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Emotions run high at dam hearing
Proponents, opponents of dam removal state their cases to officials
by TY BEAVER, Herald and News 7/10/10
Bruce Topham says the plan to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River was developed by biased self-interest groups and jeopardizes the Klamath Basin, from irrigation to the availability of power.
“Why, during these economic times, are we taking these steps backwards? ” the Sprague River rancher said.
Don Gentry, vice chairman of the Klamath Tribes, says his people have been denied access to the fish they traditionally relied upon for more than 90 years because of the dams. He believes the time for their removal has come thanks to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the related Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.
“The only thing green about these dams are the toxic algae blooms they create behind them,” he said.
A Thursday night meeting with government officials to gather local input turned into a forum for opponents and proponents to state their cases, including anti-government and anti-tribal sentiments.
Dam removal is a key aspect of the KBRA and KHSA. Both documents aim to resolve conflicts over water in the Klamath River watershed. The final drafts of both agreements were signed in Salem in February by the stakeholders who wrote them, the governors of Oregon and California, and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Supporters gave various reasons for their position, with tribal members saying it would allow the government to fulfill its treaty obligations to the Tribes and again provide access to the salmon the Tribes once fished.
Irrigators and others pointed out how the agreements as a whole would provide stability to the region in contrast to the drought leaving the majority of the Klamath Reclamation Project without surface water to irrigate with.
Opponents criticized dam removal, saying it would be a pointless loss of renewable energy and negatively impact the region’s economy, from property values to the decline of tourism dollars with the loss of the reservoirs behind the dams. They also were critical of the science upon which dam removal is considered a positive action.
Anti-government and anti-tribal comments also were made. Linda King-Clegg said she was embarrassed of her government because of the agreements and dam removal, and others said they simply didn’t trust the government.
One speaker said the Tribes likely want access to televisions as much as to fish and they were more likely to reach for the television in the end. Other comments were directed at the Tribes’ perceived agenda from participating in drafting the agreements.
“Dam removal is about vast depopulation and job destruction here,” said Robert Jameson. “This is their purpose, to destroy Klamath County.”
Some speakers did provide feedback to federal officials about what should be considered during the environmental review. Andreá Rabe, an off-Project irrigator, asked the officials to look into alternatives to dam removal to help water and fishery issues, such as juniper mitigation, construction of more off-stream water storage and mitigating disease in salmon populations.
Others said they wanted a thorough study of any economic impacts dam removal could have. Another resident asked if anyone had considered leaving the J.C. Boyle Dam in place, given it has a fish ladder and screen, is one of the newer dams and has a higher energy capacity.
Martie Morrow, a tribal member who said she has connections to the agricultural community, didn’t voice a specific opposition or support of dam removal and the agreements but asked that government officials investigate and consider everything fully. She also called on the community to remember what this is all about.
“I would like the people to take into consideration that this isn’t a matter of race or career. This is about our community and survival,” she said.
Government officials seek guidance for review process
Property values. Fish and wildlife. Economics.
The state and federal officials working on the environmental review of the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River say they are only in the beginning phases of analyzing the possible impacts of such a decision. And they’re looking to the public to make sure they don’t miss anything.
“It really is our goal to target their initial thoughts,” said Dennis Lynch, a U.S. Geological Survey employee who is program manager for the team conducting the review.
Public scoping meetings to gather input are scheduled throughout the Klamath River watershed, from the coast to the Klamath Basin communities close the headwaters of the river.
Pete Lucero, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the lack of precedence for a dam removal of this size makes for a unique review process, but various government agencies are working to ensure the process is thorough and based on sound science.
Page Updated: Sunday May 29, 2011 03:16 AM Pacific
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