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
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
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
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