

Dennis Lynch, program manager for the Klamath Secretarial Determination Technical Management Team, stated in a meeting May 6 in Mount Shasta that while the secretarial determination track considers the one alternative, the NEPA and CEQA track will explore multiple alternatives, both generated by the review team and submitted by the public.

Lynch stated then that the two tracks are both intended to inform the secretary’s decision, which must be made by March of 2012, but may be made as early as November of 2011.

The county disputes that in its letter, stating, “We also believe this bifurcated approach violates both NEPA and CEQA, as once the Secretarial Determination is made, the decision to proceed is final; before completing the NEPA and CEQA process.”

The draft legislation also touches on the execution and implementation of the KBRA, which features a restoration plan for the Klamath Basin with a proposed appropriation of $1,006,970,019 for the time period from 2012 to 2022 to cover restoration activities.

According to the legislation, “In implementing the Restoration Agreement, the Secretaries shall comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 ... the Endangered Species Act of 1973 ... and all other applicable environmental Acts and regulations.”

Thus far, meetings held for the public and stakeholders have covered the studies underway to meet the goal of informing the secretary’s determination as to whether “facilities removal (1) will advance restoration of the salmonid fisheries of the Klamath Basin, and (2) is in the public interest, which includes, but is not limited to, consideration of potential impacts on affected local communities and Tribes.”

In the technical meeting in May, studies on potential economic, fisheries, and social impacts from dam removal were discussed, but studies regarding the implementation of the KBRA were not.

The county, in its draft amendments, aims to ensure that the study of certain impacts are required by the legislation, including what contaminants, if any exist in the sediment behind the dams; the availability, cost and environmental impact of providing energy sources equal to those being lost; the availability, cost and environmental impacts associated with providing alternative water sources to Yreka and the county; the cultural, religious and economic impact of removing each facility on the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa and Shasta tribes; actions necessary to restore lakebeds, shorelines and riverbanks impacted by facilities removal; the number, type and economic value of jobs that will be lost, in whole or in part, because of facilities removal; and the revenue impact of removing each facility in the county and the cities within it.

The county also requests that a mitigation plan be required that addresses the potential impacts named above, among others, as well as requiring that the plan be put in place before dams are removed.

The county’s amendments, if approved, would also require that funds necessary for implementing the mitigation plan, all permits and authorizations and assurances for payments in leiu of taxes and secure rural schools funding be acquired before dam removal occurs.

A final amendment in the county’s letter would change the definition of “facilities removal” to include “measures to avoid, minimize, mitigate, and compensate for the direct and indirect environmental, economic, energy, and social impacts” identified in the previous amendment and “all permits or or other authorizations required by any unit of government for any action or measure referred to in this paragraph.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved the draft letter with the amendments, and directed staff to send copies to Thompson and to the members of the House Natural Resources Committee.
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