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Supervisors mull signing dam pacts  

by Nick Grube, The Triplicate January 13, 2010

Del Norte left out of the earlier talks Del Norte County supervisors began a fact-finding mission Tuesday to see if they want to

sign two agreements that would remove four hydroelectric dams along the upper Klamath River.

But in between their questions to Yurok Tribe representatives about the actual logistics of taking out the structures, some supervisors expressed dissatisfaction with being left out of the negotiations that took place among various stakeholder groups to initially come up with the terms of the potentially historic deal.

“There’s a part of me that wants to say, ‘To hell with it,’” said District 2 Supervisor Martha McClure, who generally supports dam removal. “Yet at the same time I know in the long run what’s in it for Del Norte is for my children’s children to have fish.”

The impetus for removing PacifiCorp’s four dams on the upper Klamath River is to restore dwindling fish populations, in particular salmon, and to put an end to long-standing conflicts in the basin in regards to water rights.

Several years ago representatives of groups including American Indian tribes, fishermen, conservationists, local governments and farmers began drafting a plan.

It’s unclear exactly how it happened, according to the recollections of those at Tuesday’s meeting, but Del?Norte County was left out of that process. When it tried to join the negotiation later, it was disqualified by Siskiyou County, which was one of the many agencies already entrenched in dam removal talks.

With negotiators expected to sign the final agreements next month — a step many say is the beginning of the arduous 10-year-plus dam removal process — Yurok Tribe Policy Analyst Troy Fletcher said it’s important for the county to get involved now to take part in the various lobbying and restoration planning efforts that are an integral part of actually having a free-flowing river by the 2020 target date. “We need Del Norte County to be an active player in the implementation of all this stuff,” said Fletcher, who has been advocating for the county to be a part of the negotiations. “We know Del Norte County plays an important role in the future of how we restore the fishery and the river.”

Still, some of the supervisors were apprehensive about including Del Norte in the dam removal agreements that were created without any county input.

“What is the benefit of Del Norte County signing an agreement we had no participation in?” Supervisor Chairman Gerry Hemmingsen asked.

Humboldt County Supervisor Jill Duffy, who was at Tuesday’s meeting and whose district includes parts of the Klamath River, tried to answer Hemmingsen’s question by saying Del Norte would lose its “seat” in the remaining negotiations.

She also noted that since Humboldt was involved in the discussions from the beginning that many of Del Norte’s concerns were probably addressed since they are both coastal counties that experience similar effects of living downstream of the dams.

“If you take a look at what Humboldt County’s provisions are (in the agreements) it’s identical to what Del Norte County’s are,” Duffy said. “Both of our counties have been affected and we thought this was our best attempt to find a long-term solution for the Klamath region.”

If the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors doesn’t sign the agreements before the scheduled February date, there is a clause that allows for it to become involved at a later date.

Dam removal is not contingent upon the county signing the agreements.

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