The state's resolution to delay imposing water quality regulations against the Klamath River dams owner is reaching its one-year mark, and environmental groups are urging the state to take up the issue sooner rather than later.

The California State Water Resources Control Board agreed to delay a clean water certification process last year in order to allow the parties of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) to outline the process and find funding for the removal of the four Klamath River dams.

The agreement, which marked a major milestone for tribes, fishermen and farmers who put aside years of conflict to negotiate the deals, was signed in February 2010. Participants said the agreement will help avoid potential litigation that may stem from the relicensing process for Pacificorp, the owner of the dams.

Ani Kame'enui of Oregon Wild, an organization advocating for Klamath basin restoration, said the board has 90 days from Tuesday to decide if it will begin the process, which would impose water quality standards on the Pacificorp, requiring it to remove the dams.

Oregon Wild, along with the Arcata-based Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), sent a letter to the board last week urging the board to act soon. The letter was also signed by Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Lane County Audubon, Salem Audubon Society, Umpqua Watersheds Inc. and WaterWatch of Oregon.

”We need to get the dams out of the river, and it needs to happen now,” Andrew Orahoske, EPIC's conservation director, said in a press release. “These antiquated obstructions block the flow of clean water, resulting in toxic conditions and dead salmon.”

Water board spokesman David Clegern said the board has received the letter and will respond.

Pacificorp has refiled for recertification, he said, and the earliest the board will take up the issue is at its July meeting.

Craig Tucker, spokesman for the Karuk Tribe -- one of the KHSA signees -- said the process would require the dams to be removed, but choosing that route would most likely result in Pacificorp engaging in litigation that could outlast what the KHSA is trying to achieve.

”We think that the surest route for dam removal is through our agreement, and state agencies have never ordered dam removal in the history of America,” he said.

Tucker said the parties will present their progress to the water board when called upon. He anticipates that there will be federal legislation for funding the project introduced before the end of this month, and an environmental report is expected to come out this summer.

He said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has until March 2012 to decide if the agreement is in the benefit of the public interest and advances salmon restoration.

Kame'enui said she isn't assuming that Pacificorp will turn to litigation. Additionally, she said the advocate's intent to make sure the state uses the tools that are available to ensure operators are following regulations.

”For us our priority is empowering the water board to enforce the Clean Water Act,” she said.

A call to Pacificorp's representative on the KHSA was not returned by late Friday afternoon.


Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or