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Supervisors hold off on signing pacts

County says it needs more information on dams removal’s impact

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors will hold off on signing two agreements designed to remove four PacifiCorp-owned dams on the Klamath River and restore the health of the entire basin.

On Tuesday, the supervisors said they needed more information on how dam removal will affect the county and its residents before becoming a party to the two agreements, which were negotiated without Del Norte’s involvement.

“The more I read, the more questions I have, so why would we be involved?” asked Supervisor David Finigan, whose district includes the southern part of Del Norte County and parts of the Klamath River.

The terms of the two agreements are to remove the Iron Gate, Copco 1, Copco 2 and J.C. Boyle dams on the Klamath River and to spend more than $1 billion to restore fisheries and other habitat in the basin while also providing water to irrigators and farmers upstream.

Earlier this month, the Yurok Tribe held a workshop with the supervisors to explain some of the logistics of dam removal and asked the county to join in the agreements — which took several years of negotiations between various stakeholder groups in California and Oregon — so they can be a part of the complex process to actually have a free-flowing river by 2020.

At that time the supervisors were upset they were not part of the initial negotiations and said they didn’t have enough time or information to make a well-planned decision. They echoed that sentiment again Tuesday and said they will wait to make a formal decision until they’ve completed their fact-finding mission.

Yurok Tribe spokesman Matt Mais, who was at Tuesday’s meeting, urged the Board of Supervisors to become a party to the agreements, saying the county’s “skill set” would be valued and that the tribe is willing to answer any questions it might have.

He also noted that the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors had unanimously approved signing the agreements, and after the meeting he said Del Norte has a vested interest in being part of dam removal because of its connection to the Klamath River and its fish.

“The lion’s share of the water issues on the Klamath River start and stop with the dams,” Mais said. “The greatest benefit to Del Norte County would be a cleaner river and a better abundance of salmon.”

All the parties are expected to sign the two agreements sometime in February. If an organization needs more time to review the documents, it can sign within 60 days from that date. After that time, a group can still apply to become a party to the agreements even if it was not a part of the settlement negotiations.

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              Page Updated: Saturday January 30, 2010 04:10 AM  Pacific

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